Suppose you have a little green-eyed son.
On the night he is born, you walk the streets holding hands with his soon-to-be daddy, through the warm night of an April where the contractions are so kind and easy they are merely breaks in the hushed conversation.
Soon his beauty and charm press your heart-walls until your chest aches. That laugh. Those dancy feet. The way he carries a fallen maple leaf in pudgy toddler hand, blond hair dazzled by the wind of a coming Michigan winter.
He learns to skate. To write. To love. To drive.
You try your best to be his mommy, to guard his ways and warn and trust.
Put on your boots. Finish your carrots. Turn off your light. Text when you get there.
You pray: Father, guide him. Father, save him. Father, protect him.
What is it about this boy that draws people in? He’s funny without trying, kind without guile, quick to lend or offer or grant or give.
You know his hidden insecurities, the way he hates to try something for the first time, how you must sometimes subtle him into something you know he will like, the faith inside himself too small without yours alongside.
Soon, he is an eaglet, soaring alone. His life is his, and as you let go piece by piece, you are rewarded with his visits home and sweet hello’s and silly texts and coffee in the kitchen in the dust-mote quiver of an early sun.
He was grumpy that last morning.
It was uncharacteristic of him; being asked to move a broken refrigerator out the all-too-narrow front door when you’re late for work would bring out the crabby in anyone, so you tease and thank and forgive and say good-bye for what will be the last time.
It’s impossible to remember your last words to him, looking back; it was an unremarkable morning at the beginning of an unremarkable day at the end of an otherwise unremarkable week.
Oh, what you miss.
He used blow through the front door trailed by a wake of friends, not ashamed to call you Momma or say I-love-you or drop a naughty word just to get a rise. You miss that.
Settled sediment of the past, stirred up afresh.
Your first parent-teacher conferences in the teacher role, reminding you of his first ones, he proud and happy, you amazed at the scholar he is becoming.
Driving through college town along the route you used to take a few times a week to gather him up or drop him off, before he figured out how to outsmart the parking nazis and leave his car on campus.
Seeing his friends walking ahead of you at a recent football game, the one you all went to together to cheer his team and see the helmet stickers his former coaches had made in his honor – watching their futures stretching ahead of them and imagining him in their mix, shoulder-bumping and insta-thinging. They see your wet eyes and draw close.
The memory of driving home from junior boarding school that first time, he abuzz with Athens and aqueducts and his roommate Allen. You can’t keep up; he has taken ownership of his education and you cannot be more pleased.
Photos, the memories of their snap, when he would feign shock or shy, arm wrapped around a brother’s neck or a sister’s shoulder, the glue that pulled us in as the turbid waters rose.
Smells. His favorite muffins. Old Spice, like your own dad when you were small. Hockey gear fresh with sweat. The inside of his car.
You try not to remember that horrid day when you must dig through bloody glass to find his phone, any clue, the first sight of the impossible angles of fender and broken wheel worth a lifetime of horrors.
You don’t miss that.
Things remind you of what to miss. You pull out the running shirt he gave you a few Christmases back, bought with own-job money and son-love, a size small, which makes you want to laugh and cry, your child’s perception versus the reality of you.
You miss the obvious things, of course. Sound of voice and touch of hand. But the layers of miss…the not-yet and never-will-be. The never-bride and never-babies, the never-career and never-failures that you might have celebrated or counseled or encouraged with him.
You discover it is possible to miss something that never was.
He never saw your new tiny house, your new black car, or you in your perfect new office at your perfect new job. These things are just benchmarks on your way back to him.
Good is relative now.
You miss that feeling you used to have waking up, knowing he is, no matter where, no matter how many miles apart you might have been. The simple possibility of him.
You ponder heaven, the where of it, what matter of distance separates him from you. You consider that perhaps it is measured in sighs and tears rather than feet or miles, at least from your end. That it is real is what anchors your soul, remembering all that Jesus promised and clasping what-will-one-day-be tight when you’re not sure you can endure.
You miss and miss and miss and miss until now it’s your eyes that ache and your arms and your gut and your soul.
You remember that you are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).
Your green-eyed boy is now one of these, exhorting you to “run with perseverance the race marked out” for you.
There is something about these backward roles, he-cheering-you now instead of you-cheering-him, that stops your heart.
Don’t miss me too much.
Run, run, run because soon – and I mean Jesus-soon, Aslan “all-time-is-soon-to-me”- soon, you will be with me in the unshakeable kingdom.
There is nothing to miss here.
What else do we need but our great, great King?