By Marylou Cunningham Leavitt

Missionary Son

On the first day of your life
I held you to my face
and breathed the miracle of you.
Within the circle of my love
I watched you grow.
At six I often pulled you up into my lap
and you would promise me that you
would still not be too big for me to hold
when you were eight.
I wondered, who was being comforted?
When you were eight you ran to take
your place beside the font,
your ankles scratched and sunburned
and your hair—it stuck up everywhere.
Your look of reverence as you stepped
into your father’s arms hushed my heart,
for I knew then that even eight
is very late.
At twelve you couldn’t wait to be ordained.
How hard it was for you to keep
that special joy inside
(my love and pride
as you handed me the tray)
and oh that hair!
still stuck up everywhere.
Now you are so grown
that when there’s any holding,
you hold me,
and then you laugh and I can see
that you are not afraid—
so should I be?
And haven’t I been trained to let you go?
Then must this parting
(that I know is right)
still hurt me so?

[photo] Photography by Frank Gale