Gee, God. If I’d known how emotional the last month was going to be, I would’ve bought stock in Kleenex.
Clare celebrated First Communion a month ago, then baby Gianna had her first birthday. That’s been followed by Luke’s pre-school graduation and yesterday, Will’s last school Mass, with eighth grade graduation to follow next week. Throw in a ten-year-old birthday and a family vacation to Disney and I need a massage, a case of Kleenex and a week’s worth of sleep.
This week, however, was particularly bittersweet.
If you haven’t popped over to Rachel’s to read this post, do it now. I’ll wait.
Let’s start with the preemie of the bunch. This kid. What a joy.
It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to see Luke grow and learn and cherish going to school. Y’all. Let’s be honest. Not too many people thought we’d ever see his second week of life, much less preschool graduation. Luke contracted a surgical case of necrotizing enterocolitis at day 9; he was Stage IIIB. In layman’s terms? He had less than a 20% chance of surviving the gastric surgery. And if he survived, the odds were stacked against him that he would have long-lasting and permanent effects like major developmental delays, short gut syndrome needing a lifelong colostomy and other equally terrifying diagnoses.
And yet, he stood near the altar at preschool graduation and sang his little heart out. All 26 pounds of him.
That hit me harder than I thought it would. When I pulled into the parking lot for his last day of school, my “NICU song” came on the radio. And I just fell apart. It’s as if I was transported back to those really, really dark days of the NICU when I could barely see the light. It seemed so far away. So distant. We would never be “there.” But, here we stood, basking in the light, with joy all around. And the darkness? It seemed so far away.
My “someday we will have joy” became today. So many emotions. So much relief. So much gratitude. This milestone, more than any other he’s achieved, really hit home. Luke is going to kindergarten, y’all!
We were blessed with the most amazing teacher – again – Ms. Denise. She taught Will in first grade (look at him then!) and now she’s teaching PK. I told her she can’t leave until she teaches Gianna. Ms. Denise and I shared a mighty big hug and our fair share of tears yesterday. My good gravy I adore her.
From the littlest boy, to my biggest.
The eighth grade class attended their last school Mass yesterday. As expected, it was beautiful. The priest shared a lovely homily and, at the end, made his way to the back of the gymnasium to share a few nuggets of wisdom with our eighth graders. Cue round one of tears. Then, communion came and watching each of those kids come forward to receive the body and blood of Christ for the last time – well, it almost did me in. I just kept repeating, “Come on, Kathryn. Pull it together.”
At one point, Gianna was snuggled into the crook of my neck, Luke was holding tightly to my leg and I could lay eyes on the other four, spaced out around the congregation. For that one moment, I closed my eyes and was oh-so-grateful that all my chicks were in the same nest. If only for an hour.
At the end of Mass, the eighth grade class stands, processes to the altar, bows and then processes out of the gym. Once they leave, the seventh graders then move to the vacated spot as the new leaders of the school. I’ve seen this same ritual play out, year after year, since we joined the school Will’s third grade year. I was always touched by the faithfulness of it all. And then my kid came along and nearly broke me. Please know that I am not some sobbing mess, nor do I wish for my children to stay little forever. I want them growing up, achieving great things and hanging up their own clothes.
It’s just the change is so hard. I’ve always seen myself as the mom of many littles and because we had so many, the milestones just kept repeating themselves. But now it’s getting real. In four years, Will leaves our nest. I think he could sense that his mom was teetering on the edge. He and a classmate led the procession to the altar which meant he was the last to exit the gym. He caught my teary eye and as he dipped his finger in the holy water, he winked and said, “You’re gonna be alright, Mom.”
Oh I hope so, Will. If not, I promise to make it back to the house and cry over the kitchen sink (which I did). For whatever death grip I have on the now, it’s quite clear that Will and God are confident about the future.
Which means I should be, too.
Here’s to new adventures, new milestones and a case of Kleenex and beer!