Two and a half years ago, when Daniel left home to go and work on the MV Doulos, it was very difficult for us all. The day before he left, some good friends of ours came over for lunch, and spent the afternoon 'jamming' with Daniel and Tim on keyboards, drums, guitars, flutes, clarinet, and whatever other instruments they could find.
I had been quite stressed so it was actually a relief to sit in a room by myself for an hour or two and read in peace... until they started playing Simon and Garfunkel's 'Leaving on a jet plane'... and I was in floods of tears. I couldn't even think of that song again for months without feeling the same way, even though - of course - we got used to Daniel being away, eventually.
Two years seemed like a very long time. But in retrospect, it has mostly flown past. So now Tim is about to leave. He will be starting university at Newman College in Birmingham in September. He is leaving now, rather than in two months time, because he needs to adjust to life in the UK - which, to him, is a foreign country after nearly eleven years living in Cyprus.
More importantly, he needs to get his National Insurance number, start a bank account, apply for funding and a bursary, buy a bus pass and get used to the various buses he will need to catch to get to the university each day. He's also hoping to find a job for at least part of July and August.
I'm going with him tomorrow evening, to help him settle in, so at least I have another few weeks with him. Richard will join us in a few weeks, then he and I will return to Cyprus early in August. That will be the most difficult time, I'm sure. It will be the first time that the two of us have flown together, without either of the boys, in over twenty-two years.
Last night the youth group, which Tim has belonged to for seven years, had a fund-raising variety night. He took part in a drama and two of the band items, but tried on the whole to have a back seat. He has been the musical director for the band for two years now, and played in it for a couple of years before that; but he's having to let go of his life here, as we're having to let go of him.
This morning his church, St Helena's, held a farewell service for Tim. They did it very thoroughly: he chose the hymns as well as playing the piano for them; he did two readings and led the prayers; he directed and led the choir in an anthem at the end; he took part in a five-minute interview with the minister, talking about what he's been doing in Cyprus and what he's going to be doing; and at the end of the service several people prayed for him. The service itself was in a booklet which Tim compiled and designed for regular use, a month or two ago.
There was no 'leaving on a jet plane', but I felt a bit teary during the anthem (Rutter's 'Look at the world') and distinctly weepy when Tim was prayed for at the end.
After the service there was a very nice cake, baked by one of the church members - and also, Tim was presented with a huge thank you card full of signatures, and a generous gift of money.
Right now he's at a 'pool party' with the youth group, who will be doing their goodbyes, and some friends are coming over in half an hour or so, also to say goodbye.
Tomorrow he's hoping to send off his last two assignments to the Open Theological College, and of course we need to pack, and finish sorting out his room, and probably a hundred and one other things that have been forgotten.
Nobody ever told me that the very hardest part of parenting is letting go of our young adult children as they leave the 'nest'. I realised it back in January 2006 when Daniel departed, and I'm realising it all over again now.
I don't suppose I will get much chance, if any, to blog while we're in the UK.