With the rising sun came the promise of a new day, a new chapter, and for our newly set-apart Elder, a new country, climate, routine, opportunity... Within hours, the rest of us will fall back into the normal(ish) swing of life. Familiar. Comfortable. But for him, aside from some treats and a few photos that this "over-doer" mom of his tucked into his carry-on luggage, everything will be new.
It's not business as usually this morning. There is nothing, in fact, usual about the mood in our home. Somber. Quiet. Reflective. Even the dogs seem to pick up on it. As he reaches out to give them each one last pat, his eyes cloud over. This is the last time he will probably see our sweet, old, Rocky-dog. Lilah tucks her ears back in disappointment when we tell he she can't go. Cooper, the wonder-pup, zooms from one end of the house to the other, across the coffee table, onto the couch, and ultimately into the arms of an optimistic, suit and tie clad boy.
I record the scene through the lens of my camera. Strong. Positive. Hopeful. Proud.
My better, more tender, half starts down the stairs to help carry up the luggage. "No, dad," eleven year old Boo insists, "I want to do it." We watch in humility as his slender frame maneuvers the bulging bag up the stairs. The suitcase really is bigger than him, but his desire to serve his brother gives him the strength to perform the task. It's going to be a tough day for our little guy. He's taking this harder than any of the other kids. He's going to miss his big brother - his defender, his helper, his partner in crime!
We get off a good 30 minutes behind schedule. OCD mom wants to panic, but world-traveler dad insists we are doing just fine. The car stereo is muted as are the typical cat-fights that seem to fill our car rides. Amazingly, not a single finger finds its way into someone else's personal space. Atypically somber.
Airport check in goes smoothly. Everything is in order, right down to the weight of his luggage. The first bag weighs in at 49 lbs and the second right at 50! Whew! I release my first sigh of relief for the day, grateful that our home scale was at least somewhat accurate... a little on the light side, but close. Then it hits me: if it's on the light side, then I've gained more than I thought I had. I reabsorb that sigh of relief with a single, ugly word: Diet... Followed by two, slightly more comforting words: Next Week!
The ticket agent finishes things up on her end and before I know it we are headed towards the security gate. We are not alone. There are other clean cut, well-dressed, eager missionaries, some with their families, others from the Provo MTC, and one, at the end of his two year journey, headed back home some 5000 miles across the pond. My second sigh of relief is one I don't have to take back: he will not travel alone. Not now or at anytime for the next two years. I can do this! He can do this!
Hugs are dealt out all around. "Boo," though struggling for the past couple of weeks, takes his like a champ... "Awesome One" not so much. She buckles into her big brother's arms, no longer trying to be tough. "Lu" holds out for a quick embrace, but her emotions betray her as he walks away. Dad, in the typical fashion of his teddy-bear heart, lost it before he even got his hug.
The security line is almost non-existent and before we know it he gives one last wave and disappears out of sight. He's off on his adventure but for some reason our feet are hesitant to leave. Ryan and I share a deep, tear filled glance. Words don't need to pass between us. We are both feeling the same sudden emptiness. Eighteen years of our lives has just left our hold for two years. We've officially handed our son over to the Lord.