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.