Ache of a Mother’s Heart

by | Oct 11, 2014 | 31 Days to London, Trust


Water splatters on my shirt as I scrub the last bits of garlic, tomatillos and cilantro from the Cuisinart with intensity. The crunching sound of a key pushing into the lock pulls focus from the kitchen sink to the front door. I quickly turn off the flow and before I can dry soapy hands on a dishtowel, she walks into the house. Glowing.

My daughter is home from college for a long weekend. I haven’t heard that sound of a key turning in the lock for a month. In a matter of moments, our arms intertwine, embracing.

“Are you happy to be home,” I whisper in her ear.

“Yes, I’m so excited,” she replies.

She didn’t pack a suitcase because all of her clothes are in a laundry bag. I’ve never been so happy to see that much laundry in my life.

As she walks into her bedroom carrying a backpack of homework, she exclaims, “Whoa, it’s so empty in here. This feels weird.”

Almost as weird as her absence on the couch, at the dinner table, in the driveway over the past few weeks.

Her bedroom is a skeleton of what used to be a mural of souvenirs from adventures and traces of joy from creating on the carpet. Decades of memories are now piled into cardboard boxes in a storage space.

To borrow from Dickens, these are the best of times and the worst of times.

While we relish in her presence, chatter with girlfriends filling up the empty void in our house, these days come with finality. This may be her only time to drive home from college for a long weekend.  If there is a next time, she will push the door open to an empty house.

Tears stream down my cheek as I write this.

Our call to England is sure but there are sacrifices that come with it. Proximity to my daughter happens to be one of them.

This is the ache of God on a mother’s heart. Letting go of our children is perhaps the most heart wrenching of the choices we must make. The same way the heart of God aches when rescue isn’t what is best for us.

Cooking favorite meals, sending packages of baked goods to a college dorm room and weekend trips with my firstborn, they won’t happen with a whole ocean separating us.

I swipe a soppy dishrag into stray pieces of lettuce on the counter top while she and H unload the last bits from the trunk (or boot if British). Walking past the bar with a blanket draped over her shoulder, she looks at me and says, “This doesn’t need to be washed, I brought it with me because I want it to smell like home when I go back.”

I didn’t need to ask, she saw the question written on my face. The way all mothers talk with their children.

The face of Jesus is a face that belongs to us the way our past belongs to us. It is a face that we belong to if only as to the one face out of the past that has perhaps had more to do with the shaping of our present than any other. ~Fredrick Buechner


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  1. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Shelly……..heart strings tugged tautly over here. I can’t imagine how good it is to have murielle home or how hard it is to say good-bye yet again. YOu are both so brave, but always remember that your heart strings vibrate symapethically in a God frequency only He can provide. Bless your mama’s heart!

    • Shelly Miller

      We had a wonderful visit, too short but wonderful. But I struggled with sadness when she left. I miss her presence with us.

  2. DeanneMoore

    Oh my… got me with this one! I know this weekend will have so many moments to savor….So thankful for the extra day so the blanket can soak it all in…

    • Shelly Miller

      That’s why I told you not to read it! ha! Oh my, it was hard to say goodbye. I had to run into the house before the ugly cry came out when she was pulling out of the driveway. Tough.

  3. Devi Abraham Duerrmeier

    I said goodbye to my mom after orientation week, and she flew back to the Philippines. There were no road trips, no weekends home either, and I did my own laundry. It’s painful for the daughter, too. One thing that was amazing was the way family friends of ours stepped in and filled the void – I used to go to their houses with my laundry and homework :). Who knows, maybe there will be people like that in her life as well? I’m so glad you had the experience of having her home at least this one time.

    • Shelly Miller

      Devi, I am so glad to see you here and I love what you said about it being hard on her too. I think that is actually why it is so hard on me. The transition is a tough one. We’re praying for a new community of people to wrap their arms around her in the city where she is living now. She has a sweet roommate for which we are thankful. And there are lots of surrogate parents in our hometown, just a few hours away. God is good.

  4. Paula

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend with your precious girl. The seasons of change are often painful for all of us. Enjoy your time together.

    • Shelly Miller

      Change is hard but always good when we lean into it. We had a wonderful weekend Paula. She had on one of those t-shirts you sent her when she walked into the house. Thank you!

  5. clark

    I share your tears.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know. It was good seeing you and catching up. I was a bit blue yesterday. You?

  6. pastordt

    Oh, yeah. This is the hardest piece of all. Thanks God we live in an age of air travel, eh??

    • Shelly Miller

      And Skype. And Voxer. Yay for technology!!

  7. Katha VD

    Such a well written piece! I am on the other side (the daughter leaving and coming home) but it’s a great mother’s perspective! And thank God for technology! It’s not the same, but I have found a change towards depth in relationships to my family with an ocean in between…

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