As parents we spend our whole lives dropping our kids – we drop them off at a sitter’s home. We drop them off at Grandma’s house. We drop them at a friend’s house. We drop them off at their first day of school. We watch them roll into a surgical ward to have tubes put in their ears. We watch them go to the dentist for extractions before braces. We send them off to college.
And we send them on missions.
Thanks to other bloggers, I was aware of how this past Thursday would work. I’d pull up to the curb and the MTC liposuction machine would remove my daughter and her luggage from my car with surgical skill and send me on my way.
The fact that I knew what would happen does not mean I was prepared for it to happen.
We were told in the information she received with her call that we should say our goodbyes before arriving at the MTC. (I’ll point out that the family in the minivan in front of my rental car had obviously not followed that counsel. Their younger sons were super-glued to their older brother who was trying to start his mission. Sweet kids.)
And we began saying goodbye several days earlier. My daughter and I left for Utah on Tuesday. We had a goodbye breakfast of waffles (her choice, made by Dad…) and during our family prayer, I – who had been very stoic through all of the preparations – could barely eek the words out while fighting back the tears. Mom drove us to the airport and Mom and daughter had a tearful goodbye as she left us on the curb.
Once we arrived in Salt Lake, we began a short tour of selected family and friends, and each time, there were goodbyes. Some were more emotional than others. Some were warm embraces and some just handshakes (she had been set apart, after all). By Wednesday night, we’d seen them all. Thursday morning (Thursday, by the way, because of the holiday on Wednesday, the normal intake day at the MTC), we woke early to attend a session together at the Mount Timpanogas temple. (What a lovely temple, by the way – it was my first time there, and the folks who work there were very kind, and the temple itself is large and quite lovely. I think most of our “small” temple could fit in the celestial room of that large one!) There we happened to bump into a couple from our home ward. Another impromptu goodbye.
We did an errand at Deseret Book and grabbed some lunch at In-N-Out Burger (“My last meal,” she said!). We saw five or six other departing missionaries with their families there. (The elders were pretty easy to spot – one 19 year-old in a suit surrounded by adoring family members; my daughter was less conspicuous in her Sister Missionary clothes.)
We drove to the LDS chapel just north-east of the MTC. In the parking lot, I took a photo of my daughter pointing to the MTC in the distance (no time for pictures at the MTC itself, and there’s no longer a sign on the street, apparently because too many people stepped into the street to take pictures of it; I’m sure I would have done the same thing if I could!). We had been on the phone with Mom and the other kids at home. Our time came and we said goodbye, took a deep breath and drove the short distance to the entrance.
We were quickly waved inside, greeted by what appeared to be a senior missionary who gave us a yellow sticky to put on our windshield, and then waved into place by young elders ready to move us along. The elder who greeted us (well, greeted my daughter; it was as if I wasn’t there) asked if she had any keys or cellphone she needed to give me (nope, we’d done that already) and if she had her immunization record handy (yes, she did), and away she went. Another nameless elder (he had a nametag, but I wasn’t reading them very well…) waved at me and said, “She’s in good hands, sir. Have a great day.”
I got in my car and slowly moved away from the curb, drove down the driveway past quite a few numbered poles, thinking they really have this down to a science. I ended up in the lot next to the BYU laundry, and then I realized how well prepared they really were. The signpost included an I-15 sign with an arrow pointing to the right, reminding me that I had no place there where my daughter was.
Of course, she is in good hands. And I don’t mean hands of MTC elders or administrators or teachers. I mean the hands of Him who called her to serve. And for that I’m grateful.