I thought I would be ok just sending Claire off to the MTC by herself. You see, she has eight more weeks of study there before she heads off to Australia. She has had a fair share of traveling alone, and had already “met” her companion, her district and her teachers online. It would be like a little reunion to finally get to meet in person. Yes, she would be ok. I think. But as we got closer and closer to the day she would leave I started to remember: this is not easy business to let go of a missionary. Remembering this make me start to get a little shaky. Claire may be ok. But would I? I wasn’t sure there for a bit. So let’s talk about how the “big” kids took their sister under their wings…and eased their mother’s heart in the process.

By now I should be a pro at letting kids go, right? I mean, I have let four of them go for crying out loud. And I didn’t let them go just once, but over and over again. The the junior-year-internships, the college send-offs, the study abroad trips, . And then the weddings. Oh yes, I should be a pro. The “leavings” grow in number each year. These babies I have nursed and wiped tears from their cheeks, prayed my guts out for, cried with, rejoiced with, and cherished with my whole heart, keep rotating this “leaving business.” Oh there are so many different kinds of “letting kids go” for mother hearts to grapple with.

But I realized shortly before Claire was to leave that I had forgotten the agony of letting a kid go on a mission. It’s one thing for them to graduate and head out into the big wide world. It’s a different animal, however, to send them on a mission. They come back a new version of themselves. Oh it’s a new and improved version, and it’s wonderful. But the original version of them doesn’t come back.

The power of “big” kids looking out for their siblings

As I started to get more nervous about letting Claire go, I kept reminding myself that her older siblings would be there waiting for her. And every time I did, I was overcome with such a beautiful blanket of peace. And gratitude as well.

Gratitude that they were ready and willing (and excited) to pick up their sister. And so much gratitude that they would have that special time together.

I’ve talked before about the power of older siblings. But I didn’t realize how much that power could ease the worry in their mama’s heart.

The Airport Send-off

So we got all those big bags packed up (a whole saga in and of itself with suitcase fiascos and shifting weight to get those bags packed just so). Woke up bright and early to take our girl to the airport.

When I went in to help lug the suitcases out I found these two girls together:

The one who wouldn’t get to see Claire in person that day. Oh that Elle has been such an incredible support from afar. Checking on her sister as much as possible. I love overhearing their conversations, the sweet sister-love spilling through the phone.

We got things loaded up and said goodbye to our neighbors who did an early pop-over…and Bo Jangles who may or may not miss Claire’s attention…ha!

And then we headed for the airport…hugging this girl as tight as we could for as long as we could.

I walked her as far as I could up to security a final goodbye and blowing kisses. And she was gone.

Until she popped up on my phone from Abby’s pictures.

The sibling airport retrieval

Embraced in hugs with those older siblings who truly “had her” just as I knew they would.

Claire had been so excited that she would get to have lunch with Murphy, and I can imagine she had a vice-grip on that girl the whole time.

The MTC drop-off

And then, on to the MTC.

I was so thankful Abby called us on our group family chat and that Elle, Carson (at some Costco in NYC), and I could follow that sweet crew into the MTC parking garage where missionaries get dropped off. (I LOVE YOU ABBY!!)

Dave was in a meeting and Lu was at school and we missed them, but I took some screenshots to record for them. It’s amazing that technology has the power to knit hearts together when they need help.

I loved being involved in the drop-off this way.

Happy and sad all mixed together.

And then, she was off.

It still feels so strange to be in this quiet house without her.

I find myself wondering what she is doing on repeat. We miss her.

But just as I forgot how agonizing it is to let a child leave on a mission, I loved remembering that the changes that come…the way kids come back as new versions of themselves, is as invigorating as it is nostalgic.

Because I have all those big kids who took such good care of that new missionary have also done the same “leaving.” And they have come back better for the stretching. Thank you, dear “big kids” for taking such good care of each other. Love you forever.

And Claire Bear, we are praying for you and loving you powerfully from afar. You’ve got this! Excited we get to “tag along” on your journey through FaceTime each week.

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  1. I have been reading your wonderful blog about your lovely family for years and I must say this one was a tear-jerker:). May God bless Claire and watch over her and comfort you all during this time of service and growth.

  2. This year she already went all by herself to college and to Europe. Last year she went to college. You have made her leave several times for internships, games, camps, trips with friends. I do not understand all these stages of goodbyes. I’m guessing in late spring 2025 you will be vacationing in Australia with her soon after she returns to the States.

    1. I am not Mormon but, I imagine saying goodbye when you know you won’t see your child for 18 months and will have limited contact during that time is much different and more difficult. College drop off is hard but you still get to spends lots of time together throughout the year.

  3. I’m glad you shared this “They come back a new version of themselves. Oh it’s a new and improved version, and it’s wonderful. But the original version of them doesn’t come back.” I want to remember this, to prepare myself, as the time comes. I even felt that way after my son’s braces came off – which is weird. It was just braces, but I remember thinking he started with a baby face a big gap smile, and ended up a young man with a new smile. I’ve never thought about the change between the time I see him before and after his mission. Maybe being able to talk more often, than missionaries used to, will ease my surprise at the change.

  4. The roller coaster of emotions with goodbyes with older kids is hard!
    Curious about missions ( and I hope it comes across in a respectful way)- do the missionaries get to have fun at all? See movies or watch tv or socialize a bit or is it all serious? One thing I am also curious about (and again tryiing to be respectful) is whether the goal of missionaries is to convert others with most of their time going door to door doing that or are their other projects they are involved in.

    1. Missionaries do get to have fun! They have p-day where they can explore their area. Not necessarily in movies or tv but hiking, playing sports, sightseeing etc.
      The goal of a missionary is not to convert but to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and their love of the Savior. If people choose to accept Jesus Christ and his teachings, that is definitely an added bonus. You have the opportunity to see people’s lives change for the better and to be a part of it. They also do a lot of service which is another way of doing what Christ did. They help lift others.

  5. I recently learned you can do a screen recording of FaceTime calls on your phone!! Make sure your phone volume is turned on so you can capture the sound as well. Best of luck to Claire on her mission!

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