To give you a little background...
Tanner and Zach Hamp (Tanner's friend and neighbor) were given special permission to go into the MTC a day later than they were supposed to report (the official date to report was 6 August 2014 @ 1:00 PM, and they entered on 7 August 2014 @ 6:00 PM). Their good friend, Ryker Dattage was killed in a head-on car accident on Saturday, 2 August 2014. Ryker was supposed to give his farewell speech on the 17th of August as he had been called to serve in the South Dakota, Rapid City Mission. Tanner and Zach were both anxious to get out on their missions, but they were blindsided with the death of their friend. With some special help from our stake president, President Mario Durrant, the MTC President gave Tanner and Zach special permission to stay one extra day so that they may attend Ryker's funeral. Tanner and Zach, with their families, had a very spiritual experience being able to be together when they were set apart as missionaries just and hour before the funeral. That spiritual experience only strengthened as friends read tributes and relatives shared musical talents during the funeral. And something happened that I have never seen before at a funeral. Ryker's parents spoke and gave the most powerful talks on the atonement that I have ever witnessed. Ryker's mother started her talk by saying, "Welcome to Elder Ryker's Dattage's farewell." The parents asked the bishop what Ryker would have been asked to speak about at his farewell, and he told them the atonement. The parents gave powerful testimony about the atonement...powerful enough that everyone in that room should have felt the reality that they will see Ryker again some day.
The boys and their friends were all honorary pall bearers as they drove Ryker's beat-up Bronco (Ryker's life-long dream project) to the cemetery in Providence. As soon as the funeral was over and hugs were passed around and the tears had dried up for the moment, we left for the MTC...for a different set of goodbyes and tears.
We had heard all the stories about the quick curb drop offs at the MTC, but we knew things would be a little different for us. We arrived at the Provo Temple aroundto take a bunch of pictures before crossing the street to the MTC for the drop off around . Zach was met by two mission who greeted him and helped him with his bags. No missionaries for Tanner. We waited, but no one showed up. We felt bad for Tanner, but we hurried in to the front desk and asked for some help. The girl said to bring in his luggage and that she would take care of him. We did so and then just stood there. She politely asked us to say our goodbyes and get out - in a very polite way :-). We hugged and cried a little more (I cried lots more than Missy - I'm weak). Then we stood and watched Tanner and Zach take care of things at the front desk. Actually, Zach came out two times freaking out that he had forgotten his temple recommend and then that he had forgotten his scriptures. He was genuinely freaked out, but his mother calmed him down and reassured him that everything was in his suitcases. It was pretty comical! We watched through the glass doors as they walked all the way down the hallway and then turned a corner and were gone. We talked as families for quite some time in front of the main doors. I'm not sure how long, but long enough that the security guard had to come out and ask us to leave :-).
The drive home wasn't too bad, but getting home was...horrible! All I could see was Tanner's book, Tanner's socks, Tanner's notes, Tanner's blanket. And then I made the mistake and walked down into his room to put something away. Have you ever lost something very precious to you and it finally hits you how important that thing was to your life's existence? Well, that's what it felt like when I went into his room. I sat on his bed and cried and cried and cried and cried...blew my nose...cried and cried and cried...blew my nose again...and cried. Nikkolas came down to ask me something. Seeing me only made him run to his room to cry. I went upstairs and that made Missy start crying. Again, I am very weak. Let's just say that first night was rough.
The waiting began...
Being so used to communicating with cell phones to find out exactly where someone is and what someone is doing, we became quite anxious when two days passed without hearing from Tanner. It's incredible how that little text or short phone message can provide proof of life, a proof that seems so insignificant until it's not there any more. The following are the short letters of "proof" that Tanner is alive and well.