As I drove away from my children yesterday, leaving them to begin their new journey as college students, I knew I would cry and be an emotional wreck. That was a given.

But I was caught off guard by the palpable physical pain that sliced through me, cutting away the years, taking me back to the day of their birth. That was the last time I felt this same searing pain of separation when, after coming into this world seven weeks early, my tiny twins were whisked away from me by ambulance to a hospital with a level three NICU 45 miles away.

Gone before I even had a chance to touch or hold them.

Yet this time, unlike all those years ago, while the pain feels exactly the same, I am not terrified that they might not survive. I know that they will not only survive, they will thrive as they open their minds to the intellectual stimulation and social challenges that the college experience brings. They are ready, and I can’t wait to see how they grow and change as they soak it all in.

Surprisingly, I am not afraid that I won’t survive, either—a real fear 19 years ago as I battled pre-eclampsia. It is a season of rebirth for all of us, or as a friend recently offered, a time of reinvention.

I am not left with space to fill. I am left with space, a foreign concept after living 20 years without it. I’m sure I will eye it warily at first—this silent stranger—and I will be tempted to fill it by taking on more responsibilities. After all, that is my comfort zone. Go, go, go. Do, do, do.

But part of my reinvention will include learning to sit in that silent space, giving myself the gift of time to discover what lies ahead, knowing that whatever it is will be of my choosing—in my own time and my own space.

I can’t wait to see how I grow and change as I soak it all in.

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