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My son’s dream died today. And with that phone call, a piece of me died too.

I was at the park enjoying a warm and sunny dayone of the first spring-like days we’ve had so far. My phone was turned off because we’d been at a doctor’s appointment. Enjoying the weather, we decided to grab lunch and play hooky instead of going back to school.

Would it have made a difference if I had answered?

I was completely blindsided by the news. A call from my son was not unusual but with this news? I was totally unprepared.

I told him I’d been at an appointment and saw he had called. “What’s up?” I asked casually while smiling at my other son demonstrating his skills on the monkey bars.

“Well, you’re too late,” he replied.

“Too late for what?” I asked, taking a bite of my Jimmy John’s.

And then his voice broke as he told me. I put my sandwich down.

If I had answered my phone, would it have made a difference? And, would I have wanted it to make a difference? 

We talked for a couple of minutes, I asked a few clarifying questions, which really didn’t do anything by way of clarifying the range of emotions racing through my heador my heart. 

Not usually at a loss for words, I just paused and tried to listen while the tears started silently dripping down my cheeks. And then, with sadness in his voice that I’m not sure I’ll ever forget, he said he needed to finalize a few things. We ended our call.

It felt like my heart had, quite literally, broken into a thousand pieces.

As I sat there on that park benchwith what had only moments before been a beautiful dayI pondered the last 10 years. Ten years. Ten years of highs and lows. So. Many. Lows.

He’d had this dream for essentially his entire life. And though I’d had some other hopes for him, when I realized he didn’t share those hopes, I worked hard to switch gears.

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He’d followed these dreams across the countryonly to have that door shut. Covid hit, and he’d had to pivot again. Financial challenges. Physical challenges. Academic challenges. He’d seemingly overcome them all.

This is exactly why I was sure things were going to eventually work out in his favor. An optimist by nature, I was certain that, like the man who was only a few feet away from gold, if only he just kept digging, he’d find his treasure.

Never one to seek the spotlight, he always flies a bit under the radar. So, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I realized just how much he was changing.

I noticed the discipline in the form of early bedtimes and early morning workouts. 

I noticed the interest in nutrition and the change in meal prep.

I noticed the lack of social life.

I noticed the regular addition of personal development books to our Audible account.

And I noticed how the naysayers fueled him.

All in pursuit of a dream.

It was a dream in which he often didn’t feel supported. But, he believed in himself even when friends and family didn’t. When he felt he had nowhere else to turn, he turned inward. And he moved forward.

He was determined. He was undaunted. And his path was unconventional. 

But, he followed through with what he said he was going to do. He did what he was capable of doing. And he did what he believed he could do.

In the face of every obstacle, he found a way to persevere and overcome. He proved that betting on himself was a bet worth taking. And that is why I was so surprised by his call. Once again, life’s circumstancescircumstances beyond his controlhad changed his path.

Thank goodness for sunglasses as I sat on that park bench and reflected: the good times, the bad times, the frustrations, the celebrationshow could this chapter possibly be over? It felt so incomplete. 

His story has inspired and motivated me. So much so that I’ve often thought someday we will have to write it down. There are too many lessons here: dedication, discipline, perseverance, overcoming obstacles, grit, hard work, attitude, determination, hope. So. Many. Lessons. Lessons taught, lessons learned, and lessons earned.

We try to teach our kids to work hard, to never give up, to believe in themselves, and to trust things will always work out for the best. That means a happy ending, right? There has to be a happy ending. But the pain in his voice, combined with my own emotions, was anything but happy.

I believe in prayer. I couldn’t possibly begin to count the prayers I have offered on his behalf over the years. So many prayers. Prayers for health, for strength, for the opportunity to be given a chance to have his dreams come true. Prayers for peace. Prayers for guidance. Prayers for understanding. Prayers that he will feel loved and supported despite all of the obstacles.

At that moment, it felt like those prayers had been in vain.

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And what about hope? Hope is one of the most powerful emotions we have. It lifts us through the darkest of times. Hope allows people to overcome impossible odds. Hope keeps us going when we have nothing left to go give. Hope helps us continue the fight.

As parents, we have so many hopes for our kids. We just want them to be happy. To be healthy. To reach their highest potential. To live life without regrets. We just want them to be good people and to achieve their highest aspirations and successwhatever that may look like.

But, what if, sometimes, those hopes and aspirations are at odds with each other? What then? What happens when that hope is seemingly gone?

I’ve watched that little boy grow into a man and I look back with admiration and respect.

Would it have made a difference if I had answered my phone? Would I have reminded him of all the come-from-behind stories he’d listened to? Would I have mentioned all the song lyrics? All the Instagram captions?

Would I have tried to talk him into a different outcome? And if I had, would that have been in his best interest? Would I, as his mother, have tried to hold him back?

I guess we will never know. I realize he will likely recover from this pain and sadness much sooner than I will. Some may call my response an overreaction, or even dramatic. But I call it motherhood.

From the moment you know you’re growing a new life, you dream and imagine and invest. You sacrifice and you love. You love so much it hurts. And today, that love hurts.

My son’s dream died today. And with that phone call, a piece of me died too. The pain is raw and the pain is real. But, I keep telling myself that the dream hasn’t really died, inasmuch as perhaps it’s made way for new life in the shape of something even better.

That is my hope . . . and my prayer.

Originally published on the author’s blog

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Tacie Kerr

Hi! We are The Kerr Clan—a sports-loving, business-building, chaos-embracing, law enforcement family of 8. We like health and fitness almost as much as pizza and treats. Photography, sunsets, and vacations rank right up there with faith, freedom, and family. Our labs, Ripley & Cruz (a pandemic decision), Midnight (our black cat) and a no-name turtle are along for the ride. Enjoying life as it happens—somewhere between order and chaos. A blue line family adventure.

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