i made my last rounds of mission visiting in the random town of trowbridge, my middle area where i served for 4 months. that period was without a doubt that hardest time of my mission. i endured things i didn’t know i was capable of enduring, and i learned a bit about true, godlike sorrow. i remember sitting in the car with my companion on the worst day of my mission. it was raining outside and for the first and last time as a missionary, i let myself just sit because i couldn’t carry on. we cried and my companion said, “every bit of me is sad.” i am forever and ever grateful for these experiences that hollowed out my heart in a paradoxically beautiful way. i’m so glad for those challenges, which i aimed to experience fully.
that being said (woah, major debbie downer, sorry), i also saw some incredible miracles and had some great times and some outlandishly happy moments serving in trowbridge. i learned so much. in many ways, those 4 months glow the most when i think of the mission. funny how that works.
i got to take a sunday morning stroll around the town all by myself. no one was out and it was so peaceful. everything was so deserted, and so the space was completely filled with memories as i walked around. like no time had passed, i knew my way and remembered knocking on that row of stone houses or meeting someone in that specific spot on the high street. i thought about the way i was stretched during my time in trowbridge, and i grinned.
this is the turvey family, who i stayed with. they are always, always, the missionaries’ favourite family in trowbridge. their missionary spirit is unrivaled, they are such animated wonderful people, and being back in their house was like coming home. it was so fun to see so many fantastic members in the trowbridge ward.
and this, dear friends, is ruth gray and her darling children. ruth is why i went to trowbridge. we met her one rainy, rainy day on the high street, feeling impressed to contact her even though she was obviously avoiding us. turns out she was a member of the church who hadn’t attended since she was 16. teaching ruth in her home was divine. i remember sitting at her kitchen table, all three of us welling up with tears, recognizing the spirit of god. ruth came back to church and is finding so many blessings in her activity. her countenance has changed. her husband is not a member, and not a fan of the church, and it takes a lot of strength to live like ruth lives. her children will be forever blessed because of her faithfulness. i sat in front of ruth and the kids in sacrament meeting, and from the pew behind me i heard “i am a child of god” being belted out by harriet and patrick, and my heart was a puddle.
“thinking back on it, this evening, with my heart and my stomach like jelly, i have finally concluded, maybe that’s what life is about: there’s a lot of dispair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. it’s as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never.”
-excerpt from “the elegance of the hedgehog,” by muriel barbery