The walk up our stairs toward our bedroom demands that I walk past what seems to be the empty bedroom of my son, Graham, whom we just dropped off to begin his freshmen year at Northwestern University. And each time I walk past, the battle emerges – do I look or not? Looking beyond a glance runs the risk of me being overwhelmed by a rush of emotions that can almost make my knees buckle. I have looked beyond a glance several times. And while I know millions of parents have survived their first child going to college, and others have experienced the excruciating grief of losing a child, letting go and looking into that empty room will take some getting used to for me.

So I’ve started asking myself, “What do I really see when I look into his room? An empty room or a room full of incredible memories and blessings?”

I’m not there yet, but I’m determined to see a room full of blessings rather than a room empty of someone I love and dearly miss. So, here are just a few of the blessings I am determined to see when I look in that room:

  • The blessing of bringing him home from Hinsdale Hospital, and me nearly hyperventilating from the weight of responsibility: “This little guy will call me, ‘Daddy’. I have no idea what I am doing.”
  • The blessing of walking him around the block and down to Triangle Park in Wheaton to swing, while he would repeatedly point to anything and everything with tremendous curiosity, and say, “Whattsat?”
  • The blessing of playing Little Tikes Basketball for hours and mimicking MJ”s dunks, hoping somehow he might actually remember Michael Jordan, the player, not the hall-of-fame inductee.
  • The blessing of little league baseball, YBA basketball, and Wheatland Soccer. And yes, being “that dad” who for a few short years actually thought my son might be good enough to play major league baseball. (Don’t tell me you never entertained that thought.)
  • The blessing of countless treks (mostly by his mom) to Wheaton College for piano lessons and being concerned that if he took too much of an interest in music that he might not like sports anymore. (That was really dumb. He loves them both!)
  • The blessing of our move from Naperville to Chicago and the late night, heart-wrenching conversation we had about how difficult it might be while hoping he understood that we believed this was an adventure God had us on together.
  • The blessing of his first days at The Latin School of Chicago and the miracle God worked to send us an angel who helped provide the resources necessary for him to enter his 8th grade year.
  • The blessing of more baseball, more basketball, a little more soccer, lots of cross-country, a whole lot of late nights doing homework, and a slowly increasing interest in girls.
  • The blessing of our first conversations about college: Big or small? City, suburban, or rural? East Coast, Midwest, or West Coast? Major? Early decision? It all seemed so overwhelming, but exciting at the same time.
  • The blessing of graduation from high school and him saying goodbye to his friends as they one-by-one left home to begin their own college experiences. For me, it has felt like a countdown, knowing my time was coming.
  • The blessing of standing in a little circle Thursday morning before we left for Northwestern – me, Lisa, and Graham, carrying out a ritual we started years ago, praying before he left for school in the morning. (Trust me, it wasn’t always that spiritual) Only this time, he prayed for us because we couldn’t get word out. In that moment, I realized once again how blessed I am to call this young man, “My son.”