Good Bye Dad & Grandpa! Dealing with Death on the Road
June 14, 2010
only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on
earth - and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will
then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one
we had." Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
A family member dying at a distance while one is traveling is probably one of many people's biggest fear and one that keeps some people from traveling. This is not our first family death from afar since our family world travel began in 2006, but it hit very close this time. It's amazing how bad news can find you even in the middle of no where.
We were so happy to be starting our fourth Grand Tour of Europe and were two-days-RV-drive north of "our" village in southern Spain, in an isolated, rural area that was two-days-RV-drive yet to get to Barcelona our first planned long-stay stop.I haven't felt like writing or being online much, but really appreciate the many kind condolences that we received when I put this news on Twitter and Facebook. We share our story to honor a beautiful person, help us in our bereavement and perhaps help others who might also run into this fate some day while traveling.
"Bereavement is the deepest initiation into the mysteries of human life, an initiation more searching and profound than even happy love" Inge
At La Fuenta in this rural area, they have healing spa water to soak in that are as old as Roman times, so one of our favorite places to replenish during long driving days and I especially needed it because of my recovering injured arm. I stayed a little longer to soak in that healing mineral water and do the hydrotherapy, while DaVinci and Mozart returned to get a bite to eat, but as I returned, I knew something was terribly wrong as soon as I saw my husband's eyes.
"Sit down" he said and I felt as if someone punched me in the belly. I didn't really want to hear the answer because I knew I would not like this news. In an instant, I lost the natural high from the water and my heart ached and I suddenly found it a little hard to breathe. I didn't see my nine year old daughter, so my first thoughts were for her safety and then my mothers or my step father's as he has been dealing with stage four cancer since about a year after we left. I was stunned when he told me that it was his father who had died as he has been in good health, so it was very unexpected. We had recently talked to him on his birthday and he seemed happy and quite content.
"Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight" - Raymond
Mozart, our nine year old, was the one who checked the email first, and was stunned to read a message from my mother that her Grandpa had died.This is her first death of someone significant in her life. We don't use a phone and often go unplugged for days while traveling. DaVinci, at first thought she was talking about her Grandpa that is my step-father and married to my mother, as he was the one who has been going through a long battle with cancer. We were simply stunned. We hadn't checked email in a day or so thus found two emails on this urgent topic. The first email told about a stroke and the second one about his death shortly after at the hospital.
There really is no good time to travel long term because there are always reasons not to travel. At our age, one of the reasons not to go was older parents. His dad was 83 and very healthy. As much as we love our parents, we felt our greater duty was to our young child and the unparalleled opportunities that come with world travel. Luckily, we both have siblings without young children that live nearby and if there was a long- term, serious problem, we've always known that we might have to return home to help handle that for a period of time. Life is always filled with choices and we do not regret ours and we're grateful that the internet allows us to remain closer today than ever before while traveling.In many ways we stay closer by traveling the world via webcam calls than when we lived closer and appreciate each other more.
"Death is simply a shedding of the physical body like the butterfly
shedding its cocoon. it is a transition to a higher state of
consciousness where you continue to perceive, to understand, to laugh,
and to be able to grow" - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
I think my mother understands because she too needed to move away from her aging father in Michigan and join most of her siblings in California for a better life and greater opportunities for her young daughter ( my younger sister who was a late born child) as well as for her, (many years ago in her middle age years). It is a squeeze position in some ways when you have both older parents and a young child, but then life tends to put you in one squeeze position or another in most phases.
Even DaVinci's sister who lives near his dad, was many miles away in southern California when she got the news. There is no way that you can be with anyone 24 hours a day.There is no way that you can keep bad things from happening to those that you love. DaVinci's first thought was to go home, but there were many things to consider and hard to make choices when in a state of shock. We were planning to go home in October already for a visit, but wondered if we should re-work that whole plan quickly and go home now instead. We have important things that must be accomplished while there, like getting a new passport for Mozart and it made our minds spin to try to re-work out a plan that would serve our tight budget and needs. To add to the challenge we're taking a ton of vitamins, homeopathic and herbal pills now and I'm on an extremely rigid and limited diet to cure and clear up some health concerns, so not compatible with fast travel done with no time to plan. All this with very limited and slow internet access.
