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‘Love is proved in the letting go’

24th March 2022

Love is proved in the letting go’.

(From the poem ‘Walking away’ by CD Lewis)

HOM: Responding with wonderment and awe.

The quotation this week comes from a poem by Cecil Day- Lewis, that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It is printed below, so that you may read it in full. It particularly resonates with those of us who are parents.

‘Walking Away’ is one of the poems featured in William Sieghart’s book ‘The Poetry Pharmacy Returns’. It is his prescription for the challenge we all face in ‘letting children go’ or indeed as being children ourselves and how the pulling away from parents can be equally challenging.

All parents will wrestle with the anguish of letting their children go whether it is dropping them off at nursery, secondary school, hall of residence or walking them down the aisle. Each new separation is a new loss. And as a child, pulling away from the comfort of our parent’s shadow and without a larger hand holding ours, can be equally daunting. Yet it is the goal of all good parenting – the letting go.

William Sieghart writes ‘this is the terrible paradox of parenthood; we dedicate our lives to creating the very outcome we dread the most – the loss of our children. In a perverse way, good parents are always working towards their own heartbreak, and we cannot do right by our children without opening ourselves up to this pain for their sake’. He goes on to say that ‘assuaging our own neediness by clutching a child to us, will only damage them – and by extension, it will damage us too, more than the letting go ever could.’

In the poem Day-Lewis’ son is hesitant and he will make missteps as he goes, but as a parent he has to hold back knowing how important it is to give his precious child the freedom to make even their own mistakes. And so ‘love is proved in the letting go’.

This week we break for our holidays during which Christians will celebrate Easter, the most important time on the church calendar. It is a time in which Christians reflect on how God’s love was made visible in the sacrifice of Christ. This was an act of selfless love in order that God’s children might be free to flourish as forgiven people. In the sacrifice of a parent who loves their child enough by knowing when to ‘let go’, there is a foretaste of the liberating message of love at Easter.


Walking Away

by C Day-Lewis

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.