Column: The hardest two years

TRL's Lulu Butler reflects on missing her brother as he leaves for mission


Courtesy of Lulu Butler

Lulu Butler says goodbye to her brother, George, before he leaves on his mission.

“You never know what you have until it’s gone.”

As my eyes filled with tears and my vision blurred, I saw my brother and best friend disappear into the halls of the airport and into the abyss of his future.

Without me.

I remember as I hugged him for the last time, not wanting to let go. I would then have to accept the fact that my big brother wouldn’t be there to help me anymore. He wouldn’t be there to teach me sports lingo or show me which team to root for. He wouldn’t be there to drive me to dance every night or show me undiscovered rappers that were “bound to be famous.” He wouldn’t be there to make me laugh until I cried. He wouldn’t be there to see me learn to drive or watch my sister go to kindergarten. He wouldn’t be down the hall, just one bedroom away from mine if I needed anything. He just wouldn’t be there anymore.

And that scared me.

My brother chose to leave the comfort of our family on Sept. 13 to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. An LDS church mission is a two-year proselytizing mission to spread the message of Jesus Christ and to provide hope and happiness. These missions are served worldwide and specific leaders of the church choose which mission best suits each individual. Due to rules about contacting missionaries, families are allowed one day of communication each week via email where a missionary can update their family.  Missionaries are also allowed to video chat with their families on Christmas and Mother’s Day. This limited communication with friends and family serves to keep the missionaries focused on teaching and serving others.

Courtesy of Lulu Butler
The Butler family skypes George on Mothers day.

Although these missions are often looked at as a large sacrifice, they’ve often been described as “the best two years” of one’s life because of the invaluable experiences they acquire. For me, they would be the best, yet hardest, two years of my life.

Knowing I would have only have four opportunities to speak with my brother in the span of two years overwhelmed me. Unlike most of my friends, my brother won’t come home on Christmas or Thanksgiving. He won’t come home from college to live with us during the summer. He won’t be a phone call away or someone I could visit regularly. Although I understood it would be a life-changing experience for him, the sadness I felt when George left made me think it was an insurmountable journey. That goodbye in the airport wasn’t just a goodbye for two years. It was a farewell to living in the same house as a whole family. It was a goodbye to time that we would never get back.

The ride home from the airport that day was long, my family wrestling with the idea of how we would spend the next two years without him. I sat in George’s room that night wishing I had done things differently to have better enjoyed our last months living under the same roof. I wondered if his mission would be worth the sacrifice. Why did the people of Montana get my brother for two whole years? Why was it so hard to say goodbye?

But before I had a chance to blink, I saw a change in my brother. His weekly emails home showed his hope in the future and his willingness to help others. I saw the lives he was changing, most importantly his own. I saw his testimony of Jesus Christ strengthened. I saw how he was blessing families just like ours through teaching and service.

What I had failed to recognize that day was the purpose of my brother’s mission: to strengthen those around him and give them hope. It wasn’t about my family or even about George. It was about helping those who needed love and hope in their lives. While serving in Montana has been a “major sacrifice” for my brother, “the people [he’s] met and the experiences [he’s] had so far” are far beyond what he could have ever imagined.

So as I eagerly await the day I get to see my brother again, I reflect on what I’ve learned thus far: these best, yet hardest two years are a small price to pay for the blessings it’s brought to those he’s serving and our family.