My grandfather and I.
During my trip to London and France back in March, I had to deal with something no traveller ever wants to deal with.
The death of a loved one.
My grandfather’s passing was not a surprise. He had suffered a fall earlier this year and had not been doing well since then. I did see him the weekend before I left and got to tell him one last time that I loved him.
At one point I wondered if I should cancel the trip or make changes. But both my mother and my grandmother wanted me to go. And so I went. Since my family didn’t want me to change my travel plans, I didn’t want to be notified of my grandfather’s death if it occurred. It’s not because I didn’t care- far from it. But I wasn’t going to be in a time or place where I could really go through the grieving process.
My grandfather died a day after I left. Since the trip lasted about a week, my family wanted to let me know that he had passed before I found out about it on Facebook. So they waited a couple of days while I took my flight across the English Channel and enjoyed all the other activities associated with that event.
After the event, I went back to London to spend a few days exploring the city. As I walked to Buckingham Palace, I spotted a Starbucks. Some people see their logo as the international sign for a coffee fix. I see it as the place to get my wifi fix. So I stopped and hopped online. I try not to spend too much time online while travelling, but I was coordinating with some online folks that I would soon get to know offline the next day. That’s when I got the e-mail from my dad letting me know that my grandfather had passed away.
I didn’t break down and cry. I didn’t sob. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t feel anything. Psychologists say that the first stage of grieving is shock. Thank goodness for that. I needed to stay in that moment. To put my feelings aside for a while. So I packed all my grief into a bag to unpack when I got home.
The e-mail also let me know that his funeral was going to be the next day. I was going to miss it. My family wanted to postpone it until I got back, but other circumstances prevented that.
The British have a saying: “Keep Calm and Carry On”. So that is what I did. That was all I could do. I did all the touristy things I had planned from wandering the Tower of London to posing with the red phonebooth to meeting up with friends at an English pub.
I kept calm and carried on through the airport and on the flight. I kept calm and carried on through the next day when I visited my grandmother.
And then I went to my grandfather’s grave. I couldn’t keep calm and carry on anymore. But I didn’t need to. I could finally unpack all the emotional baggage I had been carrying.
Six month later, I don’t regret one moment of my trip. I knew it was something my mom and grandmother wanted me to do, and I’m sure my grandfather would have wanted the same. I do wish I could have been there for his funeral, but it wasn’t to be.
I miss my grandfather very much, and I do expect to see him again someday. But in the meantime, I think he would be happy knowing that I’m out seeing the world. He did the same thing himself when he was younger and in the navy. It is important to grieve, but also important to live.