Ten days ago, we dropped our oldest son off at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and said goodbye to him for two years. We will not see this boy for two whole years! Our only communication with him will be weekly emails, regular letters, and two annual phone calls (on Mother’s Day and Christmas).
I knew it would be hard. I just didn’t know it would be that hard. He was set apart as a missionary the night before and didn’t report to the MTC until 2 PM the following afternoon, so we all got up with him early that morning (missionaries are required to wake up every day at 6:30 AM) and spent the day together. We went to the temple. We spent a few hours at home. We went to lunch. And then it was time to go. We got in the car and headed towards Provo and the MTC, (where he will be living for the next two months before moving to Toronto, Canada to begin his service there). As we drove into Provo and stopped at a traffic light, I glanced at the car next to us, and could see that they, too, were taking their son to the MTC. I could see the new missionary in the back seat with his siblings. I could see his parents in front, trying, just as we were, to maintain their composure. We then drove up the hill to the Provo Temple, where there were countless families, doing just what we were doing… spending a few final moments with a precious son or daughter that was leaving. Taking all of this in almost took my breath away, and at one point, I whispered to Cameron, “It is amazing to me that so many families are willing to do this. Because this is really hard.”
After spending some time on the lawn in front of the Provo Temple, we climbed back into the car to drive just a couple of blocks and finally drop him off at the MTC. Cameron went the long way (I don’t know if this was on purpose, but I was glad he did), and we drove past the temple, down the hill and then turned left onto the street that the MTC is on. Because of traffic, we had to wait a while to turn, and I watched as car, after car, after car drove up the street and turned into the MTC. In that moment, I could feel that I was watching an army of God being gathered right before my eyes (and to think that this happens every Wednesday is just incredible to me!). We pulled up to the curb, and in less than sixty seconds our boy was gone.
We cried all the way home. Every single one of us.
But, I can’t deny that my heart was full of gratitude that day as well. I have never served a full-time mission, but I am so grateful to have raised a son that will. He is such a good boy. Not perfect. But a really, really good boy. The reason that I am willing to let him go, and the reason that he is willing and wants to go, (and the reason that I believe SO many families -and young men and women- are willing) is this: The Gospel is true. It changes lives. It has changed mine. And his. Life is hard (we have certainly learned that first-hand) but God is so very good. He loves His children and wants them to be happy, now… and later. And He has asked us to help Him by sharing what we know (and probably take for granted) with others that might not know.
Annie died five years ago, today. I still miss her all the time. I remember wondering way back then, if the missing her would fade over the years. It hasn’t. It doesn’t matter if I am happy, or sad, I am always missing her. There is piece of me that is not here and I know that I will never be complete until I have her back in my arms again.
But, in the meantime, I know that my Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that He loves her, too. I know that He provided a Savior and prepared a way for us to be together again-a way for my family and my heart to be whole again. What a beautiful plan!
I made Austin a small family album to take on his mission and made sure to include pictures of him with Annie, because chances are, he will meet somebody in Canada who is missing a loved one every minute of every day and feeling like they will never be whole again.
What a difference the gospel might make to them... it has certainly made a difference to us.
And for that, I am willing.
I am willing to miss my boy for two years so that another family can know what we know: that Heavenly Father is real and that we are His children; that He loves us; that He hears our prayers and He knows our hearts; that the Savior came to earth and gave His life to atone for the sins of all of us; that He rose from the grave so that we could too; that He paved the way for families to be eternal; that He will someday come again; and that when He does, "every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him." (The Living Christ)
Missionary work is God's work. One only has to visit the MTC campus on a Wednesday afternoon to feel and to know that.
I'm so grateful to have a son that is willing, worthy, able, and excited to be a part of it. And, as it turns out, I am more than willing to love, support, pray for, and miss this boy like crazy for the next two years.
Love you, Austin!