We've known for a while that this was coming. As with most military families - staying in one place is not how it works. Andrea and I had been living in denial for the past few months.
We got together every day their last week here.
On Monday we hung out and the guys went to see Thor.
On Tuesday Andrea and I took Maddy and Madison with our friends, Amy, and her daughter, Abigail, out for a little girls night. Madison, Maddy and Abigail are the oldest girls in our co-op and have a special bond between them.
On Wednesday Jason and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary. So, the Lees came with us to the Melting Pot (my FAV!) for a fantastic dinner and then we stayed up late at our house.
We ate at the Cheesecake Factory, which has become the norm since it's open till 11.
Friday the Lee kids played at our house for the afternoon and Jordan and Andrea joined us at dinner time. The kids played and we watched Inception with the hopes of figuring out for certain if he is awake or dreaming at the end. (Well, Andrea and I had that intention. The boys didn't care.)
Saturday morning Andrea and I ran errands and she bought a zoo pass for our family. Man, they are SO generous! Saturday evening was church and afterwards we went back to the RV (oh man - I haven't mentioned that they are living in an RV! Have been for 2 months since their house sold. She is such a trooper. You can follow Andrea's blog through this painful move as she chooses joy at http://andrea-choosingjoy.blogspot.com/) and had pizza and roasted marshmallows.
The kids were pretty hyper when we got home. I think part of their dealing with the sadness was to be so silly. The Lees have letters to all our kids and Madison and Carson gave gifts to Maddy and Mitchell.
Ally read the stories she wrote about "The Super Awesome Lees." Then we prayed together for the last time.
I think I can honestly and accurately say I have never seen anything as sad as what I watched in my living room that night. It was not just crying. The children were weeping and sobbing. It even seemed like fake exaggerated crying but it wasn't. Mitchell and Cole stood facing each other with the tears pouring down their faces. I pushed Cole towards him and said it was ok for them to hug. They embraced each other so hard and wept vigorously. And it was like that for each good bye. Maddy and Mitchell have not only become like siblings to Madison and Carson but to every one of my kids.
Maddy's cry was so loud and filled with grief that you would cry just hearing it. Man, I am crying right now as I type this just recalling the night. And as sad as it was I would have preferred to stay in the living room crying than have to say goodbye to Andrea. It was so painful. And to see my children's hearts breaking ripped mine out. They may deny it but I'm pretty sure even the dads shed some tears. It was the saddest night of my life.
After long hugs and making the rounds we walked them out to their cars. Our entire family stood on the porch, all of us crying (and not just quietly crying - I mean, loud ugly sobbing) and waved until they drove around the corner.
We came back in and sat in heaps on the couch while Jason and I tried to comfort 7 mourning children. Piper finally fell asleep inbetween sobs but still woke herself up twice crying. I think we sat crying and comforting for at least another 30-40 minutes. One of the sweetest things was how I saw my children comfort one another. Ally kept going to Piper and Ty and Carson to rub their backs. Cole hugged Pip while she cried. Carson went and sat by Madison and wrapped his arms around her. It was truly comforting to my soul to see that.
Jason and I pointed the kids to 1 Thess. 5:18 which says "In all things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." We asked the kids to list things they could be thankful for despite the circumstances. They came up with..
~that Mr. Lee has a good job in this economy
~that we had 3 fun years of great friendship with them
~that the pain makes us long for heaven
We still couldn't get the crying to stop -so even though it was 11:45 I started an episode of Extreme Home Makeover. I said I'd only let them watch up to the first commercial break. But even I wasn't ready to stop being distracted so we watched till the end.
I know there will be difficult days ahead. Especially for the Lees. But we thank God for them and pray for them to return. And we thank God for all the technology that can connect us. The kids have been texting with Maddy and Mitchell the last two days and have already written seveal letters to be mailed to Ohio. The kids thought we could wrap up our thoughts with this this..
"It is better to have loved the Lees and lost than to have never loved them at all."