Darrell, His Mission, and Me


My brother was a stranger when he left, a dear friend when he returned. How did that happen?

I am the youngest in my family. There is a five-year age difference between my brother Darrell and me, and we were not very close. You might think that five years is no big deal, but 14-year-old brothers rarely have much in common with nine-year-old sisters.

As we grew up, we might as well have been a hundred years apart for all the attention we gave each other. We didn’t dislike each other; we just never talked or saw much of each other.

During my 13th year, I became friends with some non-LDS girls. One in particular loved to dare me to do things against what I believed.

Then this strange thing happened. Darrell took the first step to bridge the gap between us. He let me know he was worried about how much time I spent with these girls. It made me angry. I felt he didn’t trust me. But it did make me start thinking, and I pulled myself out of a dangerous situation before it was too late.

You’d think we would have become super close, but our moments of closeness were few.

And then he left on his mission to Mexico.

Oh sure, I wrote to him like everyone else, but our letters to each other could have been form letters; there was nothing personal in them. If this wasn’t enough, the family was in a Darrell-mania craze.

“Look, Katy, another letter from Darrell. Would you like to read it?” Mom would ask as she held out the letter as if it were from heaven.

“Uh, no thanks, Mom. Just leave it here. I’ll read it when I’ve got some time,” I’d mumble. Well, if I wouldn’t read it, then she’d proceed to tell me all about it, which irritated me all the more.

Dad was just as bad with the slides Darrell sent. Dad was forever nagging me to come and see them through his viewer. When I’d politely decline because of homework or something, he’d act hurt and say, “I guess you don’t care about your brother’s mission, huh?” Then I’d bristle.

With ward members and other relatives and friends always asking about Darrell, he was the only subject talked about wherever I went. I was sick to death of hearing about Darrell.

One day Mom started to talk with me—about Darrell, of course. But instead of talking about his mission, she recalled different memories of him, some good and some bad.

“You know, even though we had some rough spots, I really miss him,” Mom said. Then she looked at me. “Do you miss him sometimes?”

I meant just to say, “Of course I do,” but I felt strongly that I should say what was true. “Not really. I hardly miss him at all.”

Mom looked shocked, so I spoke quickly. “It’s not that I don’t love him, Mom. It’s just that I really don’t know him. How can you miss someone you hardly even know? Think about it, Mom. What have Darrell and I ever done together to make us close? When was the last time you remember Darrell and me doing something together?”

She didn’t answer because, like me, she couldn’t think of any.

That night I decided to write to Darrell. I started with the usual lines about school when I stopped. I thought to myself, Why not tell him how I really feel? So I did. I poured it all out into that letter, all about how I really didn’t know him, and my feelings about his mission. I also added some things that were going on with me, about my new music lessons and about my goals to become a writer someday.

As I sealed it, I knew it wouldn’t be the most cheerful letter he’d ever receive, but it expressed my true feelings and I knew if I didn’t tell him I’d go crazy.

I was on pins and needles waiting for his answer. I came home one day to find a letter from Darrell waiting for me. I ripped it open and began to read:

“Dear Katy,

“I was very thankful for your letter. On Thursday I woke up homesick—something was very wrong. When my companion and I left to go tracting, we both felt impressed to check the mailbox, but there’s never anything in the mail until after four o’clock. But there was your letter. I love you, and I get the feeling that you want to talk. Fasting, prayer, and many tears have gone into this letter. I hope you will read it carefully. …”

He went on to tell me that I was right. We really didn’t know each other, and so he told me he’d like to be friends.

“… I can understand how tiring it must be to hear about me all of the time, so here in Mexico you have some relief from ‘Darrell-mania.’ I want to hear all about you!

He was very impressed with my goals and my high school schedule and even offered some advice.

He told me many other things that are dear to my heart but too personal to tell anyone else. But it made me feel warm and good inside. It made me remember my experience during my 13th year and our moment of closeness. I remembered that feeling of closeness, because it was back again only much stronger than before.

I was crying by the time I finished his letter. Darrell truly cared about me, and my letter had helped him. Before, I’d been jealous of him and his mission. I resented all of the talk about him and the looks of pride in my parents’ faces, because it made me feel as if I were loved less, cared about less. I felt anything I could do would never be as important as Darrell’s mission. But Darrell made me feel so important, as if what I did mattered. And he really did want to hear all about me. I was deeply touched and deeply grateful.

From then on my letters to and from him were much more meaningful. He took part in helping me with my problems and in helping me to become a better person and learn to grow up. I love him so very much, and the best part about it is I know that my brother loves me too.

[photos] Photography by Melanie Shumway