Last week I was invited into the end-of-summer rhythm that families know well, but that this single-never-married-no-biological-children bachelor has never experienced. I helped welcome a goddaughter to Michigan State on Monday, all the way from Atlanta, and I helped a surrogate daughter from the Detroit suburbs move into her dorm at Wayne State.
In both places I was struck by the parents and new students all around me. Faces flush with fascination and some fear; eyes of exhilaration and some resignation. Some of the teens look remarkably like their parents, either in the slope of their nose or the drape of their tops. It’s natural; many have spent eighteen years in the same nest, and now the eaglets are beginning to fly.
It’s bittersweet for my Atlanta friends, three of whose four kids have now gone to college. I know I’ll miss my surrogate daughter when I visit her sister and mom, though I’m glad for a second try at college after a brief stay in Chicago last academic year. Of course, my feelings are not nearly as intense as those of my friends!
There’s a wistfulness to the end of summer and the transition into the newness of the fall routine. It’s not just graduates moving on to their next stages; it’s also children moving up to the next building, the next school, the next class. It’s professionals facing new challenges, and couples coming back from the lake. It’s the regret that we didn’t get in the pool enough and that our plans for cleaning up the garage never came to fruition.
Shannon Beck captures the wistfulness of the season in a beautiful poem recently featured in the Presbyterian Outlook, “Bittersweet,” a poem-prayer for waning seasons and bittersweet changes. You can read it here (link to Bittersweet – The Presbyterian Outlook (pres-outlook.org) ) but my favorite part is
The season is waning … It does every year A tiny wedge south against the mountains where I walk to the sunset and listen to children drenched in their last bit of summer
Cartwheels and picnics and swims in the lake One last trip to the zoo Soccer camps and church camp and sleeping in late All drawn into an untidy string
And as I move slowly into the smells and hues of autumn, other another prayer-poem with wistful words washes over me:
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.
Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be thou our guard while troubles last, And our eternal home.
May it be so.
Your partner in ministry,
Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD Executive email@example.com phone number 309-530-4578