The Fullest ‘Empty’ I’ve Ever known

I came home to an empty house today.

Oh, not ’empty’ as in the sense of unfurnished. More like unoccupied. And don’t get me wrong—Julie and I are still there. But for the first time in 27 years, we’re the only ones there.

There’s no high-stressed voice calling for a referee in the basement, no chorus of anxious, “daddy’s-home” whiffle ball athletes from the backyard wanting an all-time pitcher, no tear-filled little girl asking for a doctor to kiss away a boo-boo. No, not today.

There are no dishes in the sink from children who hurried off to school after bowl fulls of Captain Crunch, no crumbs on the counter from kids who made their lunches in record time, no ‘fridge door left open, no milk left out, and no cabinets with fingerprints the color of grape jelly. No, not today.

There’s no tornado-tossed pile of shoes under the kitchen window, no backpacks acting like a barrier on the staircase, and no odor-ridden cleats and socks littering the laundry room floor. There’s no base-thumping music from the bedrooms, no Xbox sound effects in the basement, and no “please-tell-her-to-quit-singing” singing in the bathroom.  No, not today.

There’s no crammed dinner table, no meals in shifts, no burps or belches in the middle of a story, and no “I-wanted-that-piece” claims when pizza night looked more like our version of the gold rush. There’s no TV trays on the blanket with cookies and milk, no Billy stories while crammed under the covers, and nobody asking for a drink of water at bedtime—for the 14th time. No, not today.

Those thoughts flood my eyes with tears. But they also pack my soul with joy. So even though I, in one sense, came home to an empty house today, I came home, in every other sense, with a full heart. Frankly, it’s the fullest ’empty’ I’ve ever known. Almost three decades with children has given me and Julie countless terabytes of memories, each uploaded by God’s grace in the cloud of family legacy, and each downloaded over and over with an immense amount of gratitude. Yes, our home—our “nest”—may be empty of resident children, but our hearts are full of resilient treasures. Nothing replaces watching your children run towards life with an indescribable zeal and zest like knowing you trekked with them every day. Every step. Every turn. Every detour. Every pothole. Every time.

At some point, though, the “every time” becomes your last time. And they fly. And rightly so! After all, we intuitively know nests are launching pads. So they should be empty at some point.

Today, ours is.

But it’s the fullest empty I’ve ever known.

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