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It’s been an awkward and mopey evening. As my daughter, Grace, has been laboring to clean her room and decide what to pack and load in the car for our trip to Mississippi State University tomorrow to begin her college career, I found myself continuing to wrestle with the various emotions that have been plaguing me the last few days.

The singer, Suzy Bogguss, in one of her hits from the 90’s sang, “I’ve had 18 years to get ready for this day.” I’ve never liked that song because it has always made me cry.

This is my fourth time around and I’ve never been ready to turn loose of any one of my four daughters. You’d think that by the time I got to the fourth and last one I’d have this business down pat. Wrong.

There is one thing a little different this time than there was with her three sisters before her. It’s not concern about whether or not she knows how much I love her.   I know she knows.

It’s not fear about her safety and me not being there to protect her. I have faith that the university will provide the necessary safety.

It’s not doubts about whether or not I’ve done all I can do to prepare her for her new independence. She’s the most independent of all my daughters.

No, the thing that’s different this time around has nothing to do with Grace at all. It’s me. I’m Catholic, which is something I was not when my other three daughters went off to college. Her spiritual health has become very important to me.

And, so, with Grace, I’ve found myself worrying if she will stick with her faith or fall to the temptations of secularism? Will she slowly drift away from God and lose touch with Jesus or will she continue to receive the Holy Eucharist weekly? Will she turn to Him in times of need instead of turning to the negative influences so prevalent in college? Will she put her faith into action or will she let it get soft and unrecognizable?

This evening, as she’s been sorting through stacks of clothes and years of mementos trying to decide what to take, I’ve been fumbling with how to start a conversation, without appearing overbearing and pushy, from which I can gauge her intentions. So, on my umpteenth time to try and break through my anxiety, I found myself staring down at a pile of items she was choosing to leave behind. In that pile were two plastic, yellow Rosaries. My heart sank a little.

Trying to be nonchalant I asked, “Are you leaving these Rosaries here?” to which she responded affirmatively. My heart sank a little further.

Then, she followed up with, “I have like six Rosaries and I’m just taking the better and nicer ones with me.”

“Lord, I can hear you chuckling now over the fun you had with me – teaching me softly to trust in you, to admit that I’ve done about all I can do as a father, and accept that Grace will soon be fully in your care. But, Lord, I still pray that, with her new-found freedom, she will exercise her free will in such a way that she will Keep Close to You.”

(The post Keep Close to You was first published on Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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