His father wanted to be buried, not cremated, so there was a time element that needed to happen fast and we were two-days-long-drive by RV from a decent airport. We are insured everywhere in the world, but the US, so would have to figure that out as one can not travel there without health insurance. We have no dress clothes because we never use things like suits, jackets or dresses and heels. I let DaVinci make the decision because it was his and tried to support him and his sister in California in every way that we could. This was the second parent that he lost suddenly and at a distance, ( as well as my brother who died young suddenly and unexpected while traveling) so we had been down this road before, but it doesn't make it any easier. Fresh grief often brings up all of ones grief from the past for a chance for deeper healing. Had it happened while we were in our village, it would have made it easier, but we had just transitioned to European motorhome life which is a very different lifestyle, especially this year due to my recovery.
We thought about getting us to Barcelona and DaVinci going on his own which would be easier than the three of us. His big concern was leaving us alone as I am still recovering with my arm that leaves me quite vulnerable and handicapped. Just getting in and out of the RV or in and out of the high loft bed, are risky feats for me now. DaVinci does all the driving and most of the shopping and lots of cooking these days because of my limitations ( both my injured arm that still has numbness, weakness and my bad knee all on the right side that impacts everything and makes me slow as a snail with a fast kid) and he is much more fluent in Spanish. He was afraid that if something severe happened to either one of us, that we would indeed be in big trouble without our third prong. Also as other relatives mentioned, we could also see that he really would not be of much help by the time he got home to central California from Spain, possibly not even making it to the funeral, then he would have to leave immediately, also not being able to help with the secondary chore of dealing with his father's belongings.
"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die" - Campbell
The hardest part was making the decision, he certainly wanted to honor his father and support his sister, but in the end he felt he needed to honor his obligations to us because he'd feel horrible if anything happened to us while he was gone. Luckily his older sister and her husband had plenty of support there as her grown daughter, husband and sons lived nearby as well as friends,a few close aunts and lots of relatives.. We'd even thought about finding some way to allow us to be there virtually, which seems normal to us, but too much for his family to deal with (who are not as use to virtual things like we are from cross continent interviews, conferences and virtual piano ,Chinese and violin lessons for Mozart.
Each family and every death in a family is different. In my family, not attending a funeral of a close relative is not uncommon, despite deep loving. When my brother died suddenly at 40, we were all devastated, but thought nothing about my dad, sister, and brother not coming to the funeral from out of state, nor other relatives who lived in California. We all honor this transition in different ways and we respect that. I really never understood the importance of funerals as a way for some to heal before my brother's death as I mostly avoided them before that. Funeral attendance is very important in DaVinci's family, but sometimes circumstances and distance make for exceptions.
We mourned and cried together here in Spain and sent our prayers to a beloved father and DaVinci's family back in California. We each wrote a eulogy/ good bye letter and read them aloud to each other and sent them to his sister to read at the funeral. We looked at pictures of our fun times together and sent them to be used in a collage at the funeral. Dad was a renaissance man with many talents. He went off to war at just 16 and saw horrors in the Pacific that he didn't talk about much. It always seemed odd to me that this very gentle man had been a champion Navy boxer. He was a great dancer and could make anything out of nothing. One of my favorite pictures of him, he is very young and proudly holding his only-a-few-months old baby son standing him up in one hand, balancing him somehow. Our happy memories comfort us now.
Some how, during these painful transitions, I often think of the words of a 90 something year old friend who was the "last leaf on the tree" who I met when she came to bury her 92 year old sister who was my sweet neighbor. Between sobs and tears, she would repeat again and again, "life goes on" and indeed it does. We each grieve in our own way, and traveling or not traveling, it will find us and teach us what we each must learn and carries blessings of it's own.
We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. - Kenji Miyazawa
Time is the physician that heals every grief." Diphilus
DAVINCI'S EULOGY LETTER FOR HIS DAD
I want to thank all of you for
attending my father's funeral.
This is probably one of the most
difficult passages a son goes through.
Losing your father or mother suddenly
is shocking and so painful. The irony is that he is finally going to be with his beloved
wife and my mother once and for all and for this I am grateful.I have learned so much from my father and will miss him always. My father was a very sweet soul, a very
caring man, a very sensitive man, a talented artist with a passion for learning. He loved
to fish, he loved landscaping, gardening and working on the land. He
loved telling stories and had a good sense of humor. He was a master
at making things beautiful.
