With forty days to go until our new life begins, our plans were coming together.
We filmed a video interview for an upcoming travel series. The topic was fun and lighthearted, except for one very big question.
“What is your biggest travel fear since you plan to travel for an extended period?”
Troy and I looked at each other with confidence and responded immediately.
“Getting a phone call from back home that one of our family members is sick or hurt,” said Troy.
Three days later that fear came true.
We were moving out of our house that day and were just moving the first set of boxes to what would be our temporary home for our last few weeks in Toronto. Then I got a phone call that changed everything.
The call was from home in Calgary. It was 8:30 a.m., surprisingly early for a Saturday morning out west. It was my mom on the phone.
“It’s your dad. He had a terrible accident, and he’s in emergency. Your brother and sister are on their way. He’s in a coma.”
I was breathless and stunned. The story unfolded: my dad had taken a bad fall in the backyard and had hit his head. He had been quickly prepped for emergency brain surgery to remove the blood from the massive bruise on his brain. I took the first flight home to Calgary.
Words can’t express how helpless I felt hearing the news. I was gasping for a deep breath to relieve the shock, but nothing was working.
The next ten days were excruciating. The waiting, the hope, the despair and the non- stop evaluating and thinking made my head spin. We all visited the ICU every day, hoping my dad would regain consciousness. We left the ICU each night exhausted and spent. We woke up each day to the nightmare of seeing him wounded over and again.
Dad had some positive responses during those days, which brought us hope and optimism whenever he opened his eyes, moved his arms or responded to pain stimuli.
All the waiting made me reflect on his last few years. He had been unhappy since his retirement. He found the adjustment very difficult after forty-two years filled with purpose. As a family physician, he had been devoted to helping others and dedicated to his community of families. When he retired, he had few hobbies and friends he spent time with. It was a challenge for him to fill the void in his soul, which led to depression and deteriorated health.
I last saw my dad at my brother’s wedding a month before his accident. It was one time I saw him happy recently, when his only son married. Quietly, (yet visibly) he suffered in pain with Lupus and Osteoarthritis, which he had developed early in retirement.
After many discussions with the doctors in ICU, it became apparent the movements that seemed like tiny miracles were involuntary. Our hope faded into stark reality. The brain damage was severe, and my dad would no longer live a normal life.
It was his wish that led us to make the very arduous decision of stopping life support. It’s impossible to describe the next forty-five minutes when my dad was freed from the ventilator and took his last breath. Our family held hands together above his bed in disbelief, yet we felt a calming sense of relief that he had left us in peace and with dignity.
I’m writing this on the day of my dad’s funeral. I’m numb from the last sixteen days, yet I’m grateful. I’m grateful that I could make it home with no restrictions to see my dad. Had we been travelling, it would have been much harder to make it home. I’m grateful to have had precious time with my family, which brought us closer together than I ever imagined.
However, I believe there is a lesson in everything that happens in our lives. When I thought about my dad’s life before his accident, I was struck by a very real and painful reminder: anyone of us can leave this world at a moment’s notice. So why do we sometimes fill our days with unhappiness when life is so short?
So what now? Will we still leave on our trip?
The great thing about travelling long term?
Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com