Monday, November 2, 2015

80 - It's Good to be Back

It was the big day. October 30th, 2015, my Mom's "happiest day since the day she got married." Nobody really set an alarm because we were all so used to getting up at 6:30, and if we woke up at 7:00 it was all good, because we didn't need to leave for the airport until 9:30.

I was jolted awake. I was having a dream where someone was looking at my pictures on my phone or camera or whatever and it was all happy pictures until they got to pictures of like, burn victims with no skin on them and it freaked them out and freaked me out and shocked me awake. Do I really want to remember that? Well, I guess so, since I typed it out haha. So that was a weird uneasy start to the day.

I showered and put on the same dress that I originally left in. Yes, I totally planned to do that. I then went upstairs to eat breakfast with the others, and also take some bonine because I get motion sick pretty easily. That's to one thing that I hate most about airplanes, the likelihood of me getting sick. Some of the Sisters were commenting that it still didn't feel real, that we were going home, but it felt real to me. I think going home 'with' your companion really helped with that though.

We loaded up our suitcases in their van in the brisk morning of Bismarck, North Dakota. But before we left, we just had to get a picture.

Sister Hawkes LOVES motorcycles, and she has been so excited to get back on one when she gets home. 

And President Hess is a boss and has one. He rode it back into the garage and everything. The sound was quite exciting.

We piled in and were off to the airport. It's so funny the places you are so close to, yet so far away from. The airport wasn't in my area when I was serving in Bismarck and I never went there until flying home, but it was always just fifteen minutes or so away.

The airport will get to know President and Sister Hess very well. They will be regulars every six weeks! picking up new missionaries, then a day later dropping off 'dying' ones. We were quick checking in and didn't have to walk hardly at all to get to the security line and the later terminal. Just up the escalator and we were there! We all hugged President and Sister Hess goodbye before going through security.

The security line went smoothly for all of us, except they had to check my bag because I had a roll of quarters that they couldn't identify clearly with the xray. It's so cool to see the xray of all the stuff in your bag!

Now, it was time to wait for our plane for the scheduled boarding time of 10:37am, but my camera was close to dying and we couldn't have that! So I found a plug and dragged Sister Clegg over to wait with me. 

There is a missionary joke that often times trainers do to their trainees that's pretty funny. Sister Easter did it to me when I was her greenie. We saw a plane in the sky and she asked, "how far away is that plane?" I replied, "Not too far." It wasn't the response she wanted though because she said, "Noooo you're supposed to say a distance! Then I'm supposed to say that no, it's actually seventeen months!"

Now we were sitting at the airport, all these sisters that I was in the MTC with. It was getting closer to boarding time and at a certain point Sister Clegg said:

"How far away is that plane? ...Five minutes! Aaah!"

AAAAHHH!!! That comment punched the crazy realness up a notch!! The five minutes passed super fast and we stood in line with our tickets to board the plane.

We were at the back of the line, so we waited in the in-between tunnel gate thing for a bit before boarding. These are all five of us Sisters! All going home to Louisiana, California, two of us to Utah, and yours truly to Arizona!

That excitement and adrenaline of about to step onto that plane was crazy!!! AAAAHHHH!!!

My duffle bag was pretty massive, but they didn't hold it because they figured that it could squeeze into the overhead compartments. It was a tight squeeze, but it worked. This plane had two seats on each side. I was in seat 5C, significantly in front of all the other missionaries. 

I sat by a women a little older than me and of course, I wouldn't be a true missionary if I didn't open my mouth and say something about why I am on this plane right now next to her! Turns out she's from Utah, born and raised LDS, but then was 'excommunicated' as she put it, but then corrected herself by saying that she just doesn't go to church anymore and she's atheist and she doesn't like to get into the details of why because it offends people. Fair enough. I asked her though what she finds joy and hope in, and she said her job, which is working in mental hospitals for kids. She loves it. She loves seeing the progress that they make. She was glowing as she talked about it. It was really cool!

Pretty much as soon as the plane got all the way up in the air, we began to make our decent. It was only an hour flight to our layover in Minneapolis. I tried to get my duffle bag out myself, but it was crammed in there good and I didn't want to be a big hold up. One of the Elders helped me get my bag.

We got off and it was time to split up and go to our respective gates. Sister Paniagua and Sister Lewis took off immediately because their flight was taking off pretty soon. A quick goodbye was all they could manage to us.

