Three weeks ago when everyone got sick and all our plans had to be rearranged, I spent several hours trying to figure out what our Plan B looked like. It wasn’t a matter of simply pushing everything back a week or two. We had a fixed date that Jacob had to be to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). In the end we threw out the old agenda and came up with a completely different one. Jake and I would fly with Jacob to Salt Lake City and drop him off personally at the MTC. Then we’d head south to St. George where I would teach a photography workshop the following morning, photograph a couple of families, and teach a mentoring session. Afterwards, we would drive to Las Vegas where Jake’s parents live. I would then fly back to Houston where our children would be staying with friends while Jake stayed behind in Vegas to help his parents with a couple of projects as well as follow up on some leads for work. The following day after I would arrive in Houston, I would drop Joshua at the airport to fly to Vegas to meet Jake so that he could help with the projects and then Miss B, Sam-a-lam and I would drive back to the country house. Jake and Josh would then fly into to San Antonio a few days later and we would be reunited.
The night before we left for Salt Lake City I questioned my sanity as I looked over our schedule. What had I been thinking when I created that itinerary? Dropping Jacob off would be emotional enough – why had I thought it was a good idea to stack our schedule so deep in the days following? Clearly I had not been thinking.
For the most part everything went according to plan. Our last day with Jacob was uneventful but memorable. We took he and Elder Snell to In-N-Out Burger for lunch, stopped at Radio Shack to get Jacob speakers for his iPod (they cannot use headphones on their mission, they must listen to their church music through speakers), then parked at near the Provo Temple for our final goodbyes.
Upon arrival we had 45 minutes until drop off time. Elder Snell met a friend there and my nieces also came to say farewell to Jacob. We stood in the chilly February air, a view of the temple above us and the MTC below. Dozens of other families surrounded us doing the exact same thing; saying goodbye to their Elder or Sister in the shadow of the temple. The time there seemed to stand still. We chatted about the mundane. Everything that needed to be said had already been said. I would spontaneously hug Jacob and he would hold on tight, knowing just what I needed. He looked at his watch every few minutes, counting down. He was ready.
Then it was time. There were last minute pictures, hugs, and laughter and we all climbed into the car and headed across the street. We rounded the corner toward the drop-off location and into view appeared dozens of missionaries standing on the sidewalk, waving and smiling. Welcoming Elder Earle and Elder Snell to the MTC. They wore tags that read HOST and they were waiting to escort the new missionaries as they arrived. Involuntarily I let out a sob. I turned back to Jacob and said, I’m sorry. I’m going to be one of those moms. He just smiled, his eyes a little red-rimmed and glistening with tears.
It was over as quickly as it began. We all stepped out of the car and helped unload the luggage. The host missionaries were there – one for Jacob and one for Elder Snell. The one closest to me shook my hand and assured me that they were in good hands, that they would take care of them for me. I captured a few last minute images, Jacob had the biggest smile on his face. The tears streamed down my face and I reached to hug him one last time. He held on tight and then it was time. They turned and walked away.
As I climbed into the car, I glanced back one last time and caught a glimpse of them striding confidently away, toward their next two years. Then I smiled and peace filled my heart. Jake took my hand as we drove away. His eyes wet from tears and his voice choked with emotion. Let’s get through the next hour. It will be easier after that.
He was right. It wasn’t long before we realized the side benefit of our itinerary. Even though the next few days were filled with photography related work, we were alone – together – with no children. We were able to visit our daughter Juanita’s grave. She was stillborn almost 16 years ago and is buried in Hurricane, Utah near her great-grandmother whom she is named after. Though she was born in Alaska, we wanted her to be buried near family. Hurricane is the perfect spot for her. We visited Jake’s childhood home, had lunch with Jake’s brother and his wife, and ate dinner and enjoyed hours of conversation with good friends. It was a busy few days, but rejuvenating as well.
*With the amazing folks behind Williamsburg Academy (the online school Jacob graduated from – and where Josh is looking forward to attending this fall.)
*Jake’s childhood home, The Covington Home. It’s the oldest standing building in Dixie.
It’s now been five days since we dropped Jacob off at the MTC and I’m now on the other side of that crazy schedule. It’s 11:47am and Sam-a-lam and Miss B are still sleeping and I’m still relaxing in bed myself. It’s just the three of us at the Country House and the quiet is remarkable. I keep expecting them to wake at any moment, but I suppose they are sleeping off the last few weeks. Considering all that we’ve been through, I’m going to let them sleep till they are done.
A few more days and we’ll be reunited with Josh and Jake. It will be time to figure out what life looks like now. Not just with our family dynamics, but also what lies ahead for The Big Blue Bus Tour and life in general. Thank you all for your incredible support that last few weeks. We’ve been strengthened through your thoughts and prayers.
P.S. It’s 12:33pm and the kids have just woken up.
*Josh departing on his own adventure! Love this kid. He flew from Houston to Phoenix, found his next gate, then flew from Phoenix to Las Vegas all by himself. At 13 years old he’s ready to take on the world.