The coolest people I know.

Last night was one of those nights I’ve been dreading for a while-- one of those endings that should be happy, but it’s really bittersweet. It was my last night at TYM.

The realization that I was going to be leaving for real hit me when we were at Mass. As we processed over to the statue of Mary, I found myself praying that Mary would not only accept the flowers we were bringing, but that she would accept the love I had given these wonderful young people and that she would continue to watch over them, loving them as much as I do. I found myself fighting tears all through Mass and feeling overwhelmed by the knowledge of my impending goodbye.
After Mass, we went into the gym for free time and I got caught up in talking with my friends (teens and adults). Alex installed some app on my phone, Jenny wanted to show me engagement photos… normal stuff. At the end, when Jason had the kids get into a circle, I almost didn’t realize it was about me. And then, I found myself in the middle of that circle, surrounded by some of the people that I love most (and will miss most) in Irving. The kids put their hands on me and prayed over me, one by one. Each one had kind words to say. Gil and Justin, as well as so many others, offered such kind words and sweet prayers…. Then, I had to smile when Davis asked if I really had to leave. I was touched and humbled by their words of praise and thanksgiving, by prayers for me that came from their hearts. After, one of the Core Team said to me that I had touched them, that I had changed them. The truth of the matter is, they changed me.

This weekend, we had a retreat (which is a great way to say goodbye). When we were on the bus on the way to the retreat, I started thinking about when I first got to Holy Family. I remember walking into Jason’s office (after having trouble finding the parish office), and wondering who the heck this guy was. He seemed crazy (nothing’s changed). And I remembered the first time I met the Core team, walking into the meeting late and automatically drifting to Jenny just because I already knew her. Then there was this nice lady named Patty who sat with me at the restaurant and her son was my age an on the team… I had no idea that they would become my family, that their house would become like a home to me and that I would be spending Easter with them. I had no idea that Brenda, who at first was a little intimidating, would become like another mom. I had no idea that Cassie, Josh, Aaron and Allison, as well as Jason himself, would become such dear, dear friends. Frankly, I had no idea.
That first TYM night (almost 2 years ago, now) was overwhelming to say the least. I was introduced to so many kids that night that there was no way I could remember all their names. Meeri adopted me and took me around to introduce me to everyone, and I think her name was the only one I remembered at the end of it all. Her and Trevor, who was late and came in at the very end after work (there’s something to be said for being the last person introduced to me an me remembering his name). That night I was nervous, I don’t like being in front of people I don’t know. I guess I figured that I would eventually get to know them. And I did. I just didn’t bargain for loving them all.

There are so many wonderful memories from these last two years that I hope will stick with me forever. I remember the first time I went over to Patty’s house for Halloween. I remember the choose your own adventure day, when we discussed decision-making. I remember filling the Gonzales room with plants as we mimicked some tv show and talked about idols. I remember the living rosary out on the basketball court, where we couldn’t keep the candles lit. I remember masses and youth nights and talks. I remember talking about the Incarnation and actually making them excited about it (well, it is pretty exciting!). I remember lots of emails and phone calls. I remember so many hours spent in the office, just being amazed at Jason’s excitement about different things, his energy. I remember walking into the office to get some work done on a Sunday and finding Alli and Jason, and Allison showing me her ring. I remember staying up late with Jenny and then the next day, a phone call saying he just proposed. I remember talking with Aaron on the bus the whole way back from the Confirmation retreat, and feeling so blessed to have him as a friend. I remember multiple times (too many to count) when I told someone that these teens are the coolest people I know. I remember…

A few months ago, we were sad when Sarah had to leave. I watched her say goodbye to everyone and I remember thinking, I don’t want to have to do that… I don’t want to go. I still don’t, but I know that I have to. Sometimes I think the students are more excited about me going to Notre Dame than I am. I can’t let them down! (Although last night, they did recommend about 15 different colleges in the area and asked why I couldn’t go there—I didn’t bother to point out that none of those colleges have theology.)

Today, I’m going to pick up my cap and gown. This afternoon, I’m going to convocation. Tonight we have Senior TGIT. There are a lot of goodbyes coming up. Then, in June, I will arrive at ND and there will be a lot of hellos. In August, I will go to Indiana and meet my new parish. I can only hope and pray (sometimes against hope) that this new place will be as awesome as Holy Family, that the new core team will be as close friends. I am excited and nervous, emotional and overwhelmed. But all in all, I know that I have a pretty awesome fan club that is cheering me on.

I love you guys.