by Stephanie Thompson

The moment was not lost on me. I felt a whirlwind of emotions as I snapped my son’s first day of school picture this year. It is his last. Suffice it to say, that this school year did not begin as expected. Capturing that image of him in front of his laptop propped on the desk in his room drastically differs from the last twelve first day photos.

Yet even the surreal reality of the circumstances surrounding his senior year isn’t the only reason for the tinge of sadness sitting beneath the surface. The fact that this is his last “first day” photo is sobering for sure. But even that itself is only part of the reason for the “feels.”

He is my youngest and that truth comes with all kinds of implications. The picture I took isn’t just the last first day of school photos I have taken of him. It’s the last one I took of all three of my children. There will never be another eye roll as I retake another shot because the first two didn’t do it for me.

This summer I realized the countdown had begun. As we shopped for clothes for his senior pictures, my mind was trying to take in the poignancy of moments. Ironically, they probably that appeared so ordinary to onlookers. A few weeks earlier, an admission counselor appeared on our computer screens for a ZOOM call about a potential college admission. Scheduling those rites of passage sometimes seemed like “one more thing” on my “to do” list. Now, I look at them differently.

As I place his standard bologna sandwich, chips, and juice box into the brown paper bag, I view the process in a more sacred way than I ever did before. He certainly is capable of packing his own lunch and has done so in the past. But we have a rhythm that works on busy mornings. And this year, I find that making his lunch forms a liturgy that allows me to find gratitude in it rather than seeing it as a task. My days of caring for him in this way are coming to an end. And so is this particular rhythm in a season of parenting.

Much of the last two decades involved anticipation and recognition of the “firsts.” Things like steps, getting and losing teeth, riding a bicycle, driving a car, and celebrating milestone birthdays. Not all of these moments were happy. Losing pets and experiencing fractured relationships are painful. But together, we navigated through them in our home. Now that is changing.

I realize that as I grieve these “lasts” I am concurrently in a state of a new cycle of momentous “firsts.” Older siblings have secured first cars, jobs, and apartments. Life is always moving forward and I cling to the hope that reality brings.

However, I can both hold hope while at the same time grieve this humanly sad season. Recognizing this paradox pours from the lips of those throughout scripture brings me comfort. Aubrey Sampson, in her book The Louder Song, reminds us: “God invites us to express our grief about the unravelling of life.” 

So I walk through this transition with eyes open. Looking for what God is showing me through it, knowing that I have been through ends and beginnings before. I don’t know what exactly this new era will look like. What new purposes will be revealed. But I do know that I can trust in God who is always in the business of “new things.” I will carry that hope as I continue to walk forward.

Stephanie is an ordained pastor, speaker, writer and mental health advocate. She is a member of the Redbud Writers’ Guild, and her pieces have appeared on various sites including The Redbud Post, Her View From Home, The Mighty, and The Mudroom Blog. Stephanie resides in the south suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three young adult children. A few of her favorite things include beaches, historical fiction, and iced coffee. When all three line up, she is in her happy place. She blogs at and can be followed on Twitter @s2thomp and facebook: .