The beach is busy these days, summer’s last hurrah for many families. Compared to the 13 week summer we had as kids, today’s students have a raw deal having to pull on their back packs during the dog days of August. Teachers, too, surely must regret the earlier start-dates.
For me, not much will change when most of the world jumps back into making lunches, driving carpools and doing homework. Although I’ll still have two school-attending children, one will be five hours away by car, the other five hours by plane. So my nest will officially be empty, which is neither good nor bad, just factual.
Although I’ve known for years this day would come, I figured I would still have Nate when it arrived. I knew it wouldn’t feel completely empty with my partner and friend on hand to share the start of this new time of life.
Mom used to caution us during the whirlwind years of raising children when we had as many as five different schools simultaneously and five schedules to honcho. “Don’t get so busy you forget about your beloved,” she’d say. “When the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be back to where you started, just the two of you.”
Without preparation, husbands and wives can arrive at the empty nest with fear and trembling. After so many years of intense co-parenting, it can feel funny to be reduced to two.
“Who is this guy?” she’ll say.
“What did I ever see in this woman?” he’ll say.
What does God intend for this season of couple-life? For one thing, he hopes the leave-and-cleave rule will hold up under pressure. Also, the statement, “Two are better than one” should still be considered a blessing. And putting the interests of another ahead of our own should continue to work well. But alarm bells ought to ring if a couple suddenly thinks giving up is the easiest route to take.
When one of the couples we knew would announce a break-up, especially after being married several decades, Nate would shake his head and say, “He should have stayed with the wife of his youth.”
What if a husband and wife were told, “In the spring of 2015, one of you will die.” The conversations and deeds of today would be carefully and lovingly planned. Nothing would be taken for granted. Each day would be greeted with eagerness. Quitting would be unthinkable.
Nate and I had talked about what life would be like one distant day when all the kids were up and out. We knew there would be major adjustments, but we determined to make the most of it. The only thing we never discussed was an empty nest with just one in it.
Twelve months ago, we knew nothing of terminal cancer. Nate’s last words on the subject of the empty nest were, “We don’t know what it’ll be like, but we know we’ll be in it together.”
God had other plans, but I love Nate for remaining loyal to the wife of his youth, right up until the very end.
“Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his… So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15)