It’s been 8 months since my father died. I haven’t forgotten the trip I took to visit with my dad before he died. Time has muted the pain for me, and I can focus on the beautiful aspects of going to see my father for the last time.
I traveled one thousand miles from the Midwest to Colorado to spend some time with my father. I’ve been fond of traveling all my life, but this was the first trip I’d been away from my girls more than overnight. First time in 18 years I’d been apart from my husband for so long, too.
I have to say, while some part of me was excited (because, boy do I love adventures!), I was still a bit anxious and afraid to go that far by myself, even as old as I am. I was hurtling into the unknown, unsure of the trip itself (knowing how the Amtrak trains frequently break down), unsure of what condition my father would be in when I got there, and unsure of how I would feel about my father dying and my stepmother losing her best friend in the whole wide world.
Unlike the last time I took this train ride, my dad was in the pink of health (mostly), and eager to see my husband, our children and me during the week of my 40th birthday, this time it was alone, to be with my dad and stepmother and help with his hospice care. I knew it was what I wanted to do, despite my biological mother’s vehement protests before I left. I was also worried that my daughters wouldn’t be able to handle me being gone for a week, or that my husband would have problems taking care of the three of them by himself.
I was apprehensive, uncertain of my safety and the long and emotional journey ahead. I brought my teddy bear, Dexter, and a few other stuffed animals my daughters gave me. Dexter the teddy bear has traveled with me before. I’ll have to tell you about his adventures some day.
I fully expected a long, quiet trip and time to emotionally prepare to meet my father and stepmother again. I expected I’d be writing a lot. And crying a lot.
But that didn’t happen.
My seatmate was a friendly young woman of 26 years with a blue streak in her hair and a subtle tattoo of a cross with the word “REDEEMED” on her chest, who was on her way all by herself from Ohio to Denver to go to a wedding. I was headed 2 hours south.
I made some initial polite conversation, thinking I was only going to exchange some pleasantries and then retreat back into my shell. Interestingly enough, though she was 18 years younger than I, we spent the most of our waking hours of the 18 hour trip talking.
We went to dinner together.
We went to the observation deck together.
We watched the sun rise in the morning together. And it was amazingly beautiful – the red-orange ball slowly creeped over the horizon and greeted the land.
While the details of the conversation is now lost on me, I can tell you I really appreciated this young woman’s presence on the trip down to see my dad. It was truly wonderful to not be alone during that time. It grounded me and gave me something happy to think about. Her youthful, adventuresome spirit and friendly nature was exactly what I needed right then.
I am reminded that when even when I’m not sure what I need, the Universe provides me with the right kind people who can share the journey with me, even if just for a little while. And I realize sometimes the smallest connections yield a significant impact.
As it turned out, it was one of the most beautiful and poignant weeks of my life.