(A letter to my daughter, Brenna, as she enters her senior year of high school.)

As I look ahead to your last year at home, my heart cannot fathom how we got here so quickly.

My arms feel you, still, as I held you in the rocking chair in your nursery.

My photo albums burst with pictures of your baby grins, your toddler antics, your preschool wonderment, and your school-age accomplishments.

I’m proud of you. I hope I’ve said it enough times, and I hope you know it inside your soul…but I’ll say it again. I’m proud of you.

As I prepare to say goodbye to you, I resolve to treat this last year at home as a gift, not a grief.

I refuse to see “lasts” and missed-moments and sadness. I refuse to count down like I’m losing you forever.

Instead, I resolve to make each day you have here with us simple and sweet. I resolve to look you in the eye when you’re talking, to hold you each time you’re willing to sit down beside me on the couch, and to be the last to let go from our hug.

I resolve to celebrate the future with you as you relish the joy of dreaming it. I resolve to look ahead with you in anticipation, even as inwardly I am also looking back with sorrow.

My darling, my sweet girl, my first little baby, you made me a mother and you changed my world. How much I’ve taught you can never compare to how much you’ve taught me. You showed me the selfless love that a mother has for her child despite circumstances or recognition. You’ve shown me that I can be stronger, give more, and love more deeply than I ever imagined.

My prayer for your future is that you will keep your heart soft, even as your skin gets thicker with the realities and challenges that await each of us as we “grow up.” I pray you will be protected and blessed, but I also pray you will know the joy of triumphing over a struggle, and the relief of solving a problem or navigating a hard situation.

As you drive away, on that day that I know is coming, I will cheer for you and smile and send you off with a flourish. I won’t crumple to the ground in tears…well, maybe after you turn ‘round the corner and can no longer see me….

You’re ready. You can do it.

I love you, I’m proud of you, and I will always be here waiting for you at home.

The world is ready to meet you, my darling, and you are ready for the world.