“See You Later” Dakota

I recently learned some very hard lessons when I had to say, “See Ya Later Champ” to my son Dakota.

Dana and I have not given much thought as to us becoming 
empty-nesters. Our 3 sons are 18,16, and 12.

I always loved the time we spend together. Whether with our boys at home, on a trip, in church, playing catch, or eating Sushi (Little Shane’s favorite pastime.) We have great relationships. They have always been amazing sons and I am blessed and highly honored to call them my best friends.

Just weeks ago we approached the deadline of when our oldest son Dakota would be off to boot camp, to earn the prestigious title of a United States Marine. Dana and I were told that the days leading up to the swearing-in and the 13 weeks of boot camp would be likened to a crazy rollercoaster ride. Well, they nailed it. One thing that many military people can attest and express is the fact that seldom does a Marine or soldier like to say “Goodbye” It sounds to permanent, we decided many years ago to never say “Goodbye” It always “See You Laater.”

In the process of him leaving I learned a few things:

  1. It was much harder than I thought letting go. I have struggled in recent years with depression, and it seemed the depression got deeper about a month before he left and it now I still feel the challenge to feel somewhat “normal” again.
  2. I prepared my boy, but not my emotions. I have always been told that I am an extremely emotional person. I have been told that my emotions have caused me trouble even in the ministry because when I love I love deeply. Dana and I have always been that way! If you know me you know that I am a “Ride or Die” type of friend.
  3. It is never the same, but it can be better — at least in some ways. I missed seeing Dakota terribly, but recent letters home have assured me that I, in fact, have been a great father and I did not lose my son when we said goodbye. Rather I gained a Marine. As he grew to be a man, our relationship became deeper, more personal, and from the writing of this article, I will see my son graduate a US Marine!
  4. I couldn’t wait for his letters. There was a charge in my spirit when I looked into our mailbox and saw the first letters home. He wrote that he missed the family so much. He wrote that he looks forward to each of our letters, and can’t wait to see mom, dad, and his brothers again! To Dana and I these letters are priceless!
  5. It began a new phase of life for Dana and I. Our parenting is not over, but our role has changed. We began to make new dreams — with Dakota’s future in mind of course. One day, however, we have had the reality slap us…It will just for the two of us. We enjoy our time with our boys when we are with them, but we love our life together. It’s a good season.

I may lose my ManCard over this, but a couple nights ago Dana and I watched the movie, “The Notebook.” Once again reality slapped us as we watched with tears in our eyes as the lovely couple, that defined everything love is supposed to be! They laid down together and while holding hands, they drew their last breaths together. Just the two of them. No children, no others. Just the two of them.

Dana and I cried as we held each other and whispered a quiet prayer, God let us leave this world like that!

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