On Wednesday (Nov 1st), my mom and I left Salt Lake at 9:00 am on a direct flight for Reagan National Airport in DC. We rented a car and, using GPS and a whole lot of prayer, made our way to the Pferdners apartment (a senior missionary couple serving at the VC) where we were staying. We had surprisingly little traffic or problems getting there - it was definitely the first of many miracles. Then, that night at 9:00 we left to try to find the mission home in the dark. Again, thanks to GPS and prayer, we found it without a problem and marched up to the door to retrieve my kid. I had played that reunion over and over in my head for 18 months, and it was a wonderful, emotion-filled moment:
On Friday (Nov 3), Sister Galli wanted to go to the Visitors Center for the weekly sister's meeting since she was still technically a missionary. She also wanted to see everyone again so we could meet them and so she could say goodbye one last time. It was fun to finally meet these gals who had made an impact on her life over the past 18 months. We toured the VC that morning, went to lunch at a Jewish deli with Elder and Sister Ferrin (the director and his wife), attended a session at the temple, toured the temple grounds, and then went back to the VC to wait for Paul and Mireille (a couple who Sister Galli had been instrumental in converting). Paul had just been baptized a few weeks before and this was going to be his first time attending the temple. They brought some family names to do baptisms for the dead. We were able to go with them and watch from the waiting area. Sister Galli was able to go back to the font with them. Mireille was just beaming when she came out of the water and while she watched her husband. It was a really neat experience and we were lucky to be able to be part of it. After that we went back to the VC and looked around a bit more - at that point I started to feel like Sister Galli was putting off the inevitable. She told me that leaving a mission to go home is harder than leaving home to go on a mission. We finally left around 9:00 and headed back to the apartment. That was a hard night for her.
On Saturday (Nov 4), we went back to the National Mall so we could see a couple of the big things that we had missed. We started out at the White House. It was kind of cool, I guess. We didn't spend the time going inside to tour it though. Mostly I enjoyed seeing where it was located in comparison to everything else. At that point it was almost lunch time, so we decided to start making our way up toward the Capitol building since we had a tour scheduled there that afternoon. Even though I had been warned about all of the walking, I was really surprised by how long it took us to get from one place to another. I think that was partly due to everything being so HUGE and appearing to be closer than it was. We were finally able to grab lunch at a food truck between the Washington Monument and the Capitol, and we just sat there with everyone and ate on the lawn. It was a lot of fun! I wish we would've had more time to just 'hang out', but we desperately wanted to see everything and we didn't have much time to do it. The tour of the Capitol was awesome - I actually didn't know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was. After the Capitol tour, we managed to visit the Botanical Gardens for about 20 minutes before it closed. It was starting to rain at that point, so we decided to head back and call it a day.
On Sunday (Nov 5th), we packed up and left the Pferdners' apartment first thing in the morning. We went to a 9:00 ward in Kentlands that Sister Galli had spent 9 months of her mission in. There were lots of people there who she wanted to say goodbye to - especially Paul and Mireille's family, and Adrian (all converts). It was very difficult for her to leave when church was over. This was the last time she would see many of these people this life. However, we had plans to drive up to the Fort Meade area to attend a ward up there as well, so we had to go. About an hour later we arrived at the Fort Meade ward. It had already started, but Mario (one of her converts) was in the middle of bearing his testimony when we walked in. We were able to attend Sunday school with him and then she decided it was time to head out and move on.
We drove to a hotel near the Baltimore airport so we would be close-by for our early morning departure. It was nice to relax there for a few hours before bed. Our main concern was getting our bags packed that night with all of the extra stuff we had accumulated, and to make sure that Sister Galli's bags were under 50lbs. The bigger one ended up being 44lbs after we moved some things around and put several pairs of shoes in my backpack. It was stressful! Everything went well though and before we knew it we were on our way home to Salt Lake.
We landed in Salt Lake around 1:30pm (Monday, Nov 6th) and I knew a group of people were waiting there for us. As we walked toward the escalator, I felt so nervous inside for her. I took a video from behind her, going down the escalator - kind of a weird point of view for a missionary airport homecoming. It was good to see so many of our favorite people!
The following Saturday (Nov 11th), we had an open house at our home for people to come and visit with Hannah. The next day (Nov 12th), she spoke in Sacrament meeting at our church. Between the two events, many of our family members and friends were able to come and spend time with us.
It has been so nice to have her home, and we missed her everyday while she was away, but her mission was a life-changing experience for her, and a huge blessing for our family. We are all so thankful for this experience! Thank you for sharing this journey with us.