My son has been serving in the Italy Rome mission. Interestingly enough, his first mission president was our family doctor, which made me feel a little better about sending my first child halfway around the world.
As the day approached for my son to enter the MTC, I had mixed feelings. It was a day I’d looked forward to for 19 years, a culmination of all of my teaching, prodding (he might say harassing), and efforts to help my son prepare to serve his mission. I was thrilled he’d not only made the choice to serve, but was also worthy to do so. I was very proud of him. Yet, I knew that his absence would create a hole in the family and a hole in my heart. He’d been such a part of the family for so many years and none of his younger siblings knew life without him. I knew it wouldn’t be the same without him and though he was serving the Lord, it would be hard without him.
We arrived at the MTC along with a million other families (or so it seemed). We took a ton of photos with him in his missionary suit and recorded all the moments we could on our video camera. We made our way through the crowd and received his nametag. As soon as I saw it, the tears started to flow. I placed it on his suit and, poof, my son was transformed into a real live missionary.
We followed the group of sniffling mothers and family members back to a large room where we watched one Mormon Ad after another. You know, the “Family, isn’t it about time” ads. Like I wasn’t emotional enough, I had to sit through ad after ad that made me bawl.
After everyone was seated, a member of the MTC presidency addressed us. He tried to keep the mood light with several jokes. I appreciated what he was trying to do, but I was too emotional to laugh. He asked that those families who live in the area please not write messages on the sidewalks outside the MTC or on the way to the temple. He also advised parents to not “accidentally” attend the same temple sessions as their missionaries. I was glad we didn’t live near the MTC so I wouldn’t be tempted to see my son “just one more time.” After some other words of encouragement and counsel, he told us to do the “band aid” goodbye—do it quickly and get it over with. How do you say goodbye to your son for the next 24 months?
Through lots of tears and hugs we bid him farewell, trusting that he would be safe and protected as he left us and then left for Italy. It was difficult to say goodbye and, again, such a mixture of emotions. I was so thankful he was there, that he could be there, that he wanted to be there.
I’ve heard people say that serving a mission is one of the hardest and best experiences of their lives. I’d like to add that having a son serve a mission is one of the hardest and best experiences as well. It is truly worth the sacrifice.
Return to the neighborhood.