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Letting Go – Reflections from the Headmaster

19 April 2013 admin 1,670 views One Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

As we send these April Reflections, we do so ever mindful of the pain and suffering that continues to unfold in Boston. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those impacted by these terribly tragic and senseless acts of violence and we pray that peace will soon return to the greater Boston community.

Dear St. Margaret’s Families and Friends,

In recent years for reasons not totally clear to me, I have found myself increasingly drawn to country music. Maybe it’s because the music is a little less twangy and a little more “rocky” than it used to be or maybe it’s because the songs tell stories that now have some kind of deeper meaning for me. Regardless, I am now a fan and the other day while driving along lost in thought I heard for the first time a relatively old song by Suzy Bogguss called Letting Go.

Some of you may be familiar with the song — I definitely wasn’t. I was, however, familiar with the feeling and my guess is that most if not all of you know it too. Of course, the notion of letting go means different things to different people at different stages of their lives. Some of us feel it the day our children are born and we realize how vulnerable we are and how closely we want to hold these extraordinary beings we have created. Yet, somewhere deep inside we know also that the time will come when we will have to let them go – not entirely at first but in stages over time. But no matter the degree, each stage carries meaning, emotion and a certain sense of loss, and for most of us, it’s never easy.

The power of letting go was especially prominent for me when my children began planning for college. I am well aware that this phenomenon begins far earlier for others and I definitely recall a very big lump in my throat when we first dropped our oldest off at school and watched this very little boy enter a world that didn’t include us. It is a feeling I will never forget.

Fortunately, for me at least, my children attended the middle and high school where I happened to be the headmaster, and for those precious few years I was given the priceless gift of not missing a thing. My kids were pretty good athletes and for the last two or three years of their school careers, I spent an inordinate amount of time with a video camera plastered to my face in a nearly desperate attempt to capture each and every moment of victory and defeat. Truth be told, those videos remain in the family archives largely untouched for the past decade or so. Regardless, they’re there – waiting!

My closeness to my kids throughout their school careers was a double-edged sword. While I was afforded a privilege unique to most parents, this also made their departure from home that much more painful. I eventually came to realize that I was in the powerful grip of the “goddess of letting go,” an irrepressible presence that plagued me relentlessly and began to resemble a period of grief or mourning. I was basically a wreck and as the time drew near for my oldest to head off to college, I plunged deeper and deeper into the abyss.In retrospect, my feelings were a combination of fear of loss and fear for him. How would he manage without me? How would he handle the inevitable dark moments far from home? How would I manage without him!

On the fateful day when we drove him to college (much has been written about this rite of passage), I dreaded the moment when we would actually part. As we walked across the Colby College campus toward the parking lot where our car awaited, the lump in my throat was beyond description and I really had no idea how I was going to handle the final goodbye. And then from out of nowhere, came a loud shout from a group of students. “Hurlbut! You’re coming with us!” In an instant, he was gone!

I am well aware that this is not the norm in most colleges nor is it the norm at Colby, but for some reason it happened to us. Once the initial shock wore off and I realized what had happened, I was greatly relieved and ultimately, very grateful. Colby had a required outdoor trip for all freshmen, and this abrupt separation was the beginning of this trip for Matt. After all those months anticipating letting go, it was over — he was in great hands and he was launched on his college career. I never would have designed it this way, but in the end, it was the perfect solution to a problem that had plagued me for a long time. Somehow, those students who hauled Matt away must have felt my pain.

So, these many years later, there I was listening to this song, Letting Go, and thinking of the next walk to the parking lot where the car awaits. While each situation is different, I do know that I have come to love St. Margaret’s in so many ways, from so many perspectives and in ways I never expected. Both Pat and I knew ten years ago that there would eventually come a time to say goodbye and I actually remember thinking as we left family and friends on the east coast that when that time comes, I hope it will be painful. This was not masochism but rather a long-held belief that if a piece of your heart isn’t torn out when you leave a place then you really haven’t invested. But as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

In this season of Easter and spring and new beginnings, I remember well my feelings that day on the Colby College campus when my thoughts went from grief and despair to hope and promise. Despite my worry and fear of letting go, I knew that Matt was in great hands with people who would love and care for him and help him grow in ways far greater than I could have done for him at that stage in his life. He was the better for it and so was I, eventually.

In a few short months we will say goodbye to St. Margaret’s, head back east to kids and grandkids, and move on to the next chapter in our lives. And like that moment at Colby, I will do so knowing that this school I so love is in the great hands of Will Moseley who is the perfect person to love, care for and move the school forward at this stage in its life. I have absolutely no doubt that St. Margaret’s will be the better for it, and eventually, so will I. But, as the song says, “It’s never easy, letting go.”

With abiding respect and affection,

Marcus D. Hurlbut

 

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One Comment »

  • Lynda and Tom Dy said:

    Dear Mr. Hurlbut,

    Thanks for all you gave! It has been a wonderful journey for both our daughters. You and Pat will remain in our prayers.

    Sincerely,
    Lynda and Tom Dy