By Barb Arland-Fye
My friend Dawn posted on Facebook that her youngest daughter had left for college last weekend, and Mom was feeling mixed emotions. Dawn noted that it had been 28 years since she had an empty nest. I can relate. My youngest son, Patrick, left for college last weekend. It has been 26 years since our nest was empty, and my husband Steve and I didn’t anticipate the twinge of sadness we experienced as we let the last eaglet go.
Other members of our parish have experienced “empty nest syndrome,” but until the nest was actually empty, I thought we’d be immune to the syndrome. Now the house seems so quiet; part of the sadness has to do with the swift passages of life and acknowledgement of our mortality.
“We’re always experiencing changes of one kind or another; some of them sneak up on you,” says another longtime friend, Marcia Regrut. We met more than 12 years ago, after the death of her husband, Spencer, in a horrific railroad accident. As a result of the friendship we developed, Marcia volunteered as a proofreader for The Catholic Messenger. “That was something I never expected to do in my whole life,” said Marcia, who raised her family in the Evangelical Christian Church and is now a member of the Anglican Church.
Another close friend, Sister Marcia Costello, CHM, unexpectedly found herself in a nursing home this past year due to some physical health issues that limited her mobility. I marvel at the grace with which she has come to terms with this season of her life. More than 11 years ago, she encouraged me to accept the post of managing editor of The Catholic Messenger. She had been and continues to be my mentor. Even with the dramatic changes she’s experienced this past year, she trusts that God is with her and will remain so. Her faith inspires me.
The society in which we live seems to be in a state of uneasy transition — we embrace social media — email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Skype — at the expense of the hand-written letter, newspapers and hard cover/paperback books. Our economy appears to be picking up, but many new college grads struggle to obtain experience in their chosen career fields.
Catholics and non-Catholics struggle over issues regarding same-sex marriage, immigration reform, the health care mandate and the effects of global warming among others. This past weekend I read a front-page story in the local newspaper about a mass wedding that a radio station orchestrated at the Iowa State Fair. Twenty-six couples reportedly said “I do,” in a ceremony filled with as much substance as cotton candy.
This is the world into which Steve and I are sending our youngest son, and we wonder how well we have prepared him to navigate the transition with integrity intact.
We hope and pray that our parenting, our family as domestic church, has prepared Patrick to embrace adulthood with faith, fortitude and a good sense of self.
In his 1994 Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II describes parents as the first educators of their children and sees this relationship as a “living means of communication, which not only creates a profound relationship between the educator and of the one being educated, but also makes them both sharers in truth and love, that final goal to which everyone is called by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (no. 16).
Blessed John Paul II acknowledged that the process of education ultimately leads to the phase of self-education. While others can influence the young adult for good or bad, “Even when they grow up and set out on their own path, young people remain intimately linked to their existential roots,” the pope said. That is where our hope rests in the transition from nest to flight.