by EMILY ORTON
Erik worked with a musical called, Children of Eden, and in one of the most poignant songs Father says this about his children, “the hardest part of love is the letting go.” That’s true.
Alison has been planning to serve a church mission since she was nine-years-old, so it’s not like I didn’t see this coming. There was a spring detour when she decided to get married, but ultimately she chose to go with her original childhood plan of being a full-time missionary. (This is the abridged version. See every gray hair on my head for details).
She was assigned to serve in the Japan, Tokyo mission. But the timing was such that she wouldn’t start until 11 weeks after Erik and I took the three youngest kids to explore Europe. She chose to join us.
For ten weeks we traveled through Ireland, Finland, Greece, and Italy. Between Salerno and Rome, we took a couple of days to be still as a family, nourish our spirits, and really see each other. We had one glorious afternoon with only Alison driving the Amalfi coast. Then she joined Erik to bring the van from Athens to Salerno in thirty-six hours. On her last day with us, she sang for euros busking in the streets of Rome.
Then the goodbyes began.
Tears on the train to the airport, grateful for the ten weeks together.
Tears at the security gate, knowing I won’t see her in person for at least 18 months, literally recalling the day she was born and all the light and laughter she brings to the world.
Tears on the phone one week later when she entered the Missionary Training Center. I asked her be the one to hang up. I couldn’t do it. All the minutes leading up to this minute were fine, but the last minute was awful.
Alison is allowed to email us once weekly. She’s focusing on other stuff. She said she would be able to email the same day that she arrived to confirm that all was well. No email that day. No email the next day. No email for seven days. We traveled from Italy to Switzerland and then Germany.
Finally, one week after she arrived, a flurry of emails came assuring us that she was incredibly happy, making great friends, enjoying the food and thrilled with her decision to serve a mission. And, oh yeah, that first email got stuck in the outbox. Sorry about that.
We all have something—or many things—we love that we have to let go of. It might be control, expectations, or people. Goodbyes like this may be ongoing. Most days I’ll be a cheering fan excited that Alison is pursuing her own goals with conviction. Other days, I’ll just miss her—like holidays, or when she’s sick, or on a random Tuesday. And that makes sense.