Tomorrow our school children come back to us; the busses will run and the building doors will all open and adults in twenty different buildings will welcome these precious souls. It will be the first time in sixteen years that I haven't had a child in the district.
Our student leaders served teachers all day today and so each time I ventured into the hallway, I would see one or more of them. It seemed foreign in a way since Wade Garrett was not among any of them. Each pause as I reminded my brain he was in Stillwater gave me a moment to be thankful for the district for whom I work, for its relentless chase of excellence, its commitment to the individual child and to the corporate idea of education. My children were ever so blessed.
In the aftermath of Wade's matriculation, I have discovered the shadow of grief has a weight I became accustomed to carrying. I didn't stop being a mother - where I have stopped being a friend, or a sister, or a daughter, or a co-worker - I could never stop being Wade's mother, and so I would push the weight of grief away sometimes physically in his presence. More than once, while talking or in the car, he would ask, "What are you shaking your head at, Ma". With a sarcastic quip, I could dismiss the inquiry.
He texts when he needs an editor or when Price tells him to - but he doesn't walk in the house at the end of the day for dinner. Consequently, I have frightening moments where I think - "I'm going to cry right here in front of this new teacher." as I have less reason to steel myself. There's no reasonable trigger other than just an underlying sadness - one that I am not sure many would understand. Ridiculous, that I worry about that. At any rate, I was surprised when this verse walked across my heart this week.
This verse and the start of the new year seem to go hand in hand - that nothing that he sends will return empty, that we will - in the imperative voice - "go out with joy and be led forth in peace." So I will just have to look for joy tomorrow in the building where I office and in the schools where I visit - I will look for the mountain's song in the student's laughter and the teachers' smiles and I will listen for the trees' applause in Union's drum-line cadence as it leads 3500 high school students to class. I will look for it and remember that children are God's hope and promise - a "sign that will endure forever."