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We were tearing up I-94 West in the early morning hours when from the passenger-side, rear-view mirror I caught a glimpse of the sun as it was rising. It was so beautiful, and yet it caused my heart to ache.

Located in the seat behind me and sleeping soundly, completely unaware of my heartache, was my 18 year old son. My husband and I were driving him out west to deliver him to the university that he had chosen to attend which, by no coincidence, is located 6.5 hours from home.

That beautiful sunrise represented the start of a new era for him, and it also represented the end of an era for me. My son was experiencing jubilation and was beyond ready to claim his independence. I, on the other hand, was experiencing a sense of melancholy and a yearning to turn back time to the days when my three children were ittty-bitties and thought I was their everything.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have parented toward raising our children to be God-loving, virtuous, generous, and independent human beings. Given that we have always desired that our children to be independent, this mourning that I was experiencing caught me completely by surprise. And, not the good, happy kind of surprise, but rather a sorrowful surprise.

My husband saw this coming because he knows well that I enjoyed being a mom with itty-bitties surrounding me. I didn’t mind sleepless nights, toilet-training nightmares, being the human napkin, or always looking a-wreck. Heck, I thought having three young ones was the perfect excuse for me to look a mess!

In the fall of 2016, my husband gently asked me what I was planning to do with all the free time that was now available to me due to the fact that our youngest was a senior in high school and was beginning to exert his independence. An incredulous gasp involuntarily escaped from me as I tried to wrap my mind around the reality of what my husband was pointing out: the youngest of our three children would soon be leaving home, and my days as a stay-at-home mom were drawing to a close.

My mind wondered as I tried to imagine myself re-entering the work force. I quickly realized that I would now make for a terrible employee because I had grown accustomed to being the boss. And, I was in complete denial that this change was even going to adversely affect me.

In the blink of an eye, there I was racing westward to make the 9:00 AM move-in time which had been assigned to my son. For me, the days leading up to this momentous car ride were filled with pondering and private tears as well as to-do lists, shopping, laundry, and a final family dinner in our home.

It was approximately 7:09 AM on Saturday, September 2, 2017, when I pulled out my phone and snapped the above picture of my son. The gloriousness of the moment was completely lost on him as he slept. And yet, for some reason, as mournful as I felt, I needed to mark this moment in time because I was doing the most difficult thing a parent has to do: I was letting go.

Now, I'm happy to report that on the same day that I snapped that photo of my son, I did manage to get through the entire move-in process without shedding a tear. However, the next day, when the assigned time had come for parents to depart campus, it was the full-on, ugly-face cry!

As my husband and I drove eastward that day, I revealed to him that I now knew what I wanted to do in the next-phase of my life: photography. :)

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