Saying goodbye to my grandmother and losing loved ones while traveling

Posted: October 7, 2011    Categories: Travel

I arrived in Quito yesterday after spending 4 days in the Galapagos Islands. It was a great experience and one that I’d like to repeat at some point in the future, but with a 500mm lens to do some proper wildlife photography. It was a great experience and I’ll be writing on it in more details when my photos are edited (which I hope to finish this week).

My mood was changed, however, when I found out later that night that my grandmother passed away. She was 90 years old and and suffered several bouts of ill health. This is one of the things that many people worry about when traveling: having a loved one pass away when you are gone.

This was an possibility I discussed with my parents before I began traveling in 2007. When you grandmother is in her upper 80’s, the possibility of her passing away while you are traveling is something you have to think about. My mother told me many times if something should happen I shouldn’t fly back home. If something did happen it would probably be sudden and by then it would be too late.

I did have to deal with this last year when my father passed away. I was in Spain when I heard he was hospitalized and I eventually made it back to Wisconsin after being delayed for a week by the volcano in Iceland. Thankfully, I was there for him for almost 2 months before he passed away.

I looked into getting flights back to Wisconsin from Quito but 1) there was no guarantee that I’d make it back in time for the funeral, and 2) it would have been prohibitively expensive. I have no problem paying the money, but my mother agreed that it was best to just stay put and I’d pay my respects when I return. It was a hard decision to make but it is probably for the best. I’m sure that is what my grandmother would want.

I am glad that I stopped by to pay her a visit before I left on this trip two weeks ago. When I last talked to her she seemed as in good of health as you can expect for being 90. There had been health scares in the past where we thought she wasn’t going to make it. One two separate occasions doctors told my mother and my aunts that she only had a day or two to live. In both cases, she kept right on going.

In talking to people who are thinking of traveling long term, this subject comes up more frequently than I would have expected. Many people are frightened about the idea of losing someone while they are away having fun. I understand the fears completely.

Everyone has to answer that problem in their own way. Obviously, if someone is in critical condition and something could happen soon, traveling might not be a great idea.

However, I don’t think you can live your life waiting for people to die. I know my grandmother was proud of me. She always asked my mother “Where is Gary?” and she enjoyed all the photos I showed which I took around the world. Even though she never read my site, she was aware of what I was doing. (Not only did she never own a computer, she still had a rotary phone in her house!)

It is tough losing someone who has been apart of your entire life. It is even tougher when you aren’t around to say goodbye.

This is the second time I’ve had say goodbye to a family member on this website. I hope I never have to do it again.

Grandma, I will miss you.

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