That morning when he was dressed in his suit, looking like a missionary ready to go, Bob gave him a blessing and then the two grown men embraced and sobbed on each other's shoulders. I thought how grateful I am to have a husband and a son who love each other and are not afraid to express it. We drove to the MTC in a borrowed car (thank-you John and Maria!) and pulled up to the curb. Hundreds of white-shirt clad young men lined the sidewalk and greeted us. We took a couple of pictures and then hugged each other for as long as we could. Then, one of the host missionaries grabbed Robert's luggage and they turned to walk away. But before they went, Robert turned and looked into my eyes searching to see if his mom was going to be okay and conveying through his green eyes that he was okay and that I needn't worry. He had committed himself fully to the Lord's service. This is what he was prepared to do. I tried to look happy, but I know my eyes betrayed me as they filled up with tears. I choked back a sob and said, "I love you, Robert." It came out squeaky, in a little girl voice. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly and then, he turned and walked away with confidence. I got in the car and the tears flowed. Looking out the back window, I watched him walk to the MTC doors and disappear inside as we drove away. All the missionaries were waving enthusiastically as we made our way out of the parking lot. I searched for my sunglasses so I could hide the tears that freely flowed now, but before I could get them on, one of the young men bent to look at me through the passenger window. He smiled and waved more vigorously and I could hear him through the closed window calling out, "Good-bye, MOM!!!" In that moment, I felt a wave of happiness and I laughed out loud. That young man had probably watched his mom go not many weeks before and he knew how to make me feel better. We turned down the street and passed BYU watching all the students rush to their classes. How does it all happen so fast?
We flew home that evening and looked out the window of the airplane as we flew over the big Y on the mountain and Bob said, he's down there now, going through orientation. We waved to him and quietly mouthed our good-byes.
Thursday was a hard day, but I was thankful to have family around me. Brittany, Tyler, baby Jack and my mom were all here and it was a comfort. Even so, I cried many times. Then I went to the mail box and to my great surprise was a letter from President Margetts of the Japan Fukuoka Mission. As I read, I was so touched at his inspired words which brought immediate comfort to my aching heart. I would like to share with you the contents of that letter here:
Dear Brother and Sister Gregory,
Sister Margetts and I would like to express our appreciation to you for preparing your son for this time to serve. We are so grateful that he has been called to serve with us in the Japan Fukuoka Mission. We look forward to meeting him. We realize that many years of love, sacrifice, and guidance have led him to this important step in his life and we are committed to doing everything we can to help him continue in the path you have put him on.
You have just sent Elder Gregory off to the Missionary Training Center for his formal preparation for this service. Finally letting him go could not have been easy and the feeling of 24 months apart must be very real today. Elder Gregory's stay at the MTC will be short but he will learn so much. This experience will bring associations with carefully selected teachers and leaders and thousands of fellow missionaries. It will provide a spiritual environment that is truly unique. It will also bring challenges that will help him stretch and grow. Your letters of support, love and encouragement will be needed. Don't worry-he is in good hands.
We know that you must be excited and a little concerned as this begins, even if this is not your first missionary. We would like to make you aware of a great resource that we discovered that will give you many helpful ideas for successfully supporting a missionary. It is an article written by a former mission president and his wife entitled, "Helping from Home." It was published in the Ensign on page 48 of the July 2003 issue. If you are not able to find a copy please let us know and we will send one. We recommend the principles shared in this article. Your support will make a big difference in your son'ts focus, success, and happiness.
We are now just a few weeks away from meeting your son in person. We are so exicted. We want to do all we can to make Elder Gregory's mission a time of growth and learning from the very beginning. To make the transition from the MTC to the mission field as smooth and peaceful as possible we would like to know a little more about your son. We would appreciate you sending us some personal info to help us get to know him better. Anything that you think would be important fo us to know to keep him healthy and safe, to know him better, to feel closer to him, to best support him as he serves, to help him grow (e.g. health, special abilities, talents and achievements, likes and dislikes, activities in the Church and school, family information, etc.). This information will be kept confidential. Thank you!
We can only imagine the feelings that you are having as you are separated from your missionary. We want to assure you that w ewill do all we can to help your son while he is here. But better still, you should sleep better at night knowing that "angels are round about him to bear him up" (D&C 84:88). We will have him email you to let you know when he has arrived and to share with you his progress as he fulfills his calling to share the gospel with our Heavenly Father's choice spirits in Japan. Than you for your continued support. We pray that our Heavenly Father's richest blessing wil be with you your missionary and your family.
President Sherman K. Margetts