"Aa-won come hug me, even if I'm fast a-seep?"
Camille had been waiting for Aaron to return, ever since he left ten days ago to spend Christmas break with his family in Pennsylvania. Erik had gone to the airport to pick up Aaron. The kids knew Daddy and Aaron would soon be home, hopefully before their bedtime. But when I tucked the kids in bed, the guys still hadn't returned. That's when Camille asked me, "Can Aaron still come hug me, even if I'm fast asleep?"
Our family got to know Aaron when he was a student last year at Ravencrest. He was in Erik's prayer and share group which met weekly, and Erik would often go out to lunch with Aaron. We quickly grew to appreciate Aaron's genuine, humble, gentle nature. Erik and I both noticed and appreciated his kindheartedness to our children. He would take time to ask them questions and listen to them. He would kneel down and look at them in the eyes. He talked to them as easily as he talked to us.
We warmed to Aaron. Our kids warmed to Aaron.
We were thrilled when he came back this year as maintenance intern. Our kids stood wide-eyed as he drove the water truck. Sometimes, he even let them get inside and look around. We got to meet his parents when they visited, and observed a strength of character as the year progressed.
Aaron was griddling up french toast in our kitchen last year the morning Jack was born. Countless times Catherine has come dancing into the kitchen with her tap shoes tied... Aaron would have helped. Camille can spot Aaron's SUV in town, and Estes Park isn't that tiny.
I once tried to explain to Camille that "Mom and Dad have the responsibility to feed you, clothe you, and teach you... If we didn't care for you, who would?" She didn't miss a beat and responded, "Aaron." (like, Of course, Mom!)
All this to say, he's become like family.
Erik and Aaron did make it home last night; Camille did get a hug and she wasn't even fast asleep yet.
Later, the guys ate lasagne and we talked.
"Any news from Timberline?" I asked.
Aaron had applied for a full time job at our sister school on the other side of the range.
"I'm accepted and start next week."
I couldn't. Stop. The. Tears.
Looking around, I wasn't the only one.
This is the hardest thing about living here in the Ravencrest community. You enter into relationships that are real and relevant and meaningful. You watch your kids learn to love and be loved. When they become a part of the fabric of your being, it hurts to see them go. Some people who have been in this community say it gets easier... you feel less as you meet more people and see them go. I hope not. I hope we always stay open and vulnerable to letting people into our lives, to loving them, even if they someday have to say goodbye.