As they were packing up to head back to their hotel two nights ago, my brother casually asked me if I had any great new books that I'd read to the kids lately.
"OH!" I answered immediately. "YES! You have got to read this one. I get so choked up every time I read it that I can barely finish out loud. Take it! Read it tonight! You will love it!"
"Wait a minute," he said. "Is it sad? No one D-I-E-S at the end, do they?"
"No, no, no," I was quick to assure him. "This book isn't that kind of sad. It's just about growing up. It's sad like Love You Forever is sad. I can't read that one without crying, either."
And so they left, with my cherished copy of Let Me Hold You Longer tucked carefully in with the rest of their belongings.
Yesterday, they had no sooner arrived at my house when my brother demanded, with book in hand, "How could you make me read this?! I had to keep leaving the room just so I could compose myself!"
"I warned you that it was sad!" I responded. "But didn't you just love it anyway, though?"
In this poignant tale inspired by her own six children, the author, Karen Kingsbury, so beautifully captures the essence of childhood. She writes in her introduction that, "We spend our children's days celebrating their firsts. First steps, first tooth, first words. First day of kindergarten, first homecoming dance, first time behind the wheel. But somehow, along the way, we miss their lasts. There are no photographs or parties when a child takes his last nap or catches tadpoles for the last time. For the most part, it's impossible to know when a last-moment actually occurs. Nothing signals a mother to stop and notice the last time her little boy runs and jumps into her arms..."
This book is sad to me because it is so true. Because I can already see it happening in my own children's lives. Because some of these are things that I've already mourned the passing of and because I'm worried there are so many more "lasts" that I won't recognize or appreciate until long after they've come to pass.
This book makes me sad because it forces me, with each reading, to acknowledge how often I go through the day not really being "present" to my children. Of how often I hear their little voices without really listening to their words. And of how I serve them often in the most grudging fashion, selfishly, complainingly. This book makes me wonder how much I would have done differently had I known how quickly these days would pass.
My children truly are my greatest treasures, but I really have to wonder how often my daily actions reflect to them how precious they are to me. And so, as we enter into the season of Lent today, I am making a promise, to myself and to my children, to really be "in the moment" with them, cherishing them and savoring every tiny detail, giving of myself until it hurts. These next forty days of Lent, I want to learn how to truly "die to self", so that when Easter at last arrives, I, too, may "rise up", triumphant, and stronger than ever in my vocation to motherhood.