Letting go is rarely easy, whether it is a person, relationship, job, state of mind, a dream, or anything else that we have become accustomed to. Godspeed became my prayer to help with the process. It started when my son started first grade, the first time I experienced his being away from me more than he was with me. Although I would miss him, it wasn’t so much a thought of missed time together as it was a matter of influence. I might not have been interacting with him for the full 12 hours of each day, but I had a say as to how those 12 hours were spent. Now there would be 7 hours, five days a week, that would be out of my control. I am not a micromanager nor am I a fearful person. And so I didn’t expect my initial reaction to be one of struggle. But as I sent my firstborn off to school, I realized that this was just the beginning of letting go. And that this step would be the first of many to come.
And so began my “sending off” prayer. As I watched him walk towards the school, little backpack over his shoulder running toward his friends, “Godspeed” would fall from my lips. It was a quiet prayer that I whispered typically with my breath held. Letting go… Trusting he would be alright… Hoping the day would be a good one… Some days it felt more like a plea because I knew the day ahead would be tough for one reason or another. Other days I would boldly say my prayer as more of a threat to God, as if God might need the reminder to watch over my kid.
When my daughter came along, my transitions went more smoothly, but the prayer stayed the same. It was the prayer used on my most confident days, on the days I felt utterly out of control, and each day in between. When I knew what the kids were facing and when I didn’t have a clue, it was my way of letting go of what wasn’t mine or couldn’t be mine to hold onto anymore. As a parent, I needed to let them go little by little so that they could navigate life on their own. I knew this was my job as their mom – not to protect them indefinitely but rather to equip them to navigate their own lives. When the time is right, I have had to consciously move from leading them to walking alongside them.
As my son’s high school graduation approached, I found myself increasingly nostalgic about the momentous occasion. I couldn’t believe my first born would soon be a high school graduate. In the week leading up to his graduation, I would periodically tear up as I thought about the era that was coming to an end. One morning, I lingered in bed awake but not wanting to get up. I was thinking about how hard this was going to be, the biggest “Godspeed” yet. As I said my prayer silently, I heard myself whisper, “Stay…” It caught me off guard. I said it before I even consciously thought it. I didn’t want to let him go. I wasn’t ready. Like Elliot saying goodbye to E.T., I had to let him go even though it was breaking my heart. I stayed in bed and wept. I wept for the time that had passed so quickly. I wept for the man he was becoming. I wept for the journey ahead and I wept for the room that would soon be left empty. I wept both my joys and sorrows in one, long cry session.
For the rest of the week, I indulged in crying from time to time. There is a song the Dixie Chicks had done several years prior called “Godspeed”. I had always heard it as a lullaby to a young child. Suddenly a new meaning emerged. I played it several times, singing this lullaby to myself as a prayer for my little man. My little boy had grown up.
Graduation day came. Surrounded by family and close friends that evening, I toasted my boy by sharing the story of that prayer I had used for so many years, and about the morning a few days prior where I found myself whispering, “Stay.” Knowing I couldn’t nor shouldn’t ask that of him, I raised my glass and toasted him with “Godspeed.” I cried as I had shared my story. And I think I saw my boy tear up too. It was a beautiful moment to celebrate the 18 years we had spent together. He was my firstborn. He was my little buddy. He was now my man-child. And I couldn’t have loved him more than I did in that moment. All those years spent helping him to become the person he was and we had arrived at this day, a day to celebrate. The work had been hard and frustrating at times. But we made it. And I knew if he was going to be a healthy adult, he would need to go.
It has been nearly three years since that graduation day. And it will be a short three years until I have to do this again with my baby girl. There will always be a part of my heart that whispers to my children, “Stay.” But there comes a point where we just know that it is time to let someone or something go. For me, in that moment, there is sometimes only one thing to say. Godspeed.