It's been a rough week for missionaries. Monday mornings I always check my email early as I search through the spam for my email from Stefan. This last Monday, my heart stopped when I read of the death of a 19 year old missionary in Sweden on Sunday. His family. His heartbroken family.
As parents, we know missions are inherently safe. We only hear of more deaths because there are more missionaries serving. But we also send off our sons and daughters with the knowledge we may never see them again. Remember my long hug when Ben came home? That's because I worried every day-- even on his flight home-- that he wouldn't come back to me. I'm so grateful he did.
Missionaries also worry for their loved ones at home. I know many who have lost a parent, a grandparent and even a sibling while serving on the other side of the world. But the worst story I've ever heard came out last Monday morning. Elder Ian Parrish was serving in South Dakota, his sister, Sister Jenson Parrish in Washington state. Their entire family in Pocatello, Idaho died of CO poisoning: Mom, Dad, two younger brothers.
Just thinking of their grief flattens me.
The news of the Parrish family also came on a Monday. The same morning I read this email from Stefan:
I'm sitting across from two guys playing computer games. One is an older man, serious, and he gazes at the monitor and thinks long before pressing keys. The other is maybe twenty, smiling and busily tapping away. I know neither of them. I don't know what brought them here, why they are playing games on a monday afternoon and who their loved ones are. I don't know why the older one seems so tired, why neither of them have shaved. We only see our own monitors. We're all in separate worlds.
One is superficially entertained, the other is as well, and I am crying.
He wanted to meet more often than we did. It's understandable. He lies in bed all day recovering and we are always busy. I remember he called us the day after a meeting and asked when we would come over. We had so many things we had to do, I told him that we could see him next week. He just wanted us to be his friends. We went by one day, and he was walking. We marvelled at his recovery and he said he would probably be in church on Sunday. We talked to him a bit about how he has already gotten an answer about the Book of Mormon even though he didn't hear a voice. He described the feelings he had when he read and I testified that they were his answer. He seemed reassured, and then my phone rang. Some emergency about a phone. I had to make another call right there, we said a closing prayer and left. Two days later he died.