I have to go travelling while I still can.
Travel is in my DNA.
“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age… perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping… I fear this disease incurable.” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
My aunt, the day before she died, said to me ‘I wish I had seen more of the world instead of looking after everyone else, and doing what I thought was the right thing’. My mother, the traveller, had no such regrets.
And while we had the concerns over the health of the his mom, my mother in law, Phil and I knew that we will continue travelling.
She died while we were away in Sorrento. Phil had spent two days and nights at her bedside in hospital before we went away. The nurses said that he must still go on the planned holiday.
Phil has a brother. My local minister and former work colleague reminded me of this when I expressed my concerns about our forthcoming extended travel plans, before Val passed. At the time she had just gone to a nursing home and we hoped her health would improve. As the minister said, Chris, the brother, will be there while you are away. Phil discussed this with his brother. What they will do if this happens while we are away, hence the aforementioned family commitments.
My 84 year old friend, who travelled extensively after her retirement said much the same. ‘You cannot put your life on hold, the outcome will be the same whatever you do. Travelling was the best thing I did, it enriched my life so much’.
And so before the extended travel commences in July we booked some time away as Phil was exhausted with driving 3 hours to visit his mom every other week. With hospital visits and worries about finding a nursing home that didn’t smell. He was anxious about her and needed a break.
Val had had a lovely day with her family the weekend before she passed away. She went home, gave her granddaughter a beautiful ring and went to her local pub for dinner. She did seem to be in better health. The timing seemed right to go away for a few days.
But Sepsis had different plans and by the following Tuesday the nursing home had to admit her to hospital.
We had been in Sorrento one night and she passed away, with her son Chris by her side. Yes we felt sad and guilty but we knew it was going to happen but not when.
We stayed in Sorrento and filled the days with extensive sight seeing and walking. It helped. Chris did all the necessary and immediate things that needed to be done, and on our return we joined him and supported him to do everything else we had to do.
Now, a few weeks later, we have had the funeral in Winchester and the remembrance service in Yorkshire. We have spent more time with family than we usually do. Caught up with people we haven’t seen for many years. This happens when people die. We have cried and we have laughed. Shared happy memories. Discovered interesting things when sorting through possessions including some amazing photos on old slides.
These pictures were the turning point in their grief, for Phil and Chris. They rediscovered their childhood. Saw their parents at happier times, as they remembered them. The mom and dad they grew up with. Having spent months seeing their mom getting older and unrecognisable at times, took its toll on both of them. Discovering these photos and sharing them with people in Yorkshire who went to school with their parents evoked so many happy memories. Talking about the old days, the happy times, it healed them.
I met the minister again yesterday and told him about this. Thanked him for his wise words. They had helped us to remember that we have support from family. We don’t have to do everything, we can ask for help. And remember to laugh. Death is sad, of course it is. As the minister told me yesterday, it is good to recall happy memories and laugh. That is what we did, I told him, dinner with the family, we cherished our times together and laughed.
There is still a lot to do. Paperwork, mountains of it. A house to clear, major decluttering (so far 30 bags to charity and the same to the tip) some more legal stuff, a house to sell. We had made a start when she was in hospital. It is a big job. 80 plus years of memories in dusty boxes.
Phil was making lists of lists and worrying about all we had to do. He got stressed again so I booked another, more relaxing, holiday to Skiathos after the funeral.
We cannot tick all the things off before we go to Australia in July. We can’t. So we won’t. We will do what we can. Prioritise the legal things. Trying to fit everything in a tight schedule will exhaust all of us. And will make use feel failures because we won’t succeed. Our health and well being, and that of the family, has to come first.
We will carry on when get home in November. We can put some things on hold. Just not life.