My dad was one of the most creative
people that I ever knew and it was an honor to have him as a father.
He always said to me that it did not
matter what I did in life but whatever it was, to be the best that you could be and take pride in
your work. My father was the biggest inspiration in my life.
He taught me how to survive in this
world and how to be independent. He taught me about having passion. He said, "Do what you love to do
and the reward you seek will follow".
I am grateful that he was my father and
my teacher.. He gave me one of the most beautiful gifts a father could give a
son and that was the gift of creativity. I used to watch him paint when he would come home from
working all day. I used to admire the beautiful pictures he would paint. He loved painting and
drawing everything. He had no fear.
When I was older we used to talk
about the masters, Michaelangelo, and Leonardo DaVinci.There is a
famous quote by Pablo Picasso “I am always doing that which I
cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it”. That was my
father's life, teaching himself to do things that he didn't know, in
order to know how to do them. He taught by example which is a sign of
a true master. I am grateful that I had 57 years with him on this planet and I look forward to the day
when I may be reunited with him forever.
9 YEAR OLD MOZART'SEULOGY LETTER FOR HER GRANDPA
I really wish my Grandpa could still be
alive. But I know that is not possible. When I heard the news,I
thought "why?". "Why did he have to die now"? He was the best Grandfather
anyone could have and I loved him very much. And now I know that he
is up there, up there with my Grandma,the Grandmother I never knew.
And he had a great sense of humor that he always used on me. Once he
drew me ...well ME! And another time he drew me the funniest pair of sandals you could ever think of. Even though we had many adventures
together I wish we could still have many,many more. He was also a
great artist. But he wasn't just any artist,when he painted,he
painted what he felt, he was independent of himself and wasn't afraid
to show it. When I heard it was the biggest shocker of my life. I
mean this is the first death that I have ever experienced in my life.
But now,now he is resting forever,now his soul,after all of
these years,can finally be at peace.
JEANNE'S EULOGY LETTER FOR HER FATHER-IN-LAW
When I married my husband almost 20 years ago, I married into the whole
family and it is an amazingly loving, beautiful and kind family. It
grieves me so that this is the second sudden death of a parent
that we have experienced together and neither time did my husband get
to say goodbye in person to the mother and father that he loves and
honors so much. I see and feel the depth of his loss and know time and
God's blessings will heal us all.
This time we are absorbing
the shock in the middle of no where in Spain, just the three of us
crying together, trying to find our way through it, with me still
healing from a serious injury. It's so hard to be this far away from
family at this time and hearing the pain in their voices.
"When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that
which has been your delight." ~Kahlil Gibran
the many happy memories of times with Dad comfort us. He was a
very handsome man who was beautiful inside and out and full of
originality and creativity. I loved how his eyes sparkled and he'd wet
his lips when he was telling a story with heartfelt purity and
enthusiasm. He loved to dance and was very good at it, I remember first
dancing with him at Debbie's wedding when I had just joined the family.
He always lit up when he talked about his art, but he had many
interests and enjoyed being a life long learner. He loved music and I
will never forget a fun "jam" session we had together at one of our
first meetings where he delighted us by playing the spoons.
his son and many men of his generation, he often showed his love in
quiet ways, being helpful and very dedicated to his family. I always
knew he was strong, but was truly amazed at how he survived the sudden
loss of his wife and everything when he was in his seventies. I
don't think many others would have. He stayed with us some during that
time and I watched he and his son heal themselves by working the land
together during the day and talking at night. He told us then, "You
have to have a system" and it is a line we still regularly use in our
family as he did know a lot about creating a system for art, gardening
or whatever he was doing. My husband admired that about him and also
demonstrates it well for our daughter to pass on this skill for
generations to come.
But just having that time
together was special. Like her Grandpa, our daughter was going to
school with teachers and students that did not speak her mother tongue.
They had that special bond and it meant a lot to her to be able to walk
around "her" little ancient village with him and listen to him talk in
Spanish with the neighbors that she knew well. It meant a lot to her
that he came to visit her in Spain and it meant a lot to him
too. It's a memory we will always cherish. He was always very
supportive of her piano and violin playing and loved drawing for her.
We will really miss his hugs, kindness and twinkling eyes.
ask the angels to enfold our beloved Jess in their arms, may his
namesake, Jesus, always be at his side and we thank God for the
beautiful love that he shared with us.