Friday, February 14, 2014

the last train

"Mom, can we build a train track tonight?" my seven year-old's mouth smiled at me all cocky and enthusiastic.

"Yes. I would love that!" I echoed back, grinning despite the lump in my throat.

It has probably been about a year since we built trains together. I haven't seen him play with Thomas or any of Thomas's plucky British friends in months. I sort of thought the boys had all outgrown that bucket of wooden happiness.

But tonight I had flashbacks to epic train sets that filled the entire ground floor of our house in Nashville. I remembered the way they always fought over Thomas and Percy. I recalled the days when trains were our whole life, all day, every day.

The lump in my throat got a little bigger because I wondered if this would be our last time building a train together. Today may have been the day of the last train through their childhood.

Eventually there is a last one of everything. A last bottle. A last new tooth. A last diaper, A last loose tooth. A last night needing a flashlight and plastic sword to fight the bad guys. A last endless game of Candyland. A last epic train day. A last day of elementary school. A last night in their room before college. A last day with our last name.

I think I will gather up all the last things and put them in an old mason jar. Inside that turquoise glass the light last things, full of beautiful melancholy joy, will glow and warm our home. I will put the jar in the front window and it will call my children back home.

That's what home really means; it's the place everything meaningful happened last.

All the memories will shine out the window, over the grassy yard, through the live oaks, and into the night. Like a beacon in the dark world calling to my children, singing of grace from imperfect parents who love them just as they come. Out into the starry night the jar of all the last things will woo them home with the happiness of a family made the most of the final ride through their childhood.

Because even though it is painful to watch the train with my babies on it pull slowly out of the station day by day, it is also miraculously beautiful. That train is heading to a future I can't imagine and may never fully see.

My children aren't leaving me behind. I am sending them on ahead.

The little jar of last things will help them to remember the past and to light their path ahead. Someday when I miss their cheeky jokes, winking eyes, rolling laughter, and soft hands in mine, I will have the light of all the last things to keep me company.

On a day far off beyond what I can see now, I will sit there by my jar full of life's joy and sing Amazing Grace one last time. All the last things in the world will sound out together like a mighty trumpet. The earth will resonate and shake until all that remains is the first day that ushers us on into eternity. 

On that day it won't be sad anymore to have the last things roll away over the horizon. There will be only gratitude for all that faithful love that carried us through the years together.

All aboard, children. This train is bound for glory....

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