The two people I love most climbed into the car. I clutched my pendent as the silver car faded into the distance. I could hear the engine excel as I stood alone in the downpour. I wondered when I would see her again. I turned and walked into our house, a small pot of bright Impatiens sitting on the counter. A gift from Rebecca, full of orange blossoms to match her favorite hiking hat.
Within minutes I received a text, “It will be ok mom- I love you.” I sobbed tears upon tears.
I went to sit in her room. Two fifty gallon fish tanks were now empty. Tanks that once hosted her favorite pets. Rebecca loves all living creatures, especially turtles. From the age of 9 she acquired a total of 7 turtles. The first one she named after Lief Erickson the explorer. Over the course of time a band of discarded family pets found their way to Rebecca. During college her studio apartment was filled with turtle tanks. She tried to make their habitats as natural as possible. We began to refer to her as a ‘turtle magnet.’
For years while attending college Rebecca planned her Appalachian Trail thru-hike. So eager to experience trail life she graduated with a degree in wildlife science in 3 ˝ years. She resigned from her job of 6 years at the local vet clinic so she could have 6 months for a thru hike on the AT.
While attending college she enjoyed her part-time stint as a deejay on the university radio station. She hosted a program she named “Outdoors Galore” which talked about hiking the AT, camping, and outdoor music festivals.
One beautiful spring day we hiked along the banks of Cane Creek. With binoculars Rebecca studied several turtles sunning themselves on a tree limb in the center of the lake. Deep in thought she was silent on our way home that day.
A week later she arrived home after work, car windows down and the sunroof open. She stopped the car and got out – she was beaming. “I think today is the day.”
I looked at her with an element of surprise, “A day for what?”
“To let the turtles go.”
I followed her through the house like a lost puppy. “Are you sure you want to do that?”
Within minutes she had the turtles ready for transport in Igloo coolers. She climbed into her car and drove off down the driveway. I watched in a state of disbelief, as my stomach churned with the undeniable realization – she really was going to leave home.
Later on when she showed us the video of releasing them into the wild, our daughter became bigger than life itself, and we were never more proud of her.
I realized by her example that day, what it truly means to be a good parent. Sure you can try to give your child everything you think they want and need in life. You can try and insulate them from harm, but the bottom line is if you really love them, you need to honor who God created them to be, and set them free. Rebecca knew deep down that keeping turtles in an aquarium was unnatural and second rate. She loved them enough to let them go - even if it meant piercing her own heart.
She did for them – what I am now doing for her. Today while I was gathering supplies for her next mail drop I noticed a post-it-note on her wall that says, “I wish I was camping.” She is now living that wish. Although she is a bit homesick, she tells us hiking the AT is the hardest thing she has ever done. She also tells us it is by far, the best thing she has ever done.
It was a heartbreaking day for Michael when he left our only child at the trailhead. Several hours later he pulled into our driveway exhausted, yet hurried into the house to get me. Smiling at me with tear-filled eyes he said to me, “You aren’t going to believe this.”
“What is it?” I questioned.
He walked me to the kitchen window and pointed to the step outside our front door. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a small box turtle sitting on our sidewalk.
The above story is true.
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