Dave got up extra early on the 27th to make one last big breakfast for everyone before we left for the airport (how sweet is that?).
By that time, bags were packed, suit was donned, and hundreds of hugs had been given...Max was ready.
He rolled out his suitcases and closed his bedroom door.
Loved those last minutes of "normalcy" there at home.
And then we were out.
Before we got close to the gate where there was a crowd saying goodbye to other missionaries leaving at the same time, Dave pulled us aside in a quiet corner and we had a little "huddle" family prayer together. It was one of my favorite moments wrapped together in each other's arms with so much love and nerves and joy and gratitude all mixed up together, something I want to remember forever. Such a special prayer from Dave.
At security we got to hug and hang with Max's volleyball friend who is going to the same mission and leaving at the same time.
...as well as their great volleyball coach who showed up to bid them goodbye.
Elder Anderson (who is one of the twelve apostles in our church) also showed up...he had been in the desert for something or other and happened to be in the same flight. He shook all the missionary hands and wished them luck. And he reminded Max that he will be tall in Taiwan :)
Last family picture for a while...
All the girls wanted their own pictures with their brother.
Claire was trying to measure herself against him to see how much she would grow by the time she sees him again.
Dave and I were heading up (on a different airline) to take him to the MTC, but this was the last time the girls would see him.
I know this picture is blurry and not great quality. I snagged it from part of a video I was taking. But it's my very favorite picture right now.
Finally he unwrapped himself from their embraces and was out.
I think we all would have been emotional basket cases if Dave and I weren't heading up with him. Somehow we all felt like the separation seemed a little less stressed with it broken up how we did it. The girls dropped us off at the next terminal and headed to school, and we met up with Max again at the Salt Lake airport.
I was so worried about leaving the girls. Boy this decision took some serious thought, but it was the best decision ever to go up with him. The girls were so happy and well taken care of by friends and family for the quick time we were gone. SO grateful for them.
We drove up to my parent's house to get some things Max had left there when he left BYU for Christmas and promptly got stuck in the driveway.
It was bad!
Luckily there was a car in the garage my parents had left (they are in Australia with some speaking engagements they had committed to over a year ago, far before they realized that would be when Max would be leaving...we have missed them so!).
We transferred all our stuff to the other car and raced over the mountains to Provo.
As soon as we pulled in though the gate though, Max saw one of his friends from BYU who is also going on a mission and has been in the MTC for a few weeks. He was one of the "hosts" welcoming the new missionaries. At this point, Max rolled down his window all the way and leaned half his body out yelling "Elder __________!" (I can't remember his name) with all the excitement you can imagine.
This kid saw Max and got equally excited. He ran down the whole length of the driveway yelling, "I get to host this one!" to all the other "hosting" missionaries with a big smile on his face. I wish I had taken a picture of the reunion of those great boys.
Instead, he took a picture of us and told us it was time to go.
So we gave one last hug...
We were all smiles right at that moment. So excited for him and watching him walk off into the adventure of his life.
We drove away with tears streaming down our faces, hoping the smile radiating from his wouldn't change as quickly as ours did!
Oh parenting sure tugs at heartstrings more than anything else I can imagine.
We had 24-hours in Utah so we utilized it well. Dave took me to a movie to get both our minds off of the missing.
The only problem was that it was "Brooklyn," which is a great and beautiful movie, which leaves a ton to discuss and dissect when it's done (one of my favorite qualities of a good movie...part of it made me MAD which I loved discussing with Dave).
But the subject matter wasn't the best for that moment in time. It's about a girl who leaves her family in Ireland to find a new life in Brooklyn, NY. Not the best thing to watch after you drop off your son for a two-year stint so far away.
I just sat there with a few tears filling up my eyes.
Despite the subject matter (we'll have to watch that again when we're both a little more emotionally stable), we sure had a good time together up there.
Love this man more than I can say.
Then we got to go out to eat on our own: a special date. Things have been so busy/crazy lately I was so grateful for some time to just decompress and just BE. Just the two of us. It was a pretty great night.
The next morning Dave headed out for his other love:
...While I met up with my Utah sister Saren and got to knit my heart with hers for a little while doing something we both adore: hiking.
(I know that once again we can point out that I'm not good at hiking gear, especially in the snow...
...luckily my sister sure is!)
We went up behind the beautiful Utah state capitol:
And hiked up "Ensign Peak."
See that peak up there? That's it.
It was a kind of dry, cold and gorgeous hike.
It was pretty view from the top. Especially if you just imagine that blanket of the infamous Utah inversion out of the picture.
Ensign Peak is where the pioneers hiked to scope out "this is the place" where they wanted to settle the Utah valley back in 1847. Here's more info.
Saren treated me to a little late-birthday lunch after that. It was the perfect food and the perfect conversation.
So very grateful for that sister of mine.
Then we went from this:
This post cannot end without mention of serious kindness coming into us from every direction. My phone was buzzing through the last whole week with messages of love and care for us all as we dropped that boy off.
They just kept coming and coming. I felt so overwhelmed with all that kindness. Every time a new message came in I would tear up again. Then an email would come, then a phone call. And more tears.
Someone dropped this off at our doorstep the night before we left:
(there wasn't a note...THANK YOU to whoever was kind enough to think of that!)
There were also treats and notes and fresh-baked bread, so much kindness spilling out from everywhere.
Someone sent this too:
HERE. THANK YOU Simply Designed, we are so excited to have something documenting Max's journey.
Our first four days look pretty measly on that big island of Taiwan, but I'm sure it will fill up before we know it.
So grateful for the love and genuine concern that has come from blog readers as well. Many thanks and love to you! Feeling so very blessed and thankful for people who reach outside of themselves and lift. I hope all these examples will help Max "lift" as well as he works so serve and love the people of Taiwan.