This story is by Renette Steele and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Empty nest
I sit in silence, staring out the big bay window. The spot I perch each morning with my coffee and Bible, praying for my family. In a few hours, my life will change. I am not ready, not yet prepared.
I’d been watching the Momma robin for weeks. She fascinated me. She built her nest with care in our juniper tree. We’ve had robins in our yard for years. But this year this robin seemed to be telling me something, and I wasn’t sure what. Her love songs brought comfort to my unsettled heart.
When had time slipped away from me? A new season of life is arriving, how can it be? A tear slid down my cheek as I thought, It was only yesterday I was young and full of energy. Counting down the days to my wedding, to the birth of our first child, our second, our third and our fourth. It seems in the blink of an eye, and my oldest chick was off to her first day of school. I cried. I cried with each one’s first day. The last one being the hardest. What was I to do all day without them?
Gazing out the window, I observe the red-breasted robin’s little head bobbing up and down. She chirped and trilled for each baby to come to her. One by one they came. Loving, trusting, hope in their eyes and sweet chirps. A baby would draw near, and Momma would talk and groom it. Without warning, she would push it off the branch to the ground below. My heart thudded. How could she! But not one baby reached the ground. Oh, they all tumbled about before they found their wings and soared. That’s when I noticed Poppa wasn’t far away. Swooping under each one as if to show them how to fly or catch them if they didn’t. Five babies Momma robin pushed off that branch. Now she sat singing the song in my heart, the sad song of an empty nest.
Life became busier than I could have imagined after my children were born. No time to twaddle. Chasing the chicks to this event and that, feeding them, laundry, housework, homework, and fun all took up my days. Yes, I cried as each one took flight. The remaining children made the missing of the others more natural somehow. But this youngest one, when had she grown so big, confident and ready to fly? Three short hours and my nest would be empty. Unlike the Robin, I was clinging with all my might to this last fledgling. Can I give her that push of freedom? Let go and trust she’d be okay?
I can still hear those baby giggles, feel her soft curly hair against my cheek as I sang her to sleep. Her big green eyes are watching me with love. Another tear slips down my check. So many things to ponder. Me cheering at her sports games. Sitting on the stairs until four A.M. listening to her chatter about every detail of her date. My five-foot baby will be heading to college on a basketball scholarship. Her reddish-blond head filled with dreams, as I had had such a short time ago. She’d be fine, her father and I raised her well. But would I? Could I survive this last one leaving?
My heart breaks when my chicks hurt, rejoices when they are happy, I pray with all my heart for each of them. My life wrapped in a blanket of their love, so intertwined with their lives. Three hours and all that would fall away. Then where would I be?
“He who began a good work will carry it to completion.”
I felt it deep in my heart. But it seemed I heard it in a robin’s song. I knew the verse well. Turning to it, a couple of words I’d forgotten jumped out at me. IN YOU.
“Me Lord? Have I not finished all that you asked? Raising those you’ve given me, to follow you? I looked at the verse again and noticed the last half. “Until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“Your days are not finished. I have not come for you. As long as you draw breath, you have work to do, even if it is only to pray.”
Praying I could do, I’d been praying for years for my family, and they would need me to continue. I looked out to the robin, she gave me one last trill and flew off. My mind told me she was hungry, once nutrition is found she’d return. Over the next few hours and through all the busyness of packing, I watched for her, but she never did. Maybe next year, I thought, I will keep my nest ready for any of my chicks return.
Making the most of our final days, our friendship, we enjoyed lunches out, followed by girls day pampering and shopping. These last few activities made my heart soar. But these final few minutes make it cry. The time draws nearer. Time to push my last baby from the branch. In a few short minutes, she will pull out of our driveway and leave me standing here. What am I to do all day? How can I fill my time? What shall I wrap my life in now?
We hug and laugh. “Mom I’m excited and scared. Who will cheer for me?” she asked.
“Your dad and I will always cheer for you, my child. We will attend your games whenever we can. You’ll be just fine.” I told her. But would I?
We cry and hug some more. My baby climbs in her car and backs out the driveway. I wave until I can’t see her car anymore. That’s when a robin flies in front of me and follows her car. It wasn’t the Momma, but rather the bright red-breasted Poppa. I’d seen teaching, watching the babies when they’d learned to fly.
I stood in silence, not knowing which way to turn or what to do. My heart is breaking, and I look to the juniper tree. My Momma robin too has flown away. She had sung a sad song for a few minutes, and then she took flight. How beautiful to be free, soar amongst the clouds and the trees, not a care in the world. But wasn’t that I at this moment? Why couldn’t I embrace this time?
Deep in my heart I felt the words, “The Lord goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”
Maybe it was I who required the push. I needed to learn to fly again. I must learn to trust the Father was there to teach me to soar or catch me if I fall.