Train station good-bye




Chain smokers lined the platform last night, grabbing for one last puff before the Coast Starlight train departed for all ports north. We were the bundle of twitching, sniffing people off to the side, completely confused by all the emotions and the rush of the final moments.

It all started with a few hours of last-minute packing, though. We took the Good Cop/Bad Cop approach to it all. She defended the addition of this book, that tea kettle, the extra pair of shoes. I was the ruthless, decisive reminder that her loving mother and brother would be following her in eight days. "Choose ONE!" "ONE? ONE? Mom!" Yes, Bad Cop Mom was serious. And it is a good thing, too, because the suitcase was still way too heavy, and we had to haul it up and put it on the rack in the train rather than check it.

But when your heart is pulling you to stay home, it is ever-so-tempting to put your entire room into a container and haul it along. Thus the need for the ruthless mother in the chair in the corner.

Finally packed, good-byes to ducks and Grandma said, the drive began down the moonlit roads. It reminded me of a drive we took a million years ago. In the car was our then-little girl who was in bed every night at seven o'clock, the daughter of rut-stuck parents who believed in the value of a good night's sleep for youngsters. That first night we drove out when it was dark, she was so excited that she could not stop talking. What a marvel to drive when it is DARK! This didn't feel quite so marvelous, though. This was the leaving part of the adventure, the good-bye that has been dreaded for months. The dark felt....dark.

And for the umpteenth time in her life, the next-younger child in the family came to the rescue. The brother who is wired so differently knew, once again, the right thing to do: he made a CD of music and played it as we drove along. The comfort of "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" by Casting Crowns, the roaring laughter while singing "Yellow Submarine", the van-shaking moves that accompanied "Life in Technicolor II"...it was the perfect soundtrack for the dark road to a bright future.

We truly bumbled our way through the train boarding process. The suitcase was too heavy, we didn't know where the train was, which seat was hers. While she hugged her siblings and cried her good-byes, I watched the face of an elderly gentleman who was settled in on a bench. His smile was kind, his eyes filled with compassion for the girl who held on to her brothers for dear life. The wobbly mom and dad climbed on board to hug one last time and to watch her golden hair disappear up the stairs.

We jumped tracks and ran until we found her face in her window. We did goofy things to pass the time while departure was delayed. We found her window in between the freight cars, and then...suddenly...her train was moving. The children raced her down the platform as far as they could, but then the train was gone. Gone to the greener parts north, to the uncertainty of those first days of college, and to the continuing certainty of God's loving presence.

And her family's undying affection and admiration.



Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.

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