I have been living away from my family for seventeen years as of this month. I had wanted to leave my home state of Illinois since I was thirteen and finally managed it (thanks to graduate school) in 1994 when I moved to New Mexico. I missed weddings and baptisms. While funerals were arranged based on when I could make it into town, it didn’t occur to me in my twenties, or in my thirties (as I exit them in just a few short months), that being so far away could be a detriment to saying goodbye to the people who have been important in my life. Or supporting the people in my life who experience losses.
A month ago, when my Uncle Hank – my Godfather – entered hospice, we didn’t know that his life would end so quickly. And when it did, I had to find a way home that also left me time to get to Tulsa for a speaking engagement. It was important I be there with my family. Over three days, I traveled on four planes, managing to make the last hour of the wake, the full funeral, and then to speak in Tulsa before returning home to New Mexico where I crashed.
Fast forward four weeks, and I’m bound for Chicago again on Thursday. The reason for this trip: Ginger, of my book Ginger’s Gift: Hope and Healing through Dog Companionship, is very sick. The last report from Mom, just about thirty minutes ago, is that she didn’t want to eat today. To list Ginger’s ailments would take a page. While she was never sick before, in the spring something changed and she continues to deteriorate.
Though I've planned a trip to Chicago for the second half of September, there might not be enough time. I need to see Ginger now. Because of various appointments (and the seven-day advance the airlines impose), I can't make it before Thursday.
Yesterday, when I got a text from one of my best friends that her dad had died suddenly, I knew there is more than one reason for me to go home.
This one is hard; I will miss the visitation and the funeral. But I remind myself that we have plans for Friday night, probably for some dinner and conversation, and that will be what she will need more than me being there in what will be a hectic few days. We’ve been friends since high school, when we were fellow running teammates. She was there when my sister died, and when my dad died. And now it’s time for me to be there for her.
It won’t be the way I want to be there for her. If life were perfect, I’d be at the visitation tomorrow. But synchronicity will help me understand one day that Friday evening is when I’m supposedto be there for her.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.
Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons/travels of a monkey