Elizabeth was the last to leave. I watched her little black Honda back down the drive and turn onto the street before reentering a quiet, still house. Only my husband and I now inhabit this space that had been so full of life all weekend. Laughter and tears and confidences and family stories had been shared, and new memories had been made. I expected to feel that dull ache in my heart that I always feel after my children leave, but surprisingly, what I felt was peace. “They’ll be back,” I thought as I reminded myself of something I’ve told them many times: In every hello, there’s the shadow of goodbye, and in every farewell, there’s the promise of another hello.

It’s Tuesday morning, and as I sit in the dining room, I’m surrounded by visions and sounds of the weekend. I look across the table and imagine Baby Emma sitting on it, being propped up by her grandmother’s hand while they had a conversation of sorts. There’s Brooke, her big sister, who had to try on her “princess dress” that Aunt Elizabeth brought her just as soon as she saw it. I glance to my left and visualize Braden standing at the patio door watching Paul and Amanda as they sat in the candlelit enclosed patio talking and laughing. Then there’s sweet and tough “little Mama,” Carrie, who was a constant whirlwind of energy and motion as she ministered to her children’s needs. I recall lovely Lib sitting in the recliner in the living room as she announced, “I like your house, Mom.” Something in me relaxed after hearing that from her, the daughter whose reaction to selling our previous home I had most worried about. Everywhere I look I see Paul and Amanda…talking, looking at old photos, entertaining Carrie’s children. I remember the terrible storms of the weekend and how concerned I was about their safety Friday night as they drove back from Columbia. I KNEW they should be home and had gotten up to peek out of the blinds when I saw his  4Runner turn into the drive, the headlights piercing the rainy darkness. Fast forward to Sunday, and I see Mrs. Crolley, the children’s grandmother, sitting between Amanda and Carrie, as we dined together on typical Southern fare: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and the most sinfully delicious cakes that you’ve ever tasted.

Yes, the house is quiet this morning, but it isn’t empty. It contains the very breath and life force of my loved ones and is fast becoming “a holy place.”