Vai's View: Son's honorable return from Mormon mission brings with it sweet blessings
The youngest and last of our three sons, Leonard Trey, returned from his mission to London yesterday. As you can imagine, this was a long-anticipated day. Of course, we sorely missed him, but possibly not as much and certainly not as long as his brother just ahead of him, LJ, who is 16 months his senior. They haven't seen each other in four years. It is one of those unique LDS quirks of timing when brothers are separated by a school year.
Two years ago, Trey entered the Preston, England MTC three weeks before LJ returned from his mission to Hong Kong, so they haven't seen each other since the summer of '07.
LJ and our oldest son, Landon, nearly missed seeing each other for four years as well. Landon returned from his mission three weeks BEFORE LJ left for his. Four years is a long time at their age. It's enough time to graduate from high school or college. To use up all your NCAA eligibility. Or serve a term as a governor or president of the United States.
LJ returned home in '09, got engaged exactly a week later to his waiting girlfriend Kaylie, and they married three months later. They produced for us our first grandbaby three months ago, a little boy named Gabriel, who Trey got to meet at the airport for the first time last night.
Few things are as satisfying as seeing your sons return honorably from missions. When they were infants, I didn't bless them to be college grads, although they're all destined to be, nor did I bless them to become CEOs or NFL players. I blessed them to live that they may serve honorable missions and marry in the temple. Their missions now complete, we're confident they'll follow LJ's example and marry in the temple.
I recently read a quote from Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen that being a Mormon missionary "is the hardest job in the world." If it's not, it's pretty close to the top. And because it was such a seminal and life-changing event in my life, we've been single-minded in preparing our sons to be missionaries.
Our logic was this: If we could help get them on missions and if they did it for the right reasons, we wouldn't have to ever worry about their college major, their chosen vocation, work ethic, job security or unemployment, whom they'd marry or where they'd live and raise their family, or their commitment to God and country. Nothing else could help them be enormously successful or help them deal with disappointment, failure and rejection. A mission would prepare them for all of that.
Because of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's concert in Philly last night (which we missed because of Leonard Trey's arrival), we had arranged to be at our stake president's home, Ahmad Corbitt, at midnight. It's an odd time to be released by one's stake president, but President Corbitt and I keep odd hours — he commuting two-and-a-half hours to his job in New York City and me working in local television news.
Into the wee hours of the morning, we stayed up and heard of Trey's extraordinary experiences in England, the wonderful people he met, his many companions from whom he learned so much and to whose parents we are so indebted. Leonard Trey regaled us with stories of the gifted leaders who taught him important lessons and the people he taught the gospel to that will sustain him throughout his life.
We laughed till our sides hurt over the memories of growing up together in NFL towns throughout the country and the little quirks unique to being a part of our family. It was a slice of heaven. Through it all, my wife Keala and I reveled in what is truly one of the most gratifying moments in LDS parents' lives — the reunion with faithful sons who have served their missions honorably and with distinction.
Without planning on our part, we just ended a long six-year run of having a missionary in the field continuously without so much as a month's break.
While it's humbling and so satisfying, we will miss this phase of our lives.
It has been such a blessing that we will now turn our attention to assisting our new grandson do exactly as his father and uncles have done.
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