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He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. —Revelation 21:4 NLT
We fought to swallow the lumps in our throat, and we blinked away the tears. Then we said goodbye.
Our daughter had always been my runaway bride. No man had been able to tame her. Some had come close—one even close enough to give her two children—but in the end either she or they walked away. As a single mom of two rambunctious boys, she worked hard to provide a good home for them, and my wife and I did the grandparent thing in keeping them five—and sometimes six—days every week so she could work and have a life. For the most part, I provided the only daddy figure they had. I tried to do things with them that busyness and misplaced priorities had kept me from doing with my own children.
One day, she announced she was dating. A nice young man. One we had known since he was a teenager. One I had mentored for several years. We were elated. Within a few months, they were talking marriage. And within a few more months they were engaged and had set the date. Then, COVID-19 hit, and his situation at work changed.
Before we knew it, their wedding had been moved forward four months, she was putting her house up for sale, and they were moving to Searcy, Ark., because of our son-in-law’s job transfer. We were happy about their new opportunities but sad that we’d be losing our two grandsons (and of course our daughter and son-in-law) to a state 11 hours away.
We counted down the days until their move, pretending it didn’t exist. But it did, and before we were ready, the day arrived. My wife cooked them a nice supper the night before their departure, and we said our goodbyes so we wouldn’t have to early the next morning. My wife cried, and I—trying to be the man who didn’t cry—fought with the tears that kept puddling in my eyes. The next morning, they dropped off our air mattress they had used for the previous two nights, we said another quick goodbye, and they were off.
Although neither my wife nor I had ever visited Arkansas, we planned to visit within a few weeks before I had to return to school. I had never wanted to drive 11 hours, but suddenly, I did. I had never wanted to visit Arkansas, but now I anticipated the days before we would.
Our small patio townhome is a lot quieter these days. My wife and I can watch whatever we want on television—or not watch anything at all. Our grocery bill plummeted, and so did my wife’s need to cook. We don’t keep as many snacks in the pantry, and I pick the garden vegetables all alone. No more remote to find. No more dinosaurs and Legos to put up. No more fights to quell. And I don’t have anyone to tell my old family stories to anymore.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid—and then being a preacher myself—I’ve had to say goodbye to many people and places in my lifetime. It seemed I never stayed anywhere long enough to make good friends. Sometimes, I was anxious to move, but most of the time, I loathed it. And every time, saying goodbye—whether to friends or family—was hard.
I don’t know about you, but I look forward to the day John talked about: no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears. No more saying goodbye to friends or family. An eternity to enjoy each other and the God who loves us and has provided for our salvation.
I hope I’ll see you there … forever.