Chasing Fireflies

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firefliesWhen spring comes and temperatures begin to warm, the clutch of trees outside our back window flickers with the light of fireflies as they flit among the tall grass and on up into the dark depths of our live oaks.


As a child, I sometimes chased them at my grandmother’s house with a Mason jar and then peered inside to see just where the light was coming from. I never kept them there, though. I could not bear the thought of watching one die.


How like the firefly is a child in the life of a parent. As my daughter Savannah has grown, there have been those firefly moments, when she flitted into my life with some great revelation or accomplishment, and then darted away, not knowing how my heart just burned with love for her.


When she was 5, we realized that Savannah suffered from anxiety. Not the usual separation anxiety, but panic stricken anxiety. Taking her to school became mornings filled with fear and apprehension as she worked up the courage to get in the car and go to school. The school counselor would meet us at the front door and literally pry her, melting into tears, away from my body. Then, inexplicably, her firefly moment came when after seven weeks of this same ritual, she looked at me with those unusually green eyes and said, “I’ll go in by myself Mommy,” and she did with barely a look back.


My heart swelled with pride in her, but at the same time, it broke a little. She was growing, becoming brave and there was a little bit of her that would not need me any more.


At 8, she went to a three-week camp hundreds of miles away and for the first week, cried constantly. While we agreed with the counselor to let her work it out, we kept in close touch via the counselor and sent her letters and emails everyday encouraging her. Soon, the photos of her online went from ones of dejection to joy as she made friends, swam and played with the camp animals. When we picked her up after the three weeks, she was nut brown and had shockingly white sun-bleached hair, but she was done and had no interest in going back.


Then her firefly moment came when she remembered the merits she had earned and could earn before the next summer, and she thought about the fun she had had over that three weeks. She realized she had more to gain than lose from going. So, for the next eight years, she went. No more tears. At least not from her.


Some other moments have happened over the course of her 22 years. When she learned to drive and went from a tentative driver to one that makes her mother clutch the Oh-Sh. . . Bar. The time she struggled through her anxiety her first week away at college and then attacked her condition with logic to understand that she could think her way through those moments and calm herself. The moment she realized that taking medication for her condition was not a crutch but simply something to help her be herself, and gain an empathy for others dealing with anxiety, depression and other conditions.


Then there was this most recent moment as I drove her to the airport for a flight to Grenada where she begins her life as a veterinary student. Praying with her and her dad at the airport my voice quivered and tears welled in my eyes as I released her, yet again, into the care of the Lord. As I lifted my head and looked at her, she fixed her green eyes on me and smiled. No tears. No fears. My little firefly.

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