By Guest Writer Brigette Thompson
The last first day of school.
The last football game.
The last snow-day.
The first and last prom.
The last final exam.
The last school-morning batch of muffins.
The last day of school.
The last time I will see my daughter as I walk down the hall at school.
You see, I am in the unique situation to be a teacher at my daughter’s high school. I have been able to go to school with her every day for the last four years. I saw her on her very first day as a freshman in a brand-new consolidated high school, and I witnessed her senior march as the graduates don their caps and gowns for a final walk through the halls on their last day.
Throughout her high school career, I have had my share of emotional moments as I realized how quickly the years were passing but nothing compared to the last week of school. As I passed her in the hallway on one of the last days and gently tugged her hair to get her attention, it hit me just as I got back to my classroom that that would never happen again. I would never listen to her horrible music on the way to school or see her peek sheepishly into my classroom – yet again – asking for money. I would never have a classroom filled with her and her friends looking for candy after school or pick her out in the crowd at a pep rally.
There are so many never-agains that I could have let them ruin the whole graduation experience for both of us, but I made a conscious decision to not do that. I made the choice to focus on the what’s-next. She will be attending the University of Louisville in the fall. She will be home for the holidays and hopefully the summers. She will find a career that she loves. She will have a family of her own. She will become not only my daughter but also my friend. It is these moments that I choose to picture instead of the moments I can’t get back.
Webster’s defines bittersweet as “pleasure accompanied by suffering or regret.” Bittersweet is exactly how I would describe this stage of my life. I have gotten so much pleasure from watching my daughter grow up, and I know hundreds more great moments lie ahead of us. But I also have regrets. I wish I had played more and cleaned less. I wish I had laughed more and yelled less. I wish I could read her one more bedtime story. If I could do it all over again, I would make a point to live more often in the moment and not worry about tomorrow as much.
I know it sounds cliche’, but there it is: we all do the best we can, and we will never think it is enough.
Although my nest won’t be empty next year–I have a son who will be a sophomore–it will have a huge hole. The house will be much quieter, and there will be an empty chair at the dining room table. I will probably be able to watch more of what I want on Netflix, and I won’t have to worry about someone eating my last piece of emergency chocolate. But part of my heart will be three hours away in a dorm room creating her own life. This is how it should be. This is hard, but it is right.
I’m new to the 8 Practices of Living Hope, but I most identify with the Practice of Surrender at this juncture in my life. Going back to my good friend, Webster – to Surrender means to “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent.” Time is most certainly the enemy here. Time has taken my youth, and now time is taking my daughter. Resistance is futile. However, Surrendering her to a future she is excited about is easier than I expected.
When I look at the next few years through her eyes instead of my own, I don’t want to resist.
As I count down the days until she leaves for college, I have no doubt there will be tears, but there will also be a peace. She is a smart, confident, capable young woman. And although I may not be ready for this next chapter, she definitely is.
This is Living Hope.
Brigette Thompson is a wife, mother of two, and AP English teacher of 22 years in McCracken County Schools in Paducah, KY. In her free time, she enjoys reading, boating, baking, and trying to figure out how to travel the world without flying.