The Last Goodbye

tag

My tag on our fridge

Let me explain to you what happened in the evening of June 21, 2016, exactly one year ago.

I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. The three flights of the day had made me feel slightly queasy. The slice of celebratory Round Table pizza I had eaten hadn’t helped either. My hair was dusty and crunchy from caked-on dry shampoo and my sweaty face was painted with a fresh coat of makeup – more than I had ever worn in the prior 18 months. I had forgotten what blush felt like.

My legs twitched and bounced as we waited in the foyer of the church building. I wasn’t sure if my on-edge emotions were the result of fatigue or from what I knew was about to happen. To ease the tension, I clung to the broken strap of my leather shoulder bag that I hadn’t set down since I got off the plane. I kept looking down at the left side of my chest, admiring the way the light glinted off my black badge.

I entered the stake president’s office first, alone. President asked me about my mission, where I had served, the whole bit. Despite having recounted this chronology many times, I stumbled to find the words in English and had to apologize when French words slipped out. When he ran out of questions, President recited some speech about transitioning home and gave me a little, laminated card with some scriptural advice. The card is still hanging on my bulletin board — I can see the verse from my desk:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding…

Then my family came in. More advice given. More praise for serving honorably. I can’t say I remember everything that they said. But I remember clearly what happened next. Abruptly and without any pomp or ceremony, the stake president asked my mom to stand up and remove my missionary tag from my shirt.

I had been prepared for this. One heart-wrenching, tender moment and I would no longer be a missionary. I knew how other missionaries had reacted in the past. I had witnessed my mom remove Ashley’s tag and my sister’s cool response, like she was a new person.

But when my mom removed the tag from my blouse, it hit me… hard.

I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted to go back to the people, the language, the schedule, the companions, the scriptures, the Spirit. But my time as a missionary was finished.

I had thought that I was going to be calm like my sister, but I was wrong. The second my mother cradled my tag in her hands, I started sobbing and I couldn’t stop. My breathing became jagged. I tried to regain composure to save face in front of the stake presidency, but it was too late. Every face in the small office stared in pity at the sleep-deprived woman in a stretched-out, stained skirt as she went through 3 packs of tissues wiping tears and the fresh coat of makeup off her face. I was a wreck.

I tried to contain my tears as we went back out to the car. I managed to hold back the waterworks until I shut the door of my sister’s PT Cruiser. Seeing my distress, Ashley thought it would be a great idea to play me the credits song of the Hobbit movie I had missed while I was on my mission.

“And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell

Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don’t regret
Nor will I forget
All who took the road with me”

The words only echoed what I was feeling.

I entered our home with swollen eyes and a streaked face. After going through some memorabilia, my parents sent me to bed. I shed many more tears as I lay on my mattress that night and for many nights after that.

Even after 12 months, my eyes still occasionally sting when I go to bed at night. Transitioning has not been easy for me like it was for my sister. For months all I wanted to do was return to the mission field where I had purpose and fulfillment. Out here, I felt lost, even while knowing the language and the people.

Don’t get me wrong – being reunited with my family has brought me so much joy. But I still miss my mission sometimes. If the fog of melancholy hangs over my head and I question my purpose, I remember the scripture that my stake president gave me – to trust.

Trust in the Lord. 

Makes me smile. If I learned anything in 18 months, it was that I could rely on the Lord. He guided my feet to my mission, and He will guide my feet ever after.

To these memories I will hold
With your blessing I will go
To turn at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell”

“The Last Goodbye” – Billy Boyd
Advertisements