It was last night, literally, but it was also our daughters’ last night at youth group here at this sweet church. I was invited too because I have been teaching youth Sunday school for years. It was a goodbye party. They ate snacks while I went around taking pictures of my kids and their friends. We listened to Christian music videos playing out on the PowerPoint screens while we visited. We played games. Well, make that THEY played games, I watched with some other smart adults. By the time they were done, they were all lying on the auditorium floor, chairs cleared to the sides, in sheer exhaustion! They like to play running games. It was fun…. to watch.
Then our youth pastor gathered us all to the front and asked the youth to share memories or wishes for my kids since they are leaving this group. By the end it was quite emotional….both tears and laughter. Then they all scooted in (all sitting on the floor) and laid hands on my girls and me, everyone reaching in, touching, all as one praying.
As I heard them praying out loud and heard in their voices the pain of final goodbyes, it hit me…the pain of leaving these relationships that are so strong. I had been avoiding thinking about it or feeling it with the adults because my tendency is to be stoic or make jokes to laugh when I feel a strong emotion welling up. Feeling it was hard. Brad, our youth pastor, talked about when he first came to our church, it was 1997. He’s watched our girls grow up from little kids who were 5, 7 and 9 to young ladies who are serving God and are a blessing to his children, who are 3, 2, and 1. Then I looked around and realized I’ve watched all these kids in the youth group grow up…some gracefully, some with struggle. I’ve taught them in Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday school, retreats and camps. I’ve had most of them in my home and they all talked about how I’ve fed them over the years and they enjoyed hanging out in our home. Several of them call me their second mom and since some of them are in college, now serving as leaders in the youth group, it was awesome to sit back and remember and see them now, appreciating all you’ve done for them over the years. And I appreciate them too…they have been great friends for my children and we are so blessed to have had such a good peer group for them here.
The hugs were very sweet afterwards, even though the running games had made them sweaty and gross. LOL And there were lots of promises from kids who want to come down and spend time with us in Phoenix soon and lots of thank you’s and we’ll miss you’s. They were all signing Emma’s t-shirt and taking time to make a last connection. Last things are important and feeling your influence and the good influence of others is important during this time.
I’m glad they made me take the time to feel it. I’m so glad to have known them and privileged to have been a part of their lives and Christian walks.