I’ve been hearing about the Empty Nest Blues for years, and how, when we reach that phase in life of a childless home, we’ll be singing them loudly, lamenting the golden years of our child-rearing days.
So far, I cannot come up with the right sad melody to accurately reflect my true feelings. But they don’t seem befitting a blues song.
Instead, what is growing within me, as we’ve accompanied our last child to the finish line, is a feeling of deep gratitude to God. Perhaps other lingering feelings will hit “out of the blue” later, but for now, all I can manage is a sweet song of satisfaction.
I grew up in a family of two children, a year in school apart, and while my sister and I enjoy a dear relationship, I recall my mother sharing the difficulty of our close, seemingly sudden, departure.
With our own larger brood of five, our chickadees began leaving one by one starting in 2014, so we’ve had nearly a decade to begin experiencing the letting-go. It has hit me at different times, the pangs of loneliness when the singing, and, yes, occasional shrieking, cease. Going from a house filled with great intensity and activity to one more minimal in noise and movement can be strange. But the gradual decrease has been kind.
Also, to be fair, our nest isn’t completely emptied just yet. We’re taking our time with the last one, our wiser perspectives urging us to slow down. No one is ready to rush into something that may or may not be suitable. But it’s much less a wish to hang on, and more a desire to fully discern a solid path.
Soon enough, he’ll be soaring, having watched his siblings fly on before. Like those early years, when summers would have our house teeming, and in the fall, our abode would grow eerily quiet, and he stood alone, stunned by the contrast and yearning to know just where they’d gone—and if he could go, too—he’ll head out in time.
Like then, he learned that eventually, they flock back, and the chatter continues, the relationships deepening even more, fortifying the base that helped form a springboard for life.
Yes, the house is quieter these days, and we will be praying about what God might be calling us to most of all in this next part of our journey. But the voids are minimal, and the hopes high. For every day in a life with God is a grand adventure.
We know this much: we’ll have highs and lows, losses and love, and choices to make each day that will either lead us closer to, or further from, our heavenly Father.
“Our hearts are restless, oh Lord, until they rest in Thee,” St. Augustine once famously said. I suspect, as long as we continue seeking rest in him—and we’ll fail some days—our blues will be minimal, and our hearts fittingly full. That, at least, is my prayer.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on August 21, 2023.]