We had made it 550 miles towards our destination, we were exhausted, and it was my first night away from my children. I almost turned around and drove back home.
The day had gone really well. We left two hours later than I’d planned, but it was just as well because I had more time to hug and say goodbye. My son’s sleep has been incredibly erratic and he had been awake since 3:30 that morning. I was tired, too, and we took things slowly as we got ready to leave.
The drive had gone smoothly. As soon as we got through the first mountain pass, the wildfire smoke that has been plaguing the west started to thin. My son wanted to stop for lunch at Red Robin. I had hoped for something a little faster, but it was nice to be out of the car, too.
We made it to our first hotel and my phone rang for a video call from one of my kids at home. I answered to see my youngest, only in kindergarten, sobbing hysterically. It was bedtime. Through the sobs, I could barely make out, “Mommy, when are you coming home? Are you coming home soon?”
I had tried to prepare her as best I could. I couldn’t make a calendar or count down to when I’d be home. I don’t know when I’ll be home. My teen’s program could be as short as 6 weeks or as long as 12 weeks. But I immediately started praying for 6 weeks to be effective.
I was overwhelmed with grief at being separated from my family. I didn’t know how I was going to make it for three months; it hadn’t even been 24 hours and I was falling apart. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through this first night away from my children.
In the midst of those emotions, my brain automatically searches for reasons to be thankful. I thought of mothers who were in prison, who had to be separated from their children for years. Of mothers who had to travel for treatment of life-threatening illness, who had to, somehow, prepare their children for the possibility to grow up without their mother. And I thought of the three mothers I know that buried a child in 2020.
Yes, I would keep putting one foot in front of the other.
My sobbing baby was home with her daddy and siblings. My close friends all have plans to spend time with her, helping her feel special. She is and will be safe and loved.
I have so much to be thankful for.
Thank you, God.
The next day I had three phone calls with her, all without tears. She did ask if I was coming home soon. I wanted so badly to be able to say “Yes! Just a few more hours and I’ll be home!” Saying no, I won’t be home soon, made my stomach tighten into a knot.
Someday, there may be programs like there one we’re headed to in all towns and cities. Someday, this treatment may only be an hour away from our little mountain town. Some day, maybe a mother will be able to say, “Yes, sweetie, I’ll be home soon! I’ll see you tonight!”