by Shawn Tucker:
I recently learned that a mission buddy got divorced last year. It came as a shock because I found out through a third party who had been sworn to secrecy. I consider this buddy pretty close; we touched base about once a year and on special occasions like when kids were born. My heart goes out to him and the people affected by this painful change. My only wonder is why he didn't allow us to support him and grieve with him during the process.
Let me start by saying that this buddy was always a private person. He would complain about people getting "too personal" in testimonies or lessons. Honestly I can only understand that like I understand Hudson Bay or subatomic particles; I'm sure that they exist but I have not the slightest direct experience with them. That is to say that I'm a very public and open person. It is in my nature to show pictures of my family on the first day of my university classes or to talk about ways I come up short as a father with strangers in the grocery store. I realize that my buddy's choice to keep his divorce private baffles me in part because we are such different people.
And I can see why someone would be very, very private about such a painful life transition. He may not want to deal with prodding, painful questions by people who might look on his situation like rubberneckers passing a car accident. He may feel like this is the best way for his children to make this transition. There could be lots of extenuating circumstances, including legal, ecclesiastical, financial, family, and career implications that make keeping this private in the best interest of everyone involved. More to the point for me is that he's a private person handling this as he sees fit, and I have no idea how I would handle something similar.
And then of course there is this paragraph—the one where I wonder aloud, publicly, if this private approach might have some drawbacks. And the main drawback is what I mentioned at the start; that I cannot grieve with him. As stated above, I found out through someone who was not supposed to tell anyone. I cannot contact my friend and tell him that my heart goes out to him in this time of what must be great pain. I can put his name in the temple and pray for him, but I cannot share in his burden. I cannot comfort one who might be in need of comfort, and I cannot mourn with one that might be mourning. Perhaps it is just that I'm such a public person or perhaps it is some interesting research about how we are meant to be socially connected, but this feels like a missed opportunity to connect, to bond, and to feel the joy of how our hearts can be knit together. Maybe that feeling of being knitted together is even more important at times like this, at times when hearts might be so weighed down.
Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.
Image credit: THOR (used with permission).