My Hourglass

hourglass and clock

I was standing in the parking lot of Campion Hall at Seattle University, my eyes welling with tears that I refused to let fall and a lump in my throat that I forced myself to swallow. It was the moment I had been dreading for 25 years: the end of my life being responsible for a child under my roof. I had to say goodbye to my youngest daughter as she began her freshman year, 1662 miles from home! For years we used to joke about me moving into the dorm room across the hall from her, since I was planning to go to college all over again just to be with her. At that moment, part of me was wishing it hadn’t been a joke.

For my daughter, however, this moment raised the opposite feeling. Her eyes were bright and glistening—and not from tears. Her confidence was palpable. She was filling her social calendar with every ride on the elevator that offered a new friend. Like many of her fellow first-year students, who had already endured an abrupt end to high school and a summer of wondering if they would even be allowed to live on campus, she had feared this moment in the parking lot might never happen. Being masked, socially distant, and online didn’t matter; her time to be independent had finally arrived.

In that moment I realized that time is the currency of spirituality. Where I spent mine determined the gift I received back. Perhaps the most consoling moments of life are priceless even in that time currency. For me, 25 years wasn’t enough. Life is an hourglass that may be seen as half-full or half-empty. For my daughter, the grains of sand in her hourglass seemed to fall one at a time over the summer in quarantine as she had to will herself every single day to be productive and fill the time in positive ways. For me, even in quarantine, the grains of sand in my hourglass were being sucked out with a vacuum. Her hourglass was full of eagerness to go off to college, and mine was emptying as the rooms of the house were cleaned out. But whether we are seeing our hourglass as emptying painfully slow or frantically fast, the reality is that time moves at the same rate for all of us. There is no hurrying it along or slowing it down. There is only the choice of how to spend it.

That day in the parking lot, my daughter hugged me hard and thanked me and told me she loved me. Even with a mask on, I could tell she was smiling huge and more than ready for me to let her go. And with absolutely none of the terror or calamity that I had expected to feel, I got in the car, shut the door, and backed out. I breathed deeply with gratitude for those 25 years and the honor of getting to raise each of my four amazing kids. As I drove away, a welcome peace settled over me, along with a sense of relief and even a hint of curiosity.

Whether at the end of a season of life or even life itself, one constant remains: that Power of Infinite Love is with me. Faith is not just knowing that, whether my hourglass is half-full or half-empty, God is there, but trusting that when the grains of sand run out, God is going to flip it over to a new beginning.

Photo by stevepb on Pixnio.

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Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.


  1. Remembering that day, my wife could not bear to leave the dorm room as she kept finding things to make it a little more like home. Our daughter was patient but I could see she was getting antsy and anxious for us to leave. Eventually I convinced my wife that we needed to leave. We said our goodbyes as we left, through the still open door I our daughter her raise her arm with clenched fist and gave a massive jerk downward and yelled out without any sound “YES” That pull untied the apron strings and at that moment she was FREE. I am 73 now and looking back brings a tear. Today she’s a wife and mother of 2 boys, soon God is going to flip it over to a new beginning.

    • Perhaps a moment all parents and their children share in common. The kids just don’t remember the horror the parents had driving away from the hospital after giving birth wondering “how the heck do we do this?” Thanks for sharing your story so eloquently.

    • OMG I just realized who you are! My son went to KU Leuven and studied philosophy and we are dear friends with Thomas Knieps Port Le Roi! What a very small Ignatian world this is! Thank you for your positive support on every single post! Savor some Neuhaus chocolate for me!

  2. This resonated with my whole self deeply. Thank you for the time you spent composing this – it has been an incredible gift to me this morning. May you receive bountifully in your soul. Blessings!

    • Thank you, Sherri! And huge thanks to Loyola Press and my editor, Denise, who always makes everything I write better! None of these posts would be here without her!

  3. It’s your adventure too Lisa! As you know, the emptiness is filled with something new and probably unexpected. We keep growing, if we’re lucky, right to the last grain of sand.

    • Jeffery,
      You are so right! I have decided to go back get a Master’s! My heart and days are very full again. Growing to the last grain!

  4. Beautiful, Lisa. It’s the best feeling to love someone and springing from that love there is no separation. God bless you…and your daughter.

    • That really is true. Physical separation is at best annoying when you know you remain personally connected. (Of course the internet, text, facebook, email, and cell phones help a bit too!)

  5. Resonate with these words, feeling a connection as I know the place you describe and you are from the land of my birth! Our two sons did the opposite, crossing the country the other way. Today my son said an author claims God is Change. So grateful our God follows us wherever we are! Thank you for this connection today.

  6. I have seen my youngest granddaughter off to Scotland for a post-graduate study year. And I have fourth stage lung cancer. My hour glass is ready to be turned over by our God. I am so grateful for your reflection as it resonates deep in my soul.

    • What a gift you have given your granddaughter and all of us in your example of faith. She may be on the other side of the ocean but I am sure you are connected in your hearts. I am so grateful to share this spirituality and faith with you. Know this Ignatian family is holding you close.

  7. I felt this reflection talking to me but when my son was doing Grade 10, I began to prepare myself for his tertiary years. This is our 4th year leaving apart. He visits during recess or when he gets a chance. As he is my only child, people asks how do I manage, my reply is I have prepared myself before he completed his Grade 12. I do miss him but I have to learn to let go. I live by “trust in the Divine Providence.”
    Thanks Lisa for sharing your ‘Hourglass. When we put God first, the vacuum is not felt because God fills it.

  8. Thank you so much for this meditation/confession. My husband died last year a few months shy of sixty years of marriage. I’ve also said goodbye to four daughters, to universities, to marriages, to extended travel overseas, adventures, and most sadly, one to a permanent earthly goodbye. At age 82 I am perplexed to find myself alone for the first time in my life and with seriously diminished options.
    But, the image of God turning my hourglass over made me smile and almost laugh out loud. I guess what is really speaking to me this morning is how full the hourglass of my heart has become over the years—outward diminishing being replaced by inner treasures of God’s presence, love and fulfillment, precious memories, deep healings, forgiveness and now especially the sure hope of everlasting life.
    I’m a very visual person. I will treasure this hourglass picture, turned over and packed full of treasured grains of sand, each a gift in the passage of time. I’m sorry this is such a long reply but I really needed to write this down!

    • Louise,
      You are not diminished too much to write and my gosh can you write! I urge you to write about those inner treasures of God’s presence, love and fulfillment, memories, healings and hopes of which you speak. The world needs to hear your voice! I would love to hear them! I think the more we share our faith experiences, the more others recognize that Spirit in their lives. You are an amazing writer! Please don’t leave us hanging!

  9. Just wait until the Grandchildren arrive. We live in the UK and have 4…2 in Canada and 2 in Australia!!
    Thanks for sharing.


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