What Makes Us Run
A few times, when in deep, reflective talks with various people interested in discussing our lifestyle, we’ve been asked this question: “Are you running away from something?”
I can’t deny that there is some slight truth to an affirmative answer. Given the tragedies that plagued our lives during 2007, there is a desire to get far away from the painful memories that plague us. To leave behind the too-large home that we failed to fill with children, to not have to drive by the establishment that housed my sister’s funeral. To escape the corporate-culture that defines our old city, after being sucked dry of all our will and ambition to succeed.
That is part of it, but it definitely doesn’t define us or our travels. It is still much more about fulfilling a lifelong dream to constantly eat, hear, taste and breath foreign cultures. Because if we’ve learned anything, it’s that life is far too short to not spend every waking minute doing exactly what we love.
And can we ever truly escape anyways? Given today’s modern technology, we can still be highly involved in what goes on in our old home town and with those we love. We’ve used chat sessions to provide advice to friends going through difficult times. I can still conceptualize the stress that accompanies driving on Calgary’s busiest thoroughfare, and easily empathize with my friends on Facebook when they complain about it. Our family problems are still our family problems, no matter how many miles are between us. Never mind that this lifestyle presents newly created (and unescapable) challenges to be faced. After over three years, we still grapple with being ‘out of mind’ of the people left behind. There are few worse feelings than being forgotten or feeling inconsequential to those you love. We’ve learned that such drifting is inevitable, but that realization doesn’t make it any easier to bear.
What we can be thankful for is that in this lifestyle we have created, we have created the flexibility to run back if we need to. During the last week of our time in Wisconsin, when we were both scrambling to draw those satisfying final ticks on our to-do list and also prepare for the next stage of our travels, we were halted in our tracks. A rapid build-up in the intensity of frantic phone calls from home had flight search engines firing on both computers. I needed to go back.
Within a couple of days I was flying a bizarre pattern over the US, from Minneapolis to Phoenix and up to Edmonton. I hitched a ride north with an uncle I hadn’t seen in ages, and finally made my way to the side of my ailing Grandmother.
Her health declined only recently and quite quickly, being admitted to the hospital only a few days prior to my trek north, and in just a couple of hours after my arrival, she closed her eyes for the last time. She hung on through the night, with her children, myself and another granddaughter sleeplessly attending to her. Never a minute passed without her hand being held, her head being stroked, her mouth being kept moist by a wet sponge. We gasped every time her breath appeared too staggered – we all knew she was going, but still couldn’t bear the thought.
And then, just 27 hours after my arrival, as her beloved family began tucking into Sunday dinner brought graciously by another of our kin, she took her last breath. I sat at her side with my hand on her arm, waiting desperately for the exhale that never came. Still at a loss for words, I waved for everyone else to come to the bed. The room erupted.
I could fill pages of what my Gram meant to me, our family, and her entire community. She had a giant personality and a booming voice always laced with laughter. She was a beacon of joy, a pillar of strength, and a loving matriarch for so many. I truly believed that she might find a way to outlive us all; life without her had never previously crossed my mind.
And as I sat with her in those final hours, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I hope she knew I was there, that I would have done anything to make this transition time for her as comfortable as possible. That in giving her that peace, I was giving it to myself as well.
I hope she knew that I would have run from any corner of the earth for her.
I am so thankful that in this life that we have built for ourselves, this life that does not bind us, I am free to run in any direction I choose. I can run both away or back as I need to.
That is part of its beauty, especially in tragedy.