Good Bye Dad & Grandpa! Dealing with Death on the Road

June 14, 2010

Dealing with death while traveling. Dad, Grandpa and new born Mozart, 3 generations soultravelers home in santa cruz 

"It's 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

Grandpa & grandaughter Mozart in Spain celebrating his 80th birthday

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.

Davinci and his dad in Spain celebrating his 80th birthday 

"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.

Heavenly jess_mom 

"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. 

3 generations visiting the Alhambra together in Granada Spain 

"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



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.



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.



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

Thankfully, 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.

Like 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.

We will always remember his trip to visit us in Spain for his 80th birthday where we did a 3 generations tour. We all stood together in the oldest bullring in Spain where he had the great idea to play bullfighter with his 6 year old granddaughter, visited the famous Andalusian horses in Jerez, saw the sights of Seville including the gold laden tomb of Columbus, ate paella on the beach, saw a family name on a crypt in the famous Mezquita in Cordoba and visited the majestic Alhambra Palace in Granada. At 80 years old he was brave enough to even go riding on one of those famous Andalusian horses!

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.

We 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.

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j - i am so very, very sorry for your family's great loss. i LOVE that you have shared such amazing photos with us - WHAT joyful times you have had together. and your words? truly, a life well lived and loved together. thank you for sharing this. please know you'll all be in our thoughts.


Jeanne, I'm teary and smiling after your post. How I love your stories and wonderful pictures of your times together. I'm so sorry for your loss, I can only imagine the pain and grief you feel. Sending a big hug with hopes for deep comfort and joy as you treasure your good memories.


Jessie- Aw, thanks for your kind words. Our memories will be a big comfort as we did have fun! We're especially glad that we got to share Spain together and that he got to Europe & the land of his ancestors for his 80th birthday! My mom was suppose to visit too, but now she can't due to my step father's cancer battle. It is special to be able to share the adventure together!


So very sorry to read this, though I know you must be a comfort to your family even from so far away by writing your feelings down so beautifully. I never go to half the funerals in my family (namely the half that lives in Europe) but we all know love knows no such boundaries!


Krista- Sweet! Funny because I was teary and joyful as I read it. Happy at the memories and sad that we won't have more. I appreciate your kind support!


Yvette- Aw, thanks. We wanted a tribute to his memory to mark this transition forever for our family & Mozart. Also seemed only fair to share with our readers as this is our reality now. Yes, continents away do certainly make funerals difficult to attend. Had it been more familiar to the family, it would have been nice to attend virtually. We've done that with things like Thanksgiving gatherings and it's sweet to be part of it. So true though, love has no boundaries.

Sandy Salle

What a beautiful way to remember your dad, father in law and grandpa. I have tears running down my face at the beauty of this post. Thank you for sharing your story with us all, a real tribute to you and your family. May love and healing be with you all.

Nancie (Ladyexpat)

What a beautiful tribute to a Dad, Father-in-law, Grandpa. He was so loved.

Melissa Read

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, despite the strong wish to be with family, I think the written tributes and the time to grieve together will be much more healing than rushing through airports. At least you were lucky enough to have him all those years, and to have him visit you in Europe, I would have given anything to have any of our parents visit us there (both our Dad's died in their 50s, our Moms just before we started to travel) I'm so glad you contributed to a photo collage, that's something we've done that makes it so much easier to think of the stories and the good times, instead of just your loss. We send our best wishes for your continuing recovery and safety on your travels, and comfort to all your family.


Seems he was a great and nice soul.
Wish you "courage" to handle this hard time and to continue the road.

Mikayla B

Our hearts are with you 3 as we will have or will experience this too some day.


Sandy- That is so sweet! I so appreciate your kind words.It was a hard post to write, but I'm glad that we did share it.

Nancy- Yes he was! Thanks so much!


Melissa- Thanks so much! Yes, I think you are right about the rushing through airports. It would have been nice to be able to hug family in person, but probably a lot less healing in that rushed way.

We DO feel so lucky to have shared our travels and lifestyle in Spain with him. He had never been to Europe and Spain is the home of his ancestors so significant in his life too.

I mourn the fact that we won't be able to share this experience with my mother and step dad due to his health issues. There is something profound about being able to share the experience some together.

So very sorry to hear that you lost both of your Fathers in their 50's and your Mom's early too. We do feel so grateful to have had so many years with our parents. My aunts lost their mom at 7 and 12 and my brother's daughter lost her father at 20. I can't even imagine those kind of losses.

Collages and pictures of happier times are really a blessing it is true.

We so appreciate your kind thoughts!


Claude- Merci beaucoup my kind friend!

Mikayla- Thanks so much for your support!


So sorry to hear of your loss. And so hard that it comes at a time of physical sickness, too.

I do hope you get proper remembrance time when you return to California. Slow time...

Best wishes from Laos,


Anne Mirtschin

What a wonderful Dad you have had and what a wonderful testament to the special parts that fathers play in our lives. It must be extremely difficult to have heard of this news whilst travelling. Please accept my sincere sympathies.

Trans-Americas Journey

Touching post, our thoughts are with you.
Any traveler who has spent enough years on the road is bound to experience this. We have lost several loved ones and other important people in our lives while we've been on the road through the years. I particularly recall when my Grandfather passed away during our 4 year backpacking trip through asia in the late 90's. I can't think of a better memorial than the one we had on the beach near Auroville (a spiritual community in Podicherry) with a bunch of friends. Of course it is difficult being away from from family during these times, but I think it allows you to also think out of the box in order to celebrate a loved ones life in a defferent way.


So sorry to hear about your loss. Your father's and grandfather's warmth and goodness will shine through where ever you go as he is so much a part of how you stand, travel and look upon the world. Everytime you look and wonder at the worlds beauty he will be standing there too. My thoughts are with you 3. Nika


Theodora- Thanks for your kind words.


Anne- Aw, thanks for your kind words and visiting us! So true that fathers play a special role in our lives. I thought it was interesting that we are going through this when it is near to Father's Day in America.

I've been thinking about you as I'm finally going to get Mozart more involved with her blog now that she is better at typing. She usually journals in a book, but I'm thinking about having her do it more online.

I'd love her to be able to connect with other kids doing blogs around her age and hoped you might tell me how to do this.

I'll write to you if you don't want to put the answer here.

I still love what you do!!


Thanks T-A Journey! Yes, long term trips..especially at our age..means this is a possibility. Yes I so agree that it "allows you to also think out of the box in order to celebrate a loved ones life in a different way."

Our memorial was very sweet for us and Mozart even had a little burial ceremony that she made up that I think was important to her.

There is always a perfection to life isn't there?


Nika- Thank you so much for your beautiful words and thoughts! We appreciate it very much!


I'm so sorry to hear what has happened. It must have been a very difficult decision for your husband not to do. I'm also sorry to hear that you're facing some health concerns and hope those clear for you quickly. It's painful to be far from loved ones at times like the ones you're experiencing but it sounds like you have all done a great job at trying to mourn and remember your grandpa/dad from afar. Your photos are lovely and I can see how much love there was between you. He is a lucky man to have family who will remember him so fondly.


What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your grief and gratitude for this Light of a man. If you believe a soul chooses its time for departure, then Jess would have waited for you to come home in October if it were important for you to have been there. He probably hugged you all on his way out, happy for one last look around. Love and hugs to you all in your healing.


I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm praying for God to bring you his comfort during this time.

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