After a bathroom stop, the Elder that was planning to be the follower actually ended up being our leader. The night before, Elder Deeter was saying he knew nothing about airports and that he was lucky to have the same flights home as Sister Hawkes and Sister Clegg, but in the moment of truth, he saw the monitors displaying our destination gates and led the way! I had about half an hour till I had to board the plane for Phoenix. The rest of the Elders and Sisters were very nice- they were in agreement to lead me to my gate, because Elder Merritt's gate was close to mine, and the three going to Utah had over an hour of a layover.

Elder Deeter led us to the tram light rail thing and we rode it for a few stops. They walked me to my gate, F5, and it was time to part ways, for me to be alone, yet surrounded by people. After hugging all the sisters and shaking the elders hands, I found a spot to sit and wait for the remaining fifteen minutes. There wasn't time to buy food, so I'm thankful I snagged a trail mix at the mission home! Yup, I was one of those normal awkward people, just sitting and pouring trail mix into my mouth. When I polished that off and my stomach was happy, I put in my pillowcase the essential items that I might want to take out on the plane. My wallet, my camera, some more trail mix, and a Book of Mormon. I just opened the Book of Mormon when it was 1:17- time to board.

I scooted my heavy duffle bag along, waiting in line. Poor security in little vehicles guys, having to try not to run over all the people which were in more of a massive clump in and not-small hallway instead of in an organized line. When the guy scanned my ticket, I asked him if I should have them hold my bag, if it was too big. He said it should be fine. He was right. This was a bigger plane, three seats on each side, and there was plenty of room. I just put it in one of the row 3 compartments, since I wouldn't be needing to get to it on the flight. 

I assumed my position in my seat-20C. I sat next to two guys. I talked to the guy who was directly next to me, saying that I was about to go home from year-and-a-half mission and see my family for the first time since I left. You could tell that he thought it was ridiculous to have a religious program that kept them from seeing their family for that long. I explained to him about consecration. I also had the opportunity to explain about the Book of Mormon and why it's not in contradiction to 'don't add or take away from these words,' found in the Book of Revelations. He definitely had his guard up, but I just bore my testimony of the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ. He wasn't receptive to taking the Book of Mormon, but that's ok. He was a nice Christian man.

This flight was longer, three hours. when we were level in the air, I read a chapter of The Book of Mormon. Needed to get my reading in for today! Then I rested on my pillow in front of me as much as possible to prevent sickness as best as possible. I never fell asleep though. Also, the middle aged guy pouring the drinks and giving the snacks, he totally had that gay voice that people do when they are joking... except this was his real voice... and he kinda had some of the mannerisms... so that was weird! It was just bizarre, because I didn't expect just a stereotype to be a real thing. Just a strange observation.

"Ladies and gentleman, we have begun our initial decent. We will be arriving in Phoenix in about twenty-five minutes at approximately 3pm. Please note the two hour time change. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the flight."

I had my eyes closed, the pillow over me to keep me snugly and warm. I didn't look lively, but inside the adrenaline was building! As the time passed, my thoughts were whizzing, and every other thought seemed to be the phrase, "I'm so excited! ......... I'm so excited!....." My feet were tapping on the floor. I was starting to get some butterflies that were making me feel a little nauseous. Whether it was the decent or the adrenaline that was the culprit I don't know. But the nauseousness went away thank goodness. I AM SO EXCITED! This is the moment, the moment you always envision in your head! Even when you're little! Coming off the plane to greet your family for the first time in over a year! I'M SO EXCITED!!!

The plane... touched down. I smiled.


Meanwhile, my family was at the terminal, waiting for me, as well as two of my best friends. They all wore their most appropriate outfits, from video game shirts, to shirts I bought them, to just looking nice. I'm sure the anticipation for them was worse than it was for me. They were all excited, and thoughts were spinning in their heads just as they were mine.

"Now all of you can go first," mom said. "I want the very last hug."

There was not a day that went by that mother did not miss her only daughter. This is why this would be the best day since her wedding. She would have her back.


The plane came to a stop. In my mind, I planed the best way to go about this. Should I have my camera? Nah. Pillow? ......Probably not. SO! I went up (when I was able) and got my bag, and took some time to stuff my pillow in my bag. I was nearly the last one off.

