Every day for 28 years I'd had a child at home to care for. From the first infant to the last teenager, my three children had filled my life with what I'd always felt to be my most important work – striving to mother them with pure, constant love and shepherding guidance.
Then my youngest child left for boarding school, the same day my husband left for a business trip, and I was alone. Our household went from lively to lonely in no time flat.
At first I wrestled with pretty severe emotions. But as I confronted them in prayer with the truths I've learned through Christian Science, a wonderful change took place in my thinking and in my life.
Some of the assumptions that underlie empty-nest syndrome are that without the physical presence of those dearest to us, a measure of good is absent, and that the good we once had – whether a child's laughter, cheer, and humor in the home, or a satisfying role to play – is irretrievably gone. But I'm learning that if we can see these experiences as actually having their source in God, the Giver of all good, then it follows that neither we nor our children can lose this joy-filled good. The Bible and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, assure us over and over that good is ever present – both in the sense of its being here and being now, not just then. It is a function of God's ever-presence, which no circumstances can ever diminish.
What about the good a child in the home brings? Well, if you think about it, what is it that you love about that child's presence? While it's fun to have a child near, what makes him or her precious is the qualities he or she expresses: the liveliness, wit, and spontaneity, for example. Acknowledging that these qualities are spiritual and therefore always present, and holding to that fact in prayer, enables us to feel those qualities tangibly, as if our son or daughter were right there with us.
Another assumption to challenge is that we can be separated from our children's love and that they can be separated from ours. After untold adversities, St. Paul was persuaded that nothing could separate us from the love of God (see Rom. 8:38, 39). And isn't it God's love we feel for those dear to us? When they express love to us, that's really evidence of God loving us. All love originates in God, not in a person. So we can never be cut off from it.
In my case, the logic of all those ideas was clear, and I clung to them for a day or two after my daughter left home. Still, I felt a deep sadness. It seemed that a precious era had ended in my life. I thought back to the happy years when the children were little, and wept over memories of cuddling them in my arms. Then it hit me. These feelings of loss were rooted in the concept of my children as cuddly little fleshly beings. I saw that I needed to replace that concept with the truth that the essence of being is not fleshly but purely spiritual – the image and likeness of God.
As I let go of the mortal sense of my children and embraced their spiritual individualities, forever with me in Spirit, I felt that heart-wrenching sorrow fall away. I had a happy, active day filled with purpose and spontaneity, including an unplanned, delightful get-together with a friend. I even rejoiced in my new freedom from some of those parental duties.
As the weeks wore on, I knew nothing had stopped or could ever stop me from experiencing the sweet interchanges of love and joy my children reflected from God. I also realized I could reach out to a broader circle of people with mother-love. And I still felt close to my daughter, praying for her each day and sharing her new experiences through phone conversations. In fact, our relationship improved.
"Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank?" asked Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health (you could also substitute the personal presence of loved ones). "Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love" (p. 266). I think I've at least glimpsed that wonderful fact.
Your nest is not empty. It is filled with Love!