An emotional rollercoaster, too.
And now, I'm sitting here trying to digest it all.
I got up early this morning and made another favorite of his- homemade biscuits- with fried eggs to make breakfast a little more special. Again, as I was standing in that kitchen in my nightgown with apron donned, I realized again that this work that I do in the kitchen, this holy work, is a powerful way to bless and manifest my love to my family. I wanted Gary to feel that.
Again, a few more errands to run this morning and last minute checking off of the packing list. "Did you remember this? What about that?" And can you believe that last night we realized that there was a required immunization that we had thought was up to date, but actually wasn't, and so we scrambled to get into the Dr's first thing and get that DPT shot. What a great send off !
The mood at home today and yesterday was loving and good, and despite the stress and hurried-ness, we all felt surprisingly at ease and relaxed. All the while, the growing feelings of meloncholy and impending separation looming.
Right before heading out the door today, Keith layed his hands on Gary's head, bestowing a father's blessing. This prayer, this sweet tradition this has always been in our home whenever the children are ill, are starting a new school year, are going far/ moving away from home, or any time they need comfort, guidence, healing, and reassurance of not only their earthly father's care and concern, but more importantly that of our Father in Heaven's constant and abiding love.
We gathered, too, in a circle to kneel in family prayer and listened to Eliza's sweet words of faith and gratitude and pleading for her brother.
We all thought a stop at the Creamery for lunch and ice cream sounded like a good plan since it's very close to the Missionary Training Center where Gary will be staying for the next three months before leaving for Finland.
This is the place where young men and women, as well as retired couples, begin their training to serve as volunteer missionaries for a period of 18-24 months. Did you know that there are approximately 52,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving in 120 countries of the world? Here's a little bit more about what our son will experience for the first three months (because of the difficulty of the Finnish language, one more month of study is added to the normal stay at the Missionary Training Center) of his missionary service:
"Each Wednesday several hundred missionaries enter the Provo MTC. The eager missionaries enter an exciting world of learning. The MTC curriculum consists of up to 12 weeks of studying doctrine, learning to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively, and developing excellent communication skills. When missionaries are called to serve in foreign lands, their training also includes learning a new language. The Provo MTC is well known for its language teaching program. Approximately 50 languages are taught at the Provo MTC. The teaching staff is composed largely of former missionaries, who are well acquainted with missionary life...."
"The Provo MTC is a beautiful campus designed to accommodate up to 4,000 missionaries. The facility includes a large gymnasium, cafeterias, a medical clinic, a bookstore, a mail center, laundry facilities, classrooms, and residence halls. A day at the MTC can involve many different activities, including visiting the cafeteria, enjoying some exercise in the gym, and engaging in personal study. Missionaries spend much of their time in classroom activities."
"Although the MTC has excellent facilities and an outstanding training curriculum, missionaries feel that the spirit of the MTC is their best learning and teaching aid. The MTC experience is the fulfillment of a life-long dream for many missionaries, and yet they anxiously await the day when they will depart to their assigned missions. After weeks of training, missionaries leave prepared to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people around the world. "
As you can probably imagine, it's not an easy thing to sacrifice it all to serve a full time mission. To leave the world behind in the prime of your life.
It's not an easy thing for a parent to send a beloved son or daughter out in the world to a far off place. Hearing his or her voice only on Christmas Day and on Mother's Day. To have the communication be by a once a week email.
But we do it out of love.
This love and gratitude for our Lord that we serve.
And despite this moment of victory, of this day of celebration, this pride, this excitement for this precious son of ours, there's a profound sense of separation. Of longing. Of this mother heart physically aching. This heart almost breaking. The sobbing, raw emotion holding you close and kissing your face, hoping you'll be okay and knowing we're both letting go and not being able to swallow that hot lump in your throat that just isn't going away.
How can you feel all these feelings at once?
So goodbye, sweetheart. May the Lord bless you and keep you. You'll be in our prayers, in our hearts. Constantly. We're cheering you on. We are so grateful and happy you've chosen this path. So proud of the person you've become and the person you are now becoming. Your light shines. You'll be a blessing to those Finnish souls who'll learn to love you and who you'll learn to love.
God be with you until we meet again.