Two weeks ago, I stood in my driveway as my oldest son, Shawn, gave me a hug, climbed into his SUV, and drove away down the street. He waved to me, and as I waved back I whispered, “God, please bless your son as he rides into this next chapter of his life in pursuit of his dream to play quarterback in college.”
My eyes filled with tears as I watched him drive away, but then I heard it; two honks, the sound I was waiting for, the sound that is both joyful and painful each and every time I have heard it throughout my life. Two honks of the horn in our family mean ‘goodbye, for now, I love you, and can’t wait to see you again soon.’
I remember when I used to be the one doing the honking as I would leave my parents’ house in Bucks County, PA to return to UNC each summer. Tears seemed to always coincide with those two honks just as much as putting the car in drive and the waving back to your family as you pull away. When I would take my older kids to visit family back in Pennsylvania and it was time to leave, we would all cry so hard that it hurt. Now the same thing happens with my youngest kiddos when we leave their older siblings. Every time, very-heavy-heart-tears flow when our visits end and I have to explain to my littles, Lee, La and Jay, that it is all part of love, all part of loving so deeply and with such a full heart, that it physically hurts when we leave one another.
The most recent “two honks” have had a more profound effect on me in light of the upcoming bone marrow transplant. My mom, sisters, brother, all of my children and grandson visited us at Topsail beach last week and it was a slice of heaven. I spent many moments simply soaking in everyone’s presence and love. We all recognized the significance of our coming together, as it was a weekend to rally the troops before the approaching medical journey our family will embark on this fall. I will likely be spending a month or so in intensive care after the transplant, and I think all of the love and joy this past week was multiplied because quietly, internally, I believe each person felt the gravity of the situation and realized the sacredness and importance of our family time together.
At the end of that week, boy, were those two honks extra difficult, perhaps the hardest of my life, as each family member drove off and back to their lives in Charlotte, Pennsylvania, Florida and Colorado. In fact, they were so hard for me, I even contemplated not gathering ever again because the love hurt so deep. Fortunately, that thought didn’t last long because I see now that the ability my family has to enjoy, cherish, love and support one another is a rich and weighty blessing that the Lord has given us. And that’s what we will continue to do as long as I have anything to say about it!
In a way, it seems like I am back to where I started five years ago when I was first diagnosed with a terminal illness with no cure. I wrote in my book, The QB Mentor, about the moment in 2013 when I had to tell Shawn on the day he left to start his senior year of high school football about the leukemia for the very first time. It took all I had to fight back tears when Shawn rolled down his window before he put his truck in reverse to back out of our driveway and said, “Dad, you know that God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers. And you are the strongest soldier I know.” I let the tears come, he reversed and drove away. I waived, and the last thing I remember is hearing the sweet sound of him tapping his horn twice as his truck disappeared down the street.
I find myself in nearly the same moment, and what was true then is still true. So, it is ‘honk honk’ for now, until we visit again, soon.
Amen and Amen.