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Letting Go of my Fourth Son

A "Speech" prepared to give at Jonas and Jane's wedding:

You would think giving your sons away would get easier, after all I’ve already done this three times. But when I tried to capture what hole Jonas would make when he leaves us, I could not even imagine.
Even his birth showed evidence of the mark he would make.
We came home early from Monterey when my water broke. Five days later Jonas arrived sunny side up. Life would never be the same.

We named him Jonas, which means peace, thinking we needed some peace after our three other boys— named after a ruler—second only to Pharaoh, a king and a prince. 
We couldn’t imagine another who would rule over many.
Boy, were we wrong!

As a toddler, anything could be found in his hand, but more could be found in his pocket—bugs, pig food, flowers, mud—even pineapples and spaghetti.
But his hands did not stay idle for long.
I should have known what a leader he would be, when at 2, he corralled the ducks into their pen, though he was not much bigger than the ducks.

It didn’t take long after watching his brothers with the outside chores for him to ask for his own. He was four.

When his brother trained his horse, Jonas shadowed him, lugging fly spray or a saddle blanket—By ten he was riding. In 2008, he got his first horse. When he placed fourth in a show, his trainer asked the judge his reason, “He was so little and looked as green as grass that I gave it to him.”

I lost track of all the animals we raised—goats, rabbits, pigs, cows, even cow dogs. But all grew with Jonas learning how to do it better next time. 
When he purchased 12 pigs, Jonas searched for the best bargain. One friend recalled, “Jonas called, asked his questions, then hung up before I could ask about the family.” Jonas was 13.
Even when he was leaving home, he left instructions for the boys to solve their own problems and not bother mom.

In 2011, Jonas vowed, “I’m not going to do anything this year, so I won’t be in the newsletter.”
That year, in addition to cows and horses, Jonas started bee keeping. To watch James and Jonas with their bees, you’d think the bees were harmless, specks of dust covering their bodies, while their brother got stung forty yards away in a closed vehicle. Jonas attributed it to calmness and lack of drama.

Though I’ve forgotten all the cows, Jonas could probably list all the milk cows we ever had: Blossom birthed Henry. Lolly came next with Anne. He recorded all the milk given and admonished anyone substituting to do the same. 
When one cow died, I told Jonas, “It’s a good thing I’m not God, because I wouldn’t allow bad things to happen to you .You’d grow up to be a weanie and not a man.”
Jonas received plenty of bad things with his cows, horses, and dogs.
My husband would say, “We’re not raising cows, we’re raising men.” Though cows aren’t as important, they are easier to lose.

Jonas became the “local cowboy” where he broke and shoed horses for a “dude ranch” in Yosemite. Breaking horses had its share of mishaps. 

Not only did Jonas direct the animals, he helped raise his brothers. 
While Josiah planned the garden, Jonas managed the people. He’d say, “The whip is going to crack today.”

I had to remind myself who was in charge when Jonas played baseball—the coach or him. As catcher, Jonas was in his element, directing the fielders and encouraging the pitcher. When he outgrew the league, he continued as ump. No one questioned his calls. He explained, “You have to tell them they’re wrong, but respectfully.”(He was fourteen)

Jonas’s wisdom exceeded his age many times: 
When they used the garden wagon to sail over our hills, Jonas, only 6 at the time, suggested, “Maybe that was why the directions for the wagon said ‘not for use by children.’”

Joey asked the boys if they thought 66 years was old to die. 
Jonas commented, “Sixty-six is old to live, but young to die.”

Jonas told James, “We have children to bring out our character flaws.”

Joey and I were discussing our plans. Jonas heard, “Mom, this is what you’re going to do….You’ll fly alone, then us boys would drive out to Indianapolis.” We accepted his plans. Jonas recounted the experience, “We had two adventures: one driving out to Indianapolis without Mom and Dad, and the second driving home with Mom.

Jonas managed the lawn business with Jacob and James. When customers were wrong, Jonas would agree, if it didn’t matter. I asked if he did that with me. “When I need to.”

I told the boys, “I don’t want any watermelon, but someone may cut it.” Jonas gave some to me. I ate it. Jonas nodded to the boys. “There’s a lesson on how women think.” 
What did he know about women? He proceeded to tell us. “They say, ‘don’t get me anything,’ but if you don’t, they’re mad.” 
I asked Jonas what else he knew about women, he wisely said, “That’s about all.”

While helping with VBS, one fifth grade boy asked Jonas, “Are you married?” Jonas wisely said, “I’m not old enough.”

After Jonas moved out, he noticed his cupboards had the same things we did, but “it wasn’t the same.” Joey called what was missing, “love.”
I think he found what he was missing.

I could go on and on. You get the message. Jonas leaves a big, irreplaceable hole. But I’ve learned through other son’s marriages, that by losing a son, I gain a daughter. And those daughters are priceless.

I can’t tell you how we are going to raise cows, goats, pigs or even dogs without Jonas’s expertise and efficiency. 
But I will tell you, that our lives are different because he has helped us. 

I caught a glimpse into that difference when we found land in OK. 
I could see Jonas raising his cows for us. I got so excited about having them live with us.
But I should have realized we raised men. 
And men must leave their moms. 
And now as I see the man Jonas has become, I could not be prouder.

But that doesn’t help letting go any easier.
It’s not for a mom to keep her sons as boys, and prevent them from being the men God needs to do His work, 
I almost wish I could say, “Here, Jane, have a cow that we’ve raised instead of my son.”

But, you don’t need a cow. Though I feel I need my son. But he’s ready to leave, in fact it seems he’s left us already.
But it’s just a mom, struggling to let her son go.
And so, it is with a great hole, I give to you Jane, my son—
Together may you serve God with greater effectiveness and efficiency. Because that was what he was raised to do. 

But I know that the hole will be made smaller by your very presence in our lives.
And for that I am very grateful.



Any words to share?

This brought tears to my eyes. No, it doesn't get easier and it won't, because each child leaves their own hole in your life and life will never be the same. Oh how we want things to stay the same and they never do! But you are also right, each new spouse brings their own blessing into the family and of course the grandchildren are such a joy. You and Joey can be very proud of the men you have raised and are still raising, they are a tribute to you and to God. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, knew as soon as I saw your heading that I HAD to read this article, even though I'm way behind on your others. God bless you and your growing family.

Oh dear Sonya, The tears....so beautifully written, from the heart. Only those who have raised their children as you and I have, can really understand what it is like to let them go. I still cry in the night, as I miss them so much. I know you do too. No one sees, and times, it seems no one cares, but God does and He takes our tears and puts them in a bottle. He takes the years we have sacrificed and He remembers that we have given our very souls to these precious ones, and that even if not one of them comes back to say thank you, we have done our jobs and God is pleased with our sacrifice. Oh, but when even one comes back and says thank you, and I love you, Mom, the joy bells ring, don't they? And the precious new lives in in-laws and grands that He sends to fill our aching hearts.....there are no words for such joy! You have done well, my dear friend. Jonas.....well it is hard to give words to describe such a fine godly young man that he is. It is our priviledge to have gotten to know him well, and we are honored to have had him as a part of our lives. We wish him all the best in his new life and may God bless his new home! xoxoxo Helen

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I write about what matters...to you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
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I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
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               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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