"You got your pillow?" one of the flight attendants asked.
"Yeah, got it in here, thanks!" It was nice of him to ask.

My heart was so sky high! For some reason, half of the time, I imagined walking down from the stairs of a plane outside and running to my family. Didn't quite happen like that particular dream, and it felt silly that I had that expectation now, haha. Walking ouuuut, faaammmilllyy- nope. Walk further Sister Sanderson- er.... Hannah...

The glass dividers in the middle of the hall were familiar from previous flights in as I walked in the midst of all the people getting off. My heart was flitting! My family! They were seconds away! I kept straining to look over the crowd and spot them! I SAW A GLIMPSE OF GRANDMA! I tried to weave through the people faster! I SAW MOM! AND HEARD HER!


I ran! and dropped my bag, casting it aside, and headed straight for my mother. I had already decided. She got the first hug.

Tears flowed from my face unrestrained, gasping as I held onto my mother that I love so much.

"Mom!" I exclaimed, emotion distorting my voice.

I registered that there was Adam there, and Alyssa, and my brothers Noah and Marshall, and Dad. I heard all their voices. But I just couldn't let go of mom.

"Okay, group hug," Dad said. He hugged us, and I was able to let go then and hug him. What a moment this was.

Then I walked over to cute little grandma, who pulled me away for a second to look at me and say, "and you're even wearing my dress!" and hug me again.

And then Marshall! Oh, it was the best hug ever! He almost strangled me with his arms grabbing around me again and again, pulling me tighter and tighter! I missed you too Marshall.

And Noah. He stuck out his hand. I smiled. We have a mutual understanding of his oddness and lack of displaying affection. I shook his hand gladly. "You're gonna freak." "I already have!" (Apparently "Hannah's gonna freak" has been the saying at home for awhile.)

And I hugged Uncle Mark. "Welcome back Hannah."

And I hugged exceedingly tall Adam! "It's so great to see you! Thanks for coming!"

And I hugged lastly my best friend Alyssa. It was beyond amazing to feel everyone's familiar arms around me.

This moment was everything I wanted it to be.

We didn't talk about anything incredibly significant afterward. I do remember that when I went to the bathroom mom asked me what all I did today before arriving. So I told her, and in that time, Dad came back with my suitcases in hand. We then walked out to the car. Before getting in the van Alyssa asked me if I was ok.

"I don't know. Am I ok? I just don't know what to do with myself!"

We concluded that I was in shock. 

We started driving out of the airport and holy cow! Actual six lane freeway! And holy cow! Mountains! Those don't exist in the Dakotas! Not where I served anyway.

We drove to my Stake President's house so he could release me as a full time missionary. I love President Thomas so so much. He is the sweetest man in the world. 

He took me back in his office and he asked me how I felt about my mission. I felt wonderful. He told me that I was a pure vessel, and that because I had served a worthy and honorable mission that I was clean of all my sins. He also told me to write an essay on what I have gained from my mission experience, and that I'll be glad I did. He explained when my homecoming would be and when I would return and report with my testimony to the high council. Then came this words.

"Sister Sanderson. As your Stake President, I release you as a full time proselyting missionary. Your missionary work will continue without your badge. Thank you for your service to your Savior."

"Do you want me to take this off now?"

"Why don't you wear it home."


We came home and it was the same place I had left, and they made a big sign for me! It warmed my heart! 

I was then also presented my new phone which was the phone Raleigh John was using before he left for his mission in July. It's an LG Flex! It's massive and I've never had a super cool phone like this!

And before I forgot to, I broke into my duffle bag and put on...

My new nametag! The one I had been planning to make and wear since nearly the beginning of my mission!

I walked inside and it felt wonderful. It was home.

Poor Strider though. He's aged so much since I left. Poor dog. We may as well call him patches with his fur comin out of him like it is.

And Forrest, a great may-as-well-be-part-of-the-family friend, was there to greet me in the gameroom with a, "Sup Hannah."

I expected to get right home and play videogames, but people puttsed around first and then we put in videogames, which makes a lot of sense with my family seeing things in retrospect.

But regardless! Super Smash Brothers Brawl was the last game I played with my brothers the forty five minutes before I got set apart. And my first game that I played after I got home was, you guessed it.

