I’m thinking about moms and the journey we take learning to let go.
About one year ago I heard a news story about Robbie Lehman, a 23 year old who died while serving in the Peace Corps in Tanzania. He was from Minnesota and had graduated from my alma mater, St. Olaf College. He was killed in a traffic collision when the bus he was traveling on tried to pass another vehicle.
So many connections with my own life. “That could have been me,” wasn’t far from my thoughts as I learned the details. “And what about his dear mom?” was also going through my mind. Did she support his choices? Did she have reservations? How was she coping?
When our friend Monika died in a back-country ski accident I remember people commenting that she died doing what she loved. True. But in my own heart I was also thinking, “Why did she have to love it that much?” It can be so difficult to accept risks that are not our own choosing.
And what about our moms, Nancy and Ruth? I don’t suppose we’ve ever allowed them to talk about what it was like having their children travel so far away for so long. It must have been nerve-wracking and painful at times! No wonder Scott’s mom called Peace Corps headquarters in Washington asking them to send someone out to Monduli to check on him. She had received a letter after a long silence with the news, “Had malaria and pneumonia. At the same time! But things are fine now.” Likewise, my mom must have been incredibly anxious getting sparse details communicated across a brief, scratchy phone call that I needed my credit card cancelled because I had been robbed.
One of the things that Scott and I talked about before this year abroad was how different it would be coming to Africa with our children. Flying by the seat of your pants for lodging and food and safety in your 20s is one thing. This time around we were certain we would not hitchhike with our kids sitting atop an open semi-truck. (Really Mom it was NOT as dangerous as it sounds!) Even so, there are many serious and different dangers here. And while it’s good to keep them in perspective, “There are dangers in North Dakota too,” neither are the concerns here to be brushed aside. We have witnessed or heard about too many heartbreaking accidents, incidents, and situations to take our own safety and well-being for granted.
We are overdue to honor you, Nancy and Ruth, for the letting go you did back when we first spread our wings to Africa. Of course it’s a different thing entirely that this time we took your grandchildren too! And for that kind of unconditional love and support we can never thank you enough.
There’s great wisdom about letting go from these Grandmas and I know we’ll be seeking it sooner than we’d like to think! Speed ahead 10 years and how will I respond when Simon stands before me and I’m thinking to myself, “You’re planning to go WHERE!?”
Happy Mother’s Day to our Moms- Nancy and Ruth- and to all moms balancing along the tightrope of letting go.