It is 3 a.m. and I am at the Hannover, Germany airport. I am waiting in line to check in for our family holiday to Greece. Then suddenly I hear my cell phone ring. Who could be calling me at this ungodly hour? My gut instinct told me this was not good. The caller would deliver bad news. I know from past experiences that when the phone rings in the wee hours it is not for a random chitchat.
The Dreaded Phone Call
I was right: It was my sister-in-law calling from California telling me that my mother is dying and pleading with me to say good-bye to mom right then before it is too late. Having one hand with the phone to my ear, I fumbled the passports over to the airline representative. To be honest, I didn’t know how to handle this situation. Should I hang up and call back? It was an awkward moment.
I was trying to be polite answering the airline representative’s questions while at the same time stuttering on the phone to inquire about this sudden emergency. I was in shock. I tried hard to be stoic in front of the other passengers who were hoping I’d hang up and move on. Fortunately, my husband took over so I could make some sense of this all.
Expect the Unexpected
Earlier in the day my 91-year-old mother got a lung infection that spiraled into pneumonia. She was not reacting to the antibiotics and her health was deteriorating fast. The doctors feared the worst and all the relatives were called in to be at her bedside.
As soon as I passed through passport control and got to the gate, I phoned my mother. With tears rolling down my face, I yelled loudly in to the phone “I love you, mom,” speaking what I thought to be my final words to her. My husband, kids, and all the other passengers at the gate were listening intently with curiosity and concern. It was definitely an odd, inopportune moment. Five minutes later I was on the flight headed to Crete bewildered and confused.
Comforting Your Child's Fears
Recently my 10 year-old son, Sean, had expressed fears about flying. Being raised as an expat child, Sean has had much exposure to airports and global traveling; they were part and parcel of his childhood. He is, however, at the age where children are often aware of death from various accidents. Recently, a few high profile airplane crashes tweaked his anxiety. Timing couldn’t be worse. As we walked down the gangway of the plane, he sobbed as if he were headed for doom.
I prayed with him, held his hand, and told him all will be right. I promised him we wouldn’t go belly up in a ball of fire. God would protect us. He sat in the window seat with his head turned away from me so I couldn’t see him weeping. I assured him he is a good, brave boy. I felt oddly serene that our fate was secure. I hope I passed that confidence on to him.
Trust Your Intuition
When the plane leveled out, Sean swallowed a breath of relief. He had curious, unanswerable questions about his beloved Bonbon, a term of endearment for his grandmother. I felt numb yet I knew deep in my soul that no matter what my mother’s fate would be, we would continue our holiday with a sense of peace. It was like a cosmic blanket of knowledge that wrapped around my soul.
The legacy I inherited from my parents was the love of travel. They encouraged us to expand our horizons and to be open to new cultures savoring the adventure. I didn’t hesitate to get on the plane. I knew it would be what my mother wanted.
Making The Hard Decision
During our vacation, I agonized about what to do next. Should I immediately fly to California when I get home or wait until funeral arrangements are made? Booking a last minute flight across the world in the height of summer costs in a minor fortune, not including car rental and other expenses. Since we couldn’t afford for the whole family to fly, which child should I take with me? How do I tell one child that she/he couldn’t go see Bonbon for the last time? I prayed and asked God for guidance.
When Wisdom Speaks, You Listen
The wisdom that came to my heart told me it is better to see her alive than dead. I needed to say, “I love you and all is well” in person, assuring her that it was okay to let go and move on to another sphere.
Money comes and goes. Once the money is spent I would no longer think about it. In my heart I knew that if I did not see mom one last time, the regret would haunt me like the ghost of Christmas past. My daughter graciously volunteered not to come, sensing that her brother needed some special bonding time with me and my family to ease his angst.
Do What Is Necessary
We flew to California two days after we returned to Germany. My mother is an amazing, strong woman with a beautiful spirit. She survived the hospital stay and went back home to live out the rest of her days. She looked so well that it was hard to believe that a few weeks ago she was dying. But my mother is a good actress. She put on her happy face and acted like all was well. As soon as we left, her health went into decline.
Making Peace with the Unknown
At this point she is still with us, but barely. The moral of this story is to take the opportunity to see your loved ones no matter how far away they are or how much it costs. I will always remember how my mother’s eyes lit up and how she smiled so brightly when I walked into the room. It is the last living memory of her that I will take with me. I have no regrets because I don’t know what tomorrow brings.
Have You Ever Had This Experience?
Have your ever had this type of experience? Please drop me a line in the comment box and share your experience. I’d love to hear from you.