The house seems quiet. I will miss hearing her burst through the front door at night with her signature, “Hey family. I’m home.” I will miss her calling me late at night, begging to stay out 30 minutes longer. After 24 years of raising children, the nest is now empty. Hannah Grace Yarborough sleeps in Athens now, a proud member of the Bulldog nation.
Five years ago (2013), the exodus began when we took our first son Eli off to college. I felt as if a piece of my heart had been relocated to the University of Georgia. Two years later, our middle child Jonathan made his trek to the holy city of Athens leaving mom, dad, and baby sister behind. It was another necessary heart ache to let go and let him soar. I am very grateful for both of my boys. They are far from perfect, but I have seen God’s hand of grace in their lives as they become fine young men.
After Jonathan left, it was all eyes on our daughter Hannah. I remember our first meal with just my wife, Amber, and her around our dinner table. As we asked Hannah question (after question), she said, “Okay this is weird. I am not sure I can do this.” She said it in jest, but there was some truth in the statement. She was the sole focus of attention now.
The last three years have brought a bundle of emotions — lots of laughter and fun mixed with plenty of tears and heartache. There have been the usual strained friendships, girl drama and soap opera romances. As a parent, you seek to guide, contain, forbid (at times), protect and navigate your child through a myriad of land mines. In this day and time, our children are blessed and cursed with the advent of the iPhone. Teens now stay constantly connected via social media. The comparison trap is greater because now you can see how perfect everyone else’s life looks on Instagram. FOMO (fear of missing out) is powerful for teens because you can always see “the fun” that everyone else looks like they are having while you are home watching Netflix.
Truthfully, it was very hard raising a daughter for the last three years in the midst of the social media landscape in a small town. And now she is gone. I hope and pray she knows how beautiful she really is. As parents, we hope she was able to hear in her heart that she is valuable, capable, and full of potential. I love my sons so very much, but a daughter also has a very tender place in dad’s heart.
I am thankful that she was last because I hadn’t quite figured out how to fully connect with the heart of a little girl. I had some catching up to do, but I began to figure it out. In the middle of her mess and heart aches, I was there (with her mom) to help pick up the pieces. I was there to cheer her on in her successes. I was there to hang out and have fun whenever she would slow down long enough to let me and her mom have some attention. I was there enough to make her roll her eyes as I sought to speak and sneak truth into her heart when I could tell she was not thinking clearly or maturely. I was there to move her into a college dorm room this past week and give her a last hug and a prayer.
My wife and I drove home from Athens this week and walked into our empty house. Hannah was not there. Her room is quiet now. We have had children sleeping under our roof for more than half our lives, but no longer. We are sad, happy, grateful, grieving, excited, and super sentimental. We are all over the place. We are in awe. It is a holy transition as we let go and trust God in new ways.
Yes, there is plenty of good life in front of us. I will embrace it! For the moment though, I sit in the unfamiliar silence of an empty nest and miss my baby girl. And I trust God with the seeds we have planted in her heart. And I will continue to pray for her as she rests her head at night in Athens. May God bless my newest Dawg. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at david@