Today my son entered the MTC. It’s curbside drop off now, instituted when the swine flu caused concerns about gathering in large crowds and the virus hit the MTC particularly hard. It used to be that there was a small meeting with all the incoming missionaries, where they showed you a kind of Mormon-ad for missionary work that manipulated everyone into tears. After, the missionaries went through one door and the tear-streaked families the other. I’ve had three previous sons go through that exit.
I expected the worse from the new drop-off system, but it was not bad. Cars were herded to one of about 30 places. Two elders greeted us and helped us get my son’s suitcases to the curb. It was not rushed and there was time for hugs and pictures. A woman from the MTC came, I’m not sure who she was really, but she seemed both official and kind. She chatted casually with us, asking my son where he was going (Finland) and welcoming him to the MTC. More hugs and then one of the elders said something like, “I’ll help you with your bags.” The perfect blend of finality and understatement in his words suggested politely and inoffensively that it was time to go. We watched as my son followed the Elder into crowd of missionaries making their way into the MTC, all dragging suitcases uncertainly behind them.
As I watch him go, I toy with the thought that my son begins a kind of archetypal hero’s journey. He goes into the forest alone and unrecognized. I hope he finds helping spirits and kind strangers on the way—as the tales suggest he should. I hope he destroys the demons and monsters that will rise to oppose him and that in the end he obtains the treasures he seeks. I pray his princely nature will be revealed and he returns at journey’s end to claim the kingdom.
I’m afraid though. My breath feels drained and uncertain. I know that it does not always end like it does in fairytales. I’m confronted with fear because I know monsters are real and dangerous. We’ve provisioned him as best we can, but now he must journey on without us. Alone.
But unexpectedly, as I continue to watch him go, I’m transfused with hope. I remember he is not alone. That you all are there. That there are helping hands on this and the other side of the veil. And that no matter what happens, in success or failure, he will be loved. He is a hero already. Of course.
We cry for a few minutes in the car and pull away.
And I breathe again.