The excitement of sending my 19-year-old daughter into the mission field suddenly turned to dread as I watched my baby girl enter airport security and glance over her shoulder to confirm her mom wasn’t weeping. Eager to keep my promise, and not bawl at the airport, I hid behind the Visitor Information stand where no on would see me burst into tears.
Nothing about her pending mission saddened my little girl. She was not concerned about school, missing friends, giving up electronics or American food. She gifted her Mac to her brother, her i-phone to a sister-in-law and her i-pod to her dad. The little girl who had previously stocked her closet with stylish clothes and shoes (oh the shoes!!!) was content with one suitcase and six skirts.
When the stake president set my daughter apart to serve her mission in Brazil, he promised the 18 months would fly by for everyone–except Mom. Whether his insight was borne of experience or prophecy, he is right. Nobody will miss my only daughter like her mom.
My daughter is the one who stands by my side preparing a meal while waiting for the rest of the family to return from beach. My daughter travels with me when I have a speaking engagement. She sits by my side, daily, to share truths she has discovered in the scriptures. When she is not by my side, my daughter texts me her thoughts and when she’s confused I am by her side, helping her make tough choices.
Blubbering behind the Visitor’s Information stand I couldn’t think of anything but my own loss. Who would be my personal trainer, motivating me to rise in the morning and pacing me on a morning run? Who would be my personal shopper, pinning clothes on Pinterest that will keep me in fashion? As her dad fulfilled his duties in other wards it has been my daughter who put her arm around my shoulders in sacrament meeting when the air conditioning was too cold. For that matter, who would sit with me in sacrament meeting? And with whom could I enthusiastically discuss the talks I hear in church? Who would carry on the long-standing family tradition of sharing their dreams on the way to church? Who would ride with me in the car?
In the midst of all this self-pity my cell phone rang. It was a mother whose daughter was in the hospital suffering from anorexia. The mother needed a therapist to help her daughter return to her normal body weight. I was suddenly slapped out of my stupor. My daughter was going on a mission and this mother had a daughter in the hospital. And I was feeling sorry for myself? At that the moment I realized I had work to do. There are people who need me right here in my home town, just like there are people who need my daughter in Brazil.
When I finished the phone call I noticed there were messages from my young women, and from the counselors in my Young Women’s presidency. I couldn’t afford to spend the next year-and-a-half mourning. There are people who need me to function. It is a privilege to be anxiously engaged in a good work. I needed to forget myself, and get to work.
I began to ask myself, who might come to church if offered a ride? Who might be sitting alone in sacrament meeting and want someone to sit with them? Who might want a workout buddy? Who might want to discuss the gospel? Who might need a listening ear?
My daughter is not the only one on a mission. It’s just that her mission requires her to give up selfish pursuits and find people to serve in Brazil. The only way I will survive her mission is if I can give up self-pity and serve people right here at home.
JeaNette Goates Smith is the author of four books, including Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance, available at amazon.com