Friday, February 7, 2014

Death and Travel

Lately on my mind is how the significant and memorable events in my life have involved death or travel. Sometimes both at the same time (my grandmother died while Mr. E and I were in Lake Placid for our honeymoon.) I first dealt closely with death when two close friends, Audrey and Jon, died in a car accident. It was Audrey's 14th birthday. Jon died the next day. He was pronounced brain dead at the hospital and his family removed him from life support. I was at the hospital that day. I saw his bloated body, practically unrecognizable, living and breathing only thanks to machines. I sat with his sister, whom I knew separately because we danced together. On Audrey's golden birthday--September 14th--she was a passenger in a car driven by her older brother, a car that crashed into a tree going 90 miles an hour on a windy country road. I always wondered what that was like for her parents. How could they not hate their son for that? Which is also a terrible thought to have.

My mom thinks I started to engage in risky behavior after Jon and Audrey died. I guess she didn't recognize that I was already starting to do that. Sometimes I agree with her though. Maybe there was a correlation, if not causation. At any rate...this is something that I remember so well. The experience of seeing death so closely at a young age, and losing friends so young as well, changed how I saw the world and how I dealt with death. Certainly I recognize how this has made me more compassionate to others experiencing the death of a loved one. I get so emotional at funerals, even if I was not close with the decedent, because I see and feel the pain their loved ones are feeling. I will never forget what it was like to see Audrey and Jon's parents after the accident. Even seeing them years later...and knowing that hole in their lives was still there.

I've noticed since Blue's death that the people who have lost a loved one are much better at witnessing and talking about death and grief and losing a child. They didn't need to lose a pregnancy or a living child themselves. But if they lost a parent or a sibling, they knew what to say and what not to say. I'm sorry for their losses and their experiences, but I am grateful for their support and understanding. Blue's death has been by far the most difficult experience I have had, and sometimes even now I can't believe I have survived.

When I think of what's happened to me in my life, the next thing that comes to mind as significant in my life are road trips and plane trips and sites and sights seen. Croatia and Peru are the two trips I've taken recently (2009 and 2010--been busy with other important things actually recently!) that were so awesome and of which I am proud. Proud for going there and planning everything on our own and making the adventures happen. In 2003 I took a road trip of the Canadian Rockies and Pacific Northwest for two months on my own. I lived out of my VW Jetta, camping and staying with friends along the way. I think that trip shaped the way I see the world today as well. I have so many amazing stories from that trip. After that I lived in the mountains in Colorado and while visiting a friend in Utah for a few days, made a new friend with whom I traveled to Hawaii for three weeks the following autumn. That too was an awesome adventure that produced great stories. I miss it!!! If I could change anything about now, it would be putting travel back in my life, even with a 15-month-old and desire for more kids. Although I think I feel more held back from traveling by having to work in a meaningful job that makes me enough money, than by having a toddler. Any advice? I don't especially love being a lawyer, but it does pay the bills better than living out of your car.

My parents are going to Africa in July to visit friends in Namibia, and they have invited all of us kids and our kids. Such an amazing opportunity but I don't think we can swing it. Damn job and billable hours requirement! For now Mr. E and I have planned a ski trip this month, just the two of us, while Sprout hangs with his grandparents. (Maybe if this hadn't already been planned before we knew about Africa, we would have gone to Africa without Sprout instead of Colorado.) I am nervous about this though! Sprout knows them well and doesn't cry when they watch him and put him to bed (unlike what he does for the babysitters). But I worry about them paying enough attention to him, being able to pull him up out of the bathtub, feeding him when he's being fussy. He's such a good little guy and he won't give them any extra trouble...but 16-month-olds are a lot of work for 70-year-olds, right?? Just for now I am regretting not having kids my parents could be younger. I'm just hoping no one ends up scarred from this experience! We are already planning on taking Sprout on the 2015 ski trip. Since 2-year-olds can ski. :)

1 comment:

  1. Nothing shook up my life more than living in France for a year, leaving behind everyone I knew when I was 21, the unexpected death of my father at 22, and losing my much wanted baby at 14 weeks gestation when I was 39. So true that these are real life changers, and I find myself relating better to those who have had these kinds of experiences too. In particular, my DH also lost his father a few years before I met him, so we could both relate to that kind of grief. Sounds like you have done a lot of interesting travelling. I'd like to do more too.