Last night we sat outside, enjoying extended conversation after dinner — Jacob, Bill and me. It was the Golden Hour, and I noticed something. There weren’t any fireflies. Typically they illumine the hillside — a synchronized light show over our pasture and in the trees — but last night, nothing.

And then, finally, one firefly — a solo dancer. On… then off. On… off. On… off — until I could see it no more.

I lamented to myself, as the fading light gave way to darkness — “How quickly time has passed. The Season of Fireflies is coming to an end, and it seems too soon.”

And today, I’m thinking similarly — though not exactly about fireflies. Instead, I’m pondering the reality that you, Jacob, are eighteen. And I’m remembering that phone call on August 17, 1999 that alerted us to your coming. How we’d scrambled to obtain tickets to San Diego and how we threw our things into suitcases — not knowing the duration of our stay. One week? Two? How long would it take to bring you home?

Truth is, we almost didn’t bring you home. After all, letting you go was difficult — nearly impossible — and although Michelle decided months earlier, time didn’t make her decision easier. Only harder. And once you were here — lighting up the room with all your infant glory — the harsh reality hit home. Letting you go would mean losing a piece of her heart, and that’s never easy.

When I returned you to her several days after your birth, you were asleep in your little car seat, snuggled in so tight. So safe. I remember entering her home and gently setting you down, followed by the suitcase with all your things. With arms free, I found the fortitude to hug Michelle and tell her that we were there for her — should she change her mind. My calm was a farce because I just kept screaming inside, “This isn’t really happening.”

Only God’s voice could bring the peace that surpassed understanding in that moment — calming the chaos and confusion attacking my mind. “Lay him down. Remember Abraham who was called to sacrifice his own son? Trust Me.”

I had no choice in Michelle’s decision. I had to walk away, but I could choose how to walk — either to trudge in the darkness of distrust or walk in the light of faith. By God’s grace, I walked in His light — though shadows in that valley lurked and the illumined way was but a narrow path. In the hours that followed, we waited — Nana, Ian and me — in a hotel room in San Diego, and Dad back home in SC where he was in the throes of residency and planned to join us as soon as his shift ended.

When we received the call we’d been anxiously waiting for, the hotel telephone weighed heavy in my hand with what seemed to be a long delay after every word — “We’ve……. decided……. that…….. the……… best……… decision………. is……….. for………. Jacob……….. to……….. remain……….. with………… you.”

It took a moment for the light to come on as I processed what I’d been told. You, Jacob, were being returned to us? I would hold you again? I was going to be your momma? This was Michelle’s decision?

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

And after that, she never looked back — though I’m certain a day hasn’t passed when Michelle hasn’t thought of you, in all these eighteen years. The piece of her you are has been with me — her sorrow, my joy. Oh, this bittersweet we share. I am forever grateful. (I love you, Michelle.)

And so perhaps this is why it’s particularly difficult for me to let you go into this new season — Adulthood. Perhaps it’s why I’ve always had a difficult time letting you go. To camp. To a new school. To new experiences with a dash of danger which you’ve always loved, like driving.

I think I struggle to let you go because, with each pry of my fingers, there’s a reminder of the past. Of the letting go we were called to do, with no guarantee of your return. And honestly, I just don’t want to lose you again… not for a moment.

Forgive me, Son, for the times I’ve held on too tightly. When, in my attempts to protect you, I’ve thwarted your dreams. Dashed your hopes. Scoffed at your schemes. It’s never been my desire to hurt you but rather to shelter you. To keep you safe. But I know keeping you safe isn’t very fun — that it feels more like fetters than freedom. That it threatens to diminish your light rather than allow you to shine.

One day, you’ll understand. It’s just love, dear — though, even after all these years, I’m hardly perfect at it. My love still has a lot of flesh to flush out. I’m reminded, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… The [one] who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because [God] first loved us” (I John 4:18, 19).

Being your momma has taught me a lot, Jacob — and I’m eternally thankful for your patience as I learn how to best love you. Your lack of fear — both in life and in love — is an inspiration. The way you shine is beautiful, though perhaps we — your dad and I — don’t always get to see as others see. (Isn’t that how it is as parents?) Oh, to be a fly on the wall when you’re in your element at school, at youth events, or in the community — doing what you do so well… shine light!

Happy 18th “Golden” birthday, dear Boy! Though there’s a part of me that is lamenting how quickly the Season of Childhood has passed, I’m mostly just grateful to be your momma — to be the one who’s privileged to walk through — yes, fly through — each season with you.

May your golden light never diminish but only glow more brightly with each passing day — in every season! How I love you — yes, even when I hold on too tight!