Until I sent our son on a mission, I thought his leaving meant the end of family life as I knew it. My reasoning was sound—he is our first child to leave home and our little family of six will never live all together under our roof in my direct care again—but my thought was incorrect. Departure for service in the mission field marks the beginning of a new set of eternal life adventures.
The week preceding Chick’s departure was a full one. Chick, blessed boy that he is, quit work a week early so that he could have a day date with each of us before leaving. He and I spent our date hiking to Ben Lomond’s peak and back. Coincidentally the weather on this Ben Lomond trek mirrored that of last year’s trek (9/18/13), misty with occasional bursts of sunshine. I enjoyed the clouds; I really, really enjoyed the views that appeared in between cloud episodes; and I really, really, REALLY enjoyed spending the day on the mountain with my son.
The rest of the family enjoyed their days with Chick as well….and not just because Chick bought almost-endless amounts of fast food, pop, candy, and chips for each date. (There was more junk food in my house last week than there has been in the last five years combined.) Miles and Chick spent their day playing at the arcade and watching super hero movies. Grace and Chick finished roofing the barn (just before days of torrential rain hit northern Utah), watched and laughingly mocked “Ella Enchanted”, and watched and genuinely enjoyed “Princess Bride”. Tanah and Chick had a “Supernatural” marathon, watching more episodes of the series than most people know exist. Lance and Chick visited Grandpa Curt Hislop’s former farm in Preston, ID, pausing to eat lunch at Chic-Fil-A on the way there and stopping to watch the latest X-man movie and get beat at Pinochle by Parents Hislop on the way back.
I focused on the end that was in sight, working feverishly to have everything prepared for his departure. We spent an evening shopping—just one evening but it was more than enough. (Shopping, even for mission clothing, is heinous.) We did sessions at the Bountiful, Brigham City, and Ogden temples. In preparation for the small crowd I anticipated would visit in conjunction with his final talk in church, I excavated the basement (it had been buried for months) and scrubbed the bathroom (the layers of grime had been there longer than months, sadly). I bought insulated underwear, cooked chicken, and tightened the screws on the toilet seat, all in preparation for the end I knew was coming.
What I did NOT do was think much about what was coming. Just the thought of dropping him off at the MTC (Missionary Training Center), of not hearing his cackle or feeling my ribs crack under his bear hugs, of living life without him constricted my heart, paralyzed my voice box, and squeezed tears from my eyes…so I just did not think about it. “Lock your heart,” they told us eons ago when I was a missionary. “Lock your heart,” I told myself this week when I started thinking about Chick leaving home.
His final days were fabulous. His talk in church was exemplary. Though a bit nervous, he was well prepared and gave a talk what was simultaneously interesting, insightful, and doctrinally sound. He did not give a “thank-timony” nor did he say anything about himself, his family, or his pending mission….and I could not have been more proud.
We were all grateful—and a bit overwhelmed—by the love and support we felt from family and friends that Sunday. A zillion thanks to those who came.
A zillion thanks also to Jill and Kurt who organized a “Ties, Pies, and Good-byes” Family Home Evening event for the greater Hislop family on his final Monday. We played an Everett, WA trivia game, made and fought with tin foil swords, and, yes, ate pies.
And then it was Tuesday, our last full day together. He wrote thank you letters and packed. I mended his bandanna blanket and ironed all his shirts. His thoughts were probably filled with mission stuff. I avoided thinking. I went to Grace’s cross country meet, took pictures in the pouring rain and yelled encouragement to the runners as if my life as I knew it were not ending the next day……….
On the drive home from the cross country meet I flipped. The flip was not life-threatening—all four tires remained on the pavement—but it was life changing. Suddenly I was filled with excitement for our son. He is going on a mission!! What a grand adventure it will be for him, what a tremendous opportunity, what a huge, HUGE blessing! Really, money cannot buy the priceless experiences he will have. Literally, he is beginning what will be the greatest two years of his life so far. WOW and WOW! My heart filled with joy. Chick is going on a mission!!!! [BTW: I credit and thank the Lord for my flip.]
Wednesday morning the entire family was up at 5:45 a.m. We spent the six o’clock hour playing a family game of Bunthead (Tanah won) and then it came time for farewells. Miles gave Chick a good-bye hug in the kitchen, Tanah got her good-bye hug in the Roy High Seminary parking lot, Grace hugged him good-bye in front of the Syracuse Junior High Seminary building and then we were on our way to Provo.
During the drive I realized I had forgotten to get Chick a flu shot so we detoured to a Provo Walgreens to shoot him up. Feeling quite satisfied that I had prepared him well for his new beginning, we drove through the MTC gates at 9:00 sharp.
The parking lot was basically empty. Hum. Knowing that literally hundreds of missionaries arrive at the MTC each Wednesday, I began to suspect we’d messed up somehow. The receptionist in the nearly vacant lobby greeted us kindly. “How may I help you?” she said.
“We are here to deliver a missionary,” I said, and then followed with “We are a bit early, aren’t we?”
“Yes’” she said graciously, “but we have a class for early arrivals. Do not worry. He will be fine.”
She gave him a meal card, he gave us a hug and it was begun. I watched as he walked around a corner, bags in hand. Lance and I returned to the parking lot, hugged each other, wiped a few tears from my eyes, and drove away.
The blessings of having a missionary son began immediately. We went to the Provo Temple where I had a spiritual experience too sacred to share.
Missions are not without bumps and missionary moms have their bumps too. When we got home I searched for the time we were supposed to deliver him to the MTC (1:00 p.m.) and found a whole bunch of things I was should have sent with him and did not. Apparently one is should read the entire booklet that arrives with the mission call, not just the last two pages. Items he was supposed to have but which were not packed include 2 towels, 4 books, pens/pencils, markers, highlighters, notebook, alarm clock, flashlight, cold meds, pain killer/fever reducer, umbrella…. It was the towels that killed me. Thinking of my boy, likely a bit traumatized by his new beginning, unable to shower because he had no towel, feeling awkward, hesitant, unsure where to turn, knowing no one….These thoughts brought the tears that were not shed earlier. I packed his first care box, towels included, and overnighted it to the MTC.
He emailed me the next day. “I am at the mtc i have been here for two days and have already had a incredibly spiritual experience,” he wrote. “Love your missionary son, Elder Hislop.”
We have a missionary son! It is a commencement. Let the good times begin!