A little over two years ago my grandmother, lovingly known as Grams, left this world. She passed away on a beautiful late spring day. The skies were a brilliant blue, a warm breeze floated scents of blooming flowers through the air, the temperature was what Grams would have considered ideal- lows 70s, a perfect weather day. Grams was my safe harbor, my best friend, my constant companion. We had an amazing and unique relationship. Her love for me was so strong that it made me feel as if, in her eyes, I alone hung the moon and the stars in the sky.
Grams loved to travel. She enjoyed talking about her journeys to Germany, Hawaii and Mexico. No matter how many decades passed since she took those trips, she talked about them so vibrantly it was as if she had just returned. Grams was the inspiration for my blog. Even when her abilities to use her hands were failing, she managed to figure out how to use her kindle to read every entry. She always called as soon as I returned home and begged me to come over. When I arrived, she peppered me with questions about our travels and her eyes lit up as she lived vicariously through us.
Grief is a very personal experience. It’s complicated, it’s beautiful, it’s confusing, it’s never ending. I have spent the last two years fumbling through life with this gaping hole in my heart and trying to figure out how to be in the world without my best friend.
When I travel, the waves of grief sometimes reach tsunami level. I believe in Heaven. I believe that Heaven exists way up in the sky. Planes generally fly at about 30,000 feet above ground level. Floating above a sea of clouds in the brilliant blue skies I can’t help but think I’m 30,000 feet closer to Heaven. How much further do I have to go to just see Grams one more time? I have taken countless flights in the last two years. Each flight I’ve cried silent tears and choked back sobs because somewhere in my mind I believe that I’m physically closer to Grams. Just not close enough.
Traveling is a break from the monotony of life at home. From the tops of the mountains in Poland, to the ancient churches in Athens, to the stunning beaches in Mexico, Grams fills my heart. In my mind, I cannot wait to return home to tell her all about everything I am experiencing. Then reality sets in. She is not there. This always makes coming home so bittersweet.
While Grams is no longer at home, she is here. I feel her in my heart so strongly in every place I go. No longer do I have to call home or write a blog post. Instead of impatiently awaiting my homecoming, I feel she is experiencing every new thing right alongside me. I see her in every sunrise and every sunset, I feel her presence in the light breeze that provides a welcomed respite from the heat. It’s strangely comforting and heartbreaking at the same time.
In the past six months I have also lost my grandfather and my cousin Sara. I think of them everywhere I go. When we were hiking in the mountains last week and it felt like I couldn’t keep moving forward, I conjured up strength thinking of my loved ones and what they would have given to have been able to experience what I was fortunate enough to be doing. Their love and their memories give me strength. They remind me to drink in the sweetness of everything around me, pay attention to the small details, to remember that every day is a good day, that life is a gift, and to love fiercely and unconditionally.
Travel kicks up waves of grief for me. Like the lull of the ocean, these waves have grown comforting. How lucky I am to have been loved so much. How lucky I am that I still feel those I have lost and that I am now able to carry them along with me on these great adventures I’ve been fortunate to embark on.
I picture myself traveling decades from now. I suspect that with every flight I take, I will always think about being 30,000 feet closer to Heaven, that silent tears will fall and that my heart will feel so full of love.