As a parent and an atheist, I got blindsided this morning.
One of the most popular pieces at the Washington Post website right now is Michael Gerson‘s brutally honest take on letting go of your children when they leave home. Gerson just saw his son off to college and writes movingly about how the experience hit him a lot harder than he was prepared for:
I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close. …
The end of childhood, of course, can be the start of adult relationships between parents and children that are rewarding in their own way. I’m anxious to befriend my grown sons. But that hasn’t stopped the random, useless tears. I was cautioned by a high-powered Washington foreign policy expert that he had been emotionally debilitated for weeks after dropping off his daughter at college for the first time.
But it wasn’t Gerson’s tale of loss that gobsmacked me. It was a comment. This one, by a Washington Post reader called ariel823:
I am the mother of a 54 yr old who has valiantly fought cancer for 12 yrs and is now losing the fight, and the mother of a 56 yr old who has lymphoma and last year survived a stem cell transplant barely, and is weak and damaged but trying to hold his job. Also he exceeded his health insurance cap of $750,000 by a large sum. And our 3rd child has become an atheist in spite of his upbringing. Pain is pain, from wherever it originates.
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