So, as you’re well aware right now,  my baby brother, Elder Moose, is on his mission for the LDS church to Brazil.  He’s thousands of miles away.  And he only gets half an hour per week to write e-mails, which need to respond and go out to the entire family.  The next time I hear his voice will be on Mother’s Day, the first of the three phone calls over two years that he will place.  (That’s not me complaining, by the way.  That’s me letting you know why thousands of miles away feels a little more real than it usually does.)  So, mostly, I write letters.  I only have one response from him thus far, which is fine, but makes the distance seem . . . pretty big.

Of course I miss him.  But not like you’d expect.  It’s the sort of missing that you get when someone you love moves away, but you still talk on the phone EVERY NIGHT or e-mail EVERY DAY.  It’s the sort of missing that barely feels like missing.  I miss my best friends more than I miss my brother.

Now, lest you think that sounds terrible, that’s about how he feels, too, so far as I can tell from his e-mails.  Mostly, we just feel this incredible outpouring of love for each other and do our best to communicate that.  The love overwhelms the missing BY FAR.

Perhaps I would have been weirded out by how gone my brother is and how little I miss him if I hadn’t been through this on a much larger scale some years ago.

From 2008 to 2010 (with a short foray into the spring of 2011), my FIVE best guy friends were on missions.  I still had a couple girl friends around (and I got much closer to them in that time period when the boys were gone), but my rocks were away.  Three were on missions in the US (not that that made them any more available) and two were foreign.  These were the guys I had the best relationships of almost any of my friends, that I had invested in emotionally in a way I don’t think I ever will again (partially because it was that unhealthy .  And all five were leaving within about seven months of each other, to be gone for two years each.

What was I going to do?

I quickly found out that, well, I was going to do nothing.  Except go on living my life, that is.

The Lord provided.  In so many ways.  Those two years, from the outside, looked like possible the WORST YEARS EVER for my support system to be swanning off to foreign lands . . . or states (though one could rightly call Utah a foreign land – I certainly wouldn’t object and I don’t know many who would).  They were my last two years of college.  In fact, these five best male friends, one of which was Monkey, missed my graduation.  I was the first of our group and the first of my siblings to graduate.  It was kind of a big deal.  And they weren’t there.  I had just quit cutting in February of ’08 – partially because I knew my friends were leaving and I didn’t want them to be worrying they were going to get the letter that said, “Joie is in the hospital/killed herself.”  But, I was still struggling when they started going off into the mission field and we all knew it.  I think one or two of them still feared that letter would one day arrive.  Worse, my grandmother died.  Nine days after my birthday, eight days before Monkey’s.  It was NOT the time to be away from home, nor was it the time to have very little support system at home.  Perhaps the worst part of the worst situation was that I was ANGRY with my grandmother.  Spitting.  She chose to go off treatment, you see, so we were in this limbo the entire summer waiting for her to bite it and trying to pre-mourn and I hated her decision SO MUCH.  I just didn’t think about it because, if I did, I could barely function.  I had no one to talk to about that anger, really.  I was so exhausted I could barely call my best friend and I was worried about talking to my family, as they were working through this decision themselves.  From the outside, those seemed like the worst possible two years from my friends to be gone.

And yet, I was fine.  I had the panic attacks, I had the anger, I had the crying and emotional exhaustion and the isolation.  And yet, I never ONCE felt like I was alone.  I was left behind, but I was not friendless.  I found better friends.  I found that the Lord was there ever so much.  I was blessed to wake up one day from a dream, no longer angry with my grandmother.  She died later that afternoon.  I’m not sure I would have had that with the five men there!  And yet, somehow, even far away, they were.  I did not mourn alone.  I was blessed to have so many friends congratulate me on graduation.  I did not celebrate alone.  I was blessed to have friends who came home and still loved me.  I did not go through those years alone.

So, fast forward to now.  I’m having a really rough year.  REALLY rough.  2013 is shaping up to be nasty, no bones about it.  And that’s okay.  Not because the five men are back.  The only one I still talk to and can claim closeness with on a regular basis is Monkey!  In many ways, my friends group is even smaller than it was back in 2008 when the boys started leaving.  In many ways, these next two years could be considered the second WORST YEARS EVER for Elder Moose to be gone.  He and I have a special bond, a very tender relationship.  Of all my siblings, I think he understands and responds to my needs the best.  If there were years I needed him, certainly this one would qualify.

And yet, I am fine.  I have the panic attacks, I have the anger, I have the crying and emotional exhaustion and the isolation.  And yet, I have not ONCE fell like I am alone.  I am left behind, but I am not friendless.  I’m closer to my friends and finding some new ones.  The Lord is ever in my life.  I was blessed to suddenly have a bunch of people express a love and appreciation for me I didn’t know existed in a twenty four hour period.  Just as I was starting to feel like I wasn’t wanted.  I’m not sure that would have happened with Elder Moose here!  And yet, somehow, even far away, he is.  I wrote a desperate and scared letter and, the next week, I got a private e-mail that let me know I AM NOT ALONE.  That Elder Moose is in my corner, even from Brazil.  I came out in January.  There was a letter in the mail assuring me that he supports and loves me and was thinking of me on that day.  I did not face my uncertain future alone.  I will not go through these years alone.

This is what it is to be left behind by a missionary, be you a sibling, a parent, or a friend.  It is to be loved, to be watched, to be supported, to be blessed, to NEVER be alone.

So, while I wish I were able to see him or hear his voice more often, I just don’t miss my brother.  He is there.  I am here.  We are NEVER alone.