That's how it felt to me. Some call it bittersweet, some call it excruciating joy, miserable happiness, it's all true. I am now one of those mothers who have experienced dropping their 18 or 19 year old off at the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in Provo, Utah.
It is a very different feeling. Both Rick and I agree, it was different than sending our daughter off to college. That seemed hard to me, but I could pick up the phone and call her an hour later! It's very different knowing you will only hear from them via email once a week.
However, I will always remember the really, really nice day that it was. I loved it, even though it was very hard.
It really began the night before, when the Stake President came to our home and set Sam apart as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. What a special night! I was so thankful to have all my children gathered in that living room to experience it.
We invited Pres. Hendersen to stay for root beer floats afterward in honor of "National Root Beer Float Day."
Did you know? Oh yeah. Mark it on your calendars. :)
Love this kid's enthusiasm!
Sam had to report to the MTC at 12:30 the next morning, so we were up early and ready to leave home by 7:00. The children said goodbye to each other and we were off.
As we drove past Layton, I picked up the phone to call my parents like I always do when we are passing by. We decided to meet them for breakfast at their favorite little diner called Sill's, where they are famous for their delicious scones. What a treat for Sam to spend time with them before he left! These two are great missionary examples for our family. In fact, I didn't tell Mom and Dad this, but I had in the car with me, Mom's letter that she wrote to us about her feelings when she and Dad were leaving for their mission in Athens, Greece only days before their youngest son would have his leg amputated. What an inspiration! What great faith, and it was nice to remind Sam of his family's legacy.
We got to Provo almost 2 hours early, and I will plan that always! It was nice to have time to walk around the Provo Temple, just Rick, Sam, and I.
What I didn't expect was all the love that would be shown toward Sam. We were walking across a road when we saw a group of 6 sister missionaries crossing on the other side make a b-line over to us to welcome Sam. They could see he was obviously a new missionary, not yet with a name tag, and with both parents. They came right to him, shaking his hand and asking where he was called to serve. Can you imagine Sam? Being greeted by all those darling young women who were clearly interested in him and showering him with attention? He loved it! They each welcomed him, showing their genuine love for a fellow missionary, and went on their way as one sister called back, "Welcome to "the army," elder!"
As we turned away, tears.
Not from Sam, but from me. I couldn't contain my gratitude!
We continued walking toward the Temple, when we saw another group of elders, heading the other direction when they saw us and immediately turned our direction to welcome Sam. This time, I grabbed the camera.
Then more came...
What love was shown! Each of those sweet elders shone with the Light of Christ as they introduced themselves and made Sam feel welcomed. My heart was so full as they visited for quite a long time. It put Sam's nervousness at ease and made him feel like he had instant friends.
We found a bench in the shade of a tree and sat down together, taking it all in. Meanwhile, another new missionary and his parents walked by us and we, of course, made another friend, Elder Vasquez who would be serving in Milan, Italy. What a feeling of comradery!
By this time, we had only 40 minutes before check in time, so we decided to go get smoothies.
We drove down to Swig, where Rick and Sam both got strawberry banana protein smoothies and I got my favorite: lemon lime shaved ice. While eating our yummy treats, sure enough. Another new elder and his family came in to order treats, and we learned that Elder Child would be serving in Cambodia!
(God bless his parents!!!)
Fifteen minutes before check in. The time had come for us to go. We got in the car, said a final prayer with Sam, and drove the couple blocks back to the MTC. Here it was. All of the sudden becoming very real, the fact that we were not going to be with our Sam for two years. But in my heart I was so happy for him. I knew the spirit of love that we felt up until now was only a glimpse of what he would be feeling inside the training center. In fact, I was envious, how I wanted for it to be ME going through those doors! I knew he would be fine.
We drove in through the gate and were warmly welcomed by this man, who poked his head in to say hello to Sam. He directed us where to go.
As we drove in that direction, the sidewalk was lined with so many young men in white shirts and ties welcoming us with smiles, waves, and big "thumbs up" hand signals.
We were directed to our spot at the curb and got out to say goodbye, as we were greeted by a Host missionary who would help Sam with his luggage. I had heard that we were to keep this short, and that they almost grab the missionary and are hauling him off before you get a chance to say goodbye, but it didn't feel like that at all for me. The Host missionary was very gracious, even offering to take pictures for us. I was trying to be so strong, but couldn't help but be overcome with emotion as I hugged my "little" Sam with a giant spirit, before sending him off.
Here I was. Smack in the middle of the moment that every missionary parent thinks about. It was happening to us for real.
And off he went.
I got back in the car when all of my emotion came out at once. I knew this was such a wonderful life experience that our family was embarking on, but I also felt like I was being stabbed in the heart. Three things I was grateful for in that moment:
1. I was thankful Rick was driving.
2. I was thankful we had left the other children at home so I wouldn't have to "edit" my feelings
in front of them.
3. I was thankful for the little pocket kleenex pack that a dear friend had brought over the night before.
After several miles, a good cry, and feeling a little bit in control again, I looked in the back seat and saw Sam's smoothie cup right where he had left it in the cup holder. Uncontrollably, and almost in a panic, I grabbed his cup and told Rick "It's Sam's smoothie cup!" and holding it close to my heart burst into tears! In my head, I was thinking "Honestly??? Good grief Cammi, this is stupid, it's a cup for crying out loud!" Rick couldn't help but laugh at me and I started half laughing, half crying at myself. Later, I took a picture of "the smoothie cup that made me cry," so I could talk myself out of saving it and never throwing it away. Ever.
We stopped at Cabela's on our way home and after walking through the doors Rick took me straight away to the fish tank, I'm sure to try to soothe my soul, bless his heart. And thereis something ultra soothing about an aquarium.
Then back home to our other kids. After a quick parent meeting for the
golf team, Rick took us all out to dinner where we could share our
experiences of this momentous day with our other children.