THE NEW SUPER SMASH BROTHERS WIIU!!! It came out while I was on my mission! What a glorious thing, to have a controller in my hands once again! It's been a long time coming! There's nothing like sitting down and playing Super Smash Brothers with your friends and family!!!

The panoramic got a little too close to Forrest's Face...

And of course, we had to play pictionary on Warioware, because it's awesome, and Adam was there and he gets into it with pictionary and it's hilarious!

And I totally called that we would have hamburger vegetable soup for dinner! It's one of my favorites! And these bowls are my favorites too! I missed them! And I missed being silly with Alyssa! And now I can be silly with her again!

Then my cousins trickled in and we played on the Nintendo 64 some Pokemon Stadium mini games (which I am still and will always and forever be the queen off), and a Banjo-Tooie shootout (which I won that too), then some more Super Smash Brothers before I called it quits at 11:00.

As people finished up gaming, I walked into my room. I would sleep in my same bed, but it was Raleigh John's old room, who is on a mission now. And all the packages that I sent home were on the desk beside the bed. And they got me a Zelda calendar! Which I highly appreciate!

My prayers that night were absolutely filled with gratitude. I told Heavenly Father, I'm so grateful that I have a worthy mission behind me. And I told him, it's good to be back.


Halloween day. I slept soundly and awoke around seven. My mom was up too, and my cousin Adam who just got back from his mission a month before I did. Mom asked us questions about mission stuff, and it was good to talk about, really good conversation. Then we started talking about movies. Well, one thing led to another and it was decided!

We went out to the Habit grill by our house for lunch!

Then we went to JURASSIC WORLD at the cheap theater! And Etzio from Assassin's Creed took our picture! There were many people dressed up as random characters because it was Halloween! Super awesome!

Jurassic World was super epic and intense and just yes! It was an awesome first movie!

Then, I was going to be a missionary for Halloween. But that got vetoed by my entire family. Darn. So we went to the store, to get me a costume. So, I got the idea to be a mime. Couldn't find gloves, but, oh well. It was still legit.

We went to the church trunk or treat and it was so fun to see everyone, and it was so funny to have some people walk right past because they didn't recognize me! And, it was a beautiful night outside might I add. The weather was perfect!

Perhaps this is why missionaries
don't hold babies...

Sunday! Church! YAAAY! It was to great to see everyone that I didn't see at the trunk or treat! Also, I have Sisters to go out teaching with! Blessings!

I became emotional and tears flowed from my eyes as Noah blessed the sacrament. In general, Noah is very cynical and does not express too much positive or sympathetic emotion. But he really holds his priesthood responsibilities sacred and as he blessed the bread it was full of meaning, said with passion and with sincerity and, it brought tears to my eyes. And of course seeing Marshall passing the sacrament in his wheelchair always touches me.

And Noah, being as it was fast Sunday, even got up and bore his testimony. He started out:

"So Hannah's home, but really nothing has changed, and I didn't really miss her either. Because always she would be on her computer and I would be in the other room playing games. And yesterday I was playing games and I come out and I see Hannah, on her computer. Nothing's changed. Didn't miss her.

"But I wanna talk about the sacrament today. We were learning in institute in 1 Corinthians I believe and it talked about how the Jews literally sacrificed the body and blood of the Savior and how when we take the sacrament we acknowledge that we really actually killed Jesus. But if we don't admit that we killed him and we have to pay then for all of our sins. So I just thought that was cool and interesting. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen."

That right there is so Noah. Mom said to me later, "In this whole time you've been gone, I have never seen Noah get up and bare his testimony. And he may say that he hasn't missed you, but he has been much more engaged and expressive since you have been home."

Dad also bore his testimony, thanking me for my service and seeing me endure to the end, and I bore my testimony, talking about my name tag and how I do still represent Jesus Christ without it.

Later that night, we celebrated Forrest's birthday. Yay!

And we then sang through choir songs for fun as a birthday dinner addition! It was great! I got to sing with my family and hear grandma play the flute, and we were able to sing "Behold They Handmaiden" again, Mom and I!

Then Monday. Back to the normal routine for my family.

I saw Marshall off to school in the morning, just like I did 18 months ago, but this time, I would be home to see him when he got back.

It has been quite something, coming home from my mission. But, if I had to sum up in just a few words how I feel, it would be this:

It's good to be back.

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