My beautiful daughter Katelyn has been planning to serve a religious mission for our church since she was old enough to walk. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), we believe that it is important that we share our beliefs will all members of the community and world. Young women are given the opportunity to serve our church in this capacity at the age of 19 years old. Girls serve for a period of 18 months, while boys serve for two years and can begin their service at the age of 18 years old.
Katelyn has always had a strong belief in the gospel and has felt prompted to go out into the world and share that message with others. I'm very proud of her for wanting to share the very concepts that bring her joy and eternal happiness with others.
But I'm also very sad.
Last week she met with our local religious leader (our Bishop) to begin the process of submitting her application papers for her mission. She came home very excited to share with me the date she hopes to leave on her mission. She counted down the days on her i-pod to see when she could actually send in her papers to our church headquarters and start the process to receive her mission call. As I sat and listened, I felt a wave of grief crash over me. The room was dark and I tried very hard to maintain my facial composure as she shared her plans with me.
But as she walked away she turned and asked, "Are you crying?"
While I thought I had been so discreet in my feelings, she could apparently read either in my face or demeanor that I was feeling something.
I have experienced too many good-byes in my life. I watched my family crumble when I was a child and my parents' marriage ended in divorce. I hugged my family good-bye as we traveled across the country to start a new life in a different part of the world. I've stood at many an airport gate waving as a loved one left us to return home.
And I experienced real and complete loss when my beautiful boy Joey returned home to his Heavenly Father after his bout with cancer.
I hate good-byes. I can't even really explain how deeply I hate good-byes.
Last year several of my lovely friends were moving from our neighborhood. I couldn't even go outside to say good-bye. I just wouldn't do it. I couldn't do it.
And now my amazing daughter, the beautiful girl whom I have raised and love and held in my heart for almost 19 years is going out into the world for a period of 18 months during which my only contact with her will be emails, letters, and a phone call on Mother's Day and Christmas. For much the rest of the time she will be busy teaching the gospel.
It is strange that pride and sorrow can occupy one space at one time.
I will never forget when the hospital finally explained that our little son would soon be leaving us. I still feel it deeply in my heart, and I deftly avoid all memory of that day as it was more excruciating than I care to remember.
And now my beautiful daughter is telling me that she too will soon be leaving me in a way that is less permanent but still leaves us apart. I am heartbroken and yet so happy for her.
Why would we, as members of our church, encourage our children to leave us? It is simply because we know that we have a duty to share what we know. It's because if we truly believe what we live, then we will want to make sure others' know about it. I honor and accept that not everyone will believe what we believe. But I would not feel right in wanting her to stay home when she feels so right about going.
So as she plans to leave this fall, I'm going to have to start getting used to the idea of her no longer being in our home. It was going to happen some time. Whether it was through her going off to college, or making a new life with a husband and her own family. But I've never been faced so completely with the reality of her leaving.
I'm not ready. She is. But I'm not ready. And I'm not sure I'm going to make it without her. My kids are my heart, and it feels like once again it's being torn from my chest. How am I going to let her go? I have no idea how to be without her. It's going to be one of the hardest things we do as a family watching her go into the world. And while I'm so very proud of her and her decision, I'm also struggling to let her go.
How am I going to make through this? How did you make it through a long good-bye?