I served an 18-month mission in Portland, OR for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2004-2006. I loved it. As a missionary, I had limited contact with my family: I could only email/write them once a week and call them on the phone twice a year (Christmas and Mothers' Day). It was hard, but it was for the best. My family was really good about writing to me often. My mom sent me long, newsy emails every week. My grandma sent me a letter in her flowing cursive that arrived every Tuesday or Wednesday. My dad, surprising both of us, I think, wrote to me frequently: most weeks would bring 3+ letters from him. I looked forward to his letters the most because I never knew what I would find when I opened the envelope: random $1 bills, Far Side comics from a daily tear-off calendar, jokes, uplifting articles, programs from events, and pictures often accompanied his letters, usually written on lined yellow notebook paper in his masculine, slanted script.
I don't know how he did it, but he always managed to share something insightful. His way with words is very straightforward, but is somehow very tender at the same time. I could feel how much he loved me in each letter, and I became increasingly humbled as I realized how proud he was of me. I think that time apart while I was on my mission brought us closer together than I ever thought possible.
Sometimes his letters made me cry, usually because of how touching they were. I received this letter in May of 2005, about 7 months into my mission. My youngest brother, David, would have been 8. My sisters Sara (16 at the time) and Lisa (11) are also mentioned in the story.
The Parable of the Little Bird
A few days ago, I noticed a little bird in front of our house. The little bird couldn't fly; the mother bird was hovering. It appeared that maybe one wing wasn't as strong as the other. When David came home, I told him about the bird. When we went out to look, it was still there. We watched it for awhile, then David wanted to hold it. We cornered it and gently held it for a minute. Then we let it go. David took a chair out so he could watch and "take care of it." I explained that he needed to let the mother bird take care of it. David said, "It needs me."
A few minutes later, David came in and asked if he could put it in a box. I explained that the more we kept the bird away from his mother it would probably die. David teared up and said, "I will be careful--it needs me."
As the day went on, David was so attentive to the little bird. He got a box with soft towels and grass, he had a lid with water in it, he would gently toss the bird in the air to help it learn to fly. I had to leave for several hours and upon my return I noticed a very carefully crafted bird box on the deck that Lisa and his friends had helped make. I asked David about the bird. He said, "Mom and I let it go in front of the house so it can be with its mom."
That could have been the end of the story, but when I mentioned the bird to Mom, she lowered her voice and said, "The bird is dead." Sara had found it dead on the driveway, probably from dehydration and handling. Mom said when she had David let it go he pleaded, "But Mom, it isn't strong enough to fly yet--it needs me."
The next morning, David came to me and said, "Dad, I got to see the bird one more time. Last night it was in my dream, and it could fly."
I suspect there are many times when our Heavenly Father and Jesus want to take care of us and spare us from the hard things in this life, but they know for our own good they can't.
God loves you, Lindsay.
So do I.