I decided to take the long way home.

I had just dropped off our younger son at a sleepover, and our older one is in Kenya for two weeks on a service trip with his school. My husband and I would have twenty hours without children in the house – a rare occurrence – and I was looking forward to our time together.

But I also felt something tight around my heart, and I’ve come to know this sensation as the casing that protects against grief. This wasn’t a fully conscious knowing. Rather, it was the part of me that led me to the long way home, which required driving through Boulder Reservoir.

As soon as I turned onto the long, dirt road that winds through the reservoir, I felt my heart catch in my throat. Grief. How much time our older son, Everest, has spent in this part of Boulder over the years.

Of earth and sky, Everest gravitated toward the part of Boulder that has the largest body of water. This is where, at nine years old, he first separated from us when he went to sailing camp one summer.

Having been homeschooled his entire life, there was no real reason to drop him off before that point, and we didn’t know how he would feel. Fully in his element, he took to the boats like ducks to water, just like he takes to the sky like the eagles and owls he loves so much. He waved goodbye as I stood on the shore and he didn’t look back.

At twelve years old, this is where he first learned to fly RC planes. Oh, how many hours I sat at the RC park watching layers and galaxies of regulation fall into place as, once again, he stepped into his element.

This summer, at nearly nineteen and his last one at home before leaving for college, he will work as an instructor at the sailing camp, guiding young people, hopefully inspiring him to love one of his passions, and keeping them safe on the water.

Of earth and sky, in a few months, he will begin his service in the Navy, moving toward his dream of flying fighter jets and landing them on aircraft carriers.

The memories curved through my veins like the road I drove on, and tears filled my eyes.

Grief is good medicine.

As I approached our house, a joy filled my heart: twenty hours with my husband! Twenty uninterrupted hours! Nobody needing us. Nobody calling for us. Nobody asking for food.

How blessed we are that we still enjoy each other’s company, that even as we get ready to launch one son into the world and another into high school, we can see the empty next on the horizon and know that, as painful as it will be when both of our birds fly into the world, there will also be new vistas to explore together.

With every loss comes a new birth.

With each door closed, another one opens.

With every grief grieved, a new joy arrives.

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