There are seasons and mileposts in life that bring with them intense waves of renewed grief. I have entered into one of those milepost seasons and it caught me quite unprepared. My baby started High School.

It’s not that I didn’t realize he would be going to the Big School, I did. Part of me rejoiced that I would never again have to deal with the chaotic intersection that leads to the Elementary, Intermediate and Middle Schools’ campus. (That intersection caused me to wonder if any of us had passed the chapters on Right of Way, me included.) Another part of me was not so happy with the 10 minute earlier start time, no more “snooze button” for this girl.

I’ve watched with great satisfaction as my little boy took off and surpassed not only me but many of his taller friends and he’s just getting started. His older brother did the same thing at the same age. I’ve watched his self confidence take off with his growing stature. I’ve watched my paychecks get gobbled up trying to keep the boy in shoes and pants. I’m sure the thrift store is thrilled when we drive up to drop off all of the clothing he’s outgrown yet barely worn. I do enjoy the warmer months when shorts and slides are the wardrobe of choice and my wallet gets a short reprieve.

These milestones have been a joy to watch and listen to as his voice is dropping well beyond my own and even cracks now and then. These are not the milestones that have me grieving all over again. That honor goes to the milestone of Marching Band.

It started when he was dropped off to get ready for the first home football game. I was floored when I saw him walking with his friends, all of them dressed in their band uniforms. When half time came around I was fully engulfed in this grief that wouldn’t let go. Watching my youngest perform in the half time show brought me nearly to tears as my heart whispered, “No…”

When did this baby grow up to be a young man? I tried so hard not to blink but blink I did. We’d gone through so much to have him. Surgery, fertility treatments, frequent pre-term labor, inducement, emergency C-section, incision that came open; we went through what felt like emotional and physical hell to have this baby. He completed the circle of our blended family. I’ve cherished every moment and yet they’ve all flown by to become mere memories. I see before me only four short years left before this last fledging leaves my nest and I will be alone. Even in writing these thoughts my eyes overflow, my throat tightens, and my heart whispers, “No… Please slow down.”

My older sons are all grown and scattered in the winds of life. Facebook and text messages have taken the place of dinners at the big table. I hate eating at the table now, it only reminds me that mine used to be full. Dinner time was the one time that we all spent together. I had no idea then that my large table would all too soon be traded for a small table and it won’t be nearly long enough before I will need no table at all. This isn’t the picture I’d had in mind when I imagined life after the boys were off on their own. I pictured time spent with my beloved husband. I pictured travel and big family dinners when everyone came home. I pictured a Hallmark movie. Now I see work and dogs to keep me company.

I try not to have pity parties for myself but this month I will honestly admit that is exactly what I’m doing.

Grief is my constant shadow and for this season my shadow is large and dark. It will not stay that way. As with all shadows it will fade again with time.

Beacon Insurance

Shelley Brandon

My bio is rather complex and like most people's starts at birth, or maybe before. I was adopted as an infant by very special and very loving parents. Pretty normal and average childhood with two younger brothers. Married at 22, motherhood at 25, divorced single parent at 29. Blessed at 31 with a new chance at love and the family I'd always wanted. Eight months later two of my sons lost their mother to pneumonia. Our blended family was tossed by the waves of grief from the beginning. The waves became a tsunami when my wonderful husband died 14 years later. Grief has been my shadow for nearly 20 years now, but life is still good when you're standing in the light.