I traveled last week to beautiful Seattle, Washington to visit our oldest daughter. As I began to plan, I was feeling really good about my trip and excited to spend time with Jessica and her growing dog, Moxie. I had booked the flight weeks earlier and tucked the details away in my phone. The day before my flight, I ordered my in-flight food and placed my boarding pass securely in my wallet. I was ready and set!
But on the day of my flight, things changed for me. I was flying alone, and I started to feel anxious. I could feel a familiar unsettling welling up inside of me. I wondered if I would miss my flight, or it would be canceled by the airline as so many friends had recently experienced flight cancellations. Would I be stuck at the airport alone or find myself negotiating yet another unfortunate travel mishap?
I finished my morning meeting with friends at our home and completed packing for my evening nonstop flight. My youngest daughter, Victoria, was on the phone with me as I scurried around the house preparing to leave. We both commented about my change in demeanor as time passed that afternoon. But why was I feeling this way? What was bothering me?
I arranged for my ride to the airport but, soon after, the first driver called and canceled my ride because he said he was too far away. (I was charged $7 because I called to cancel his service. Wrong.) My second driver was very engaging, and I enjoyed a smooth ride to the airport. But again, I started to feel unsettled.
I arrived early at the airport, checked my baggage, cleared through security, and walked to my gate. Within a few moments, the gate attendant called my name over the intercom and requested that I come to her gate desk! Alarming thoughts went off in my head —
They are going to cancel your flight!
You are being called because this isn’t really your flight because you already missed your flight!
This flight has been overbooked, and they need to put only you on another flight tomorrow!
My thoughts are usually dramatic when I feel stressed. Don’t you think I know that?! LOL!
For instance, when I thought the world was ending for sure on 9/11, but I would be the only one left because I was by myself with the kids while Chris was in Australia, my imagination wrote an entire novel! You do not need me to recount those moments and thoughts out loud for you to read. Or like the day when I panicked after Robert passed away because I couldn’t reach Jessica on her cell phone. I panicked and called her office and asked if they had seen her. Wow.
Writing this now makes me realize again how the tragic death of one of our children has heightened my need to stay closely connected to the other four. “My precious children” is how they are named in my phone. Yes … I do know they are grown adults!
All the thoughts. All the feelings started to rise as I walked very slowly to the airport gate counter, only to learn that an older couple wanted to sit together, and my seat change would make that possible. Whew! Crisis averted.
I soon moved onto the plane with my carry-on luggage, easily arriving at my new seat assignment. I settled there, but when the flight attendant strolled the food service cart down the aisle, passing out preordered food selections, I was passed over.
“Excuse me, Sir? My seat was changed at the gate, so my food tray may have been delivered to my previous seat assignment.”
After looking up my name, I was informed that no food had been selected for me.
“Oh, no I ordered food,” I whispered a little louder.
“No, there is no food ordered in your name,” he replied.
“Well, my name is Juli Henderson, and I don’t have an “e” at the end of my name, so maybe it just got mixed up or was delivered to my previous seat assignment,” I persisted. I had very carefully ordered a healthy meal, and I was waiting to enjoy it.
“No. There is no food for you. Well, wait until the end of the food service, and we will see,” he said.
I could feel the tears starting to form in my eyes. I could see that he noticed them, too, by the tense look on his face. The food service cart moved slowly past me as I grew embarrassed for even making the inquiry.
Over food? Come on, Juli! Get it together! I told myself silently. I pulled out the granola bar purchased at the airport coffee shop and sat back quietly in my window seat as the two neighboring passengers ate their preordered meals.
I wasn’t starving. I didn’t really need a meal. I preordered one because I was happy to be on a flight that actually offered the option. I rationalized to myself that it wasn’t necessary. After all, no one had died.
I questioned my own thoughts as they eventually brought me a fresh fruit and cheese plate. But what was I just thinking? What were those weird interruptions in the middle of my peace? No one had … died?
And then I remembered what I had spent the bulk of my day doing — what had occupied hours of my week. There it was. That was it.
I was editing my upcoming book about our precious Robert and up until I pressed “Send” to my publisher and printed my rough draft copy to take with me to Seattle, I had been in the thick of reading and editing the portion about his last days. I was reliving every sweet, precious and painful detail of his life. I was not in a good place, but I didn’t know it.
The cancellation of my ride service, the changing of my selected airplane seat, the “no food available” verbiage spoken to me just loud enough for several passengers to hear were all somehow making me feel a loss. I can’t explain it to you completely, but I felt vulnerable and lacking … mournful. It wasn’t rational in any way. It was over a ride, a seat and some food! It was just what came over me. Ridiculous, I know.
But was this feeling truly ridiculous? In the lives of caregivers, I have often wondered what happens in the aftermath when a medically fragile child passes away. I know there are articles, stories and books telling of individual experiences. I have read a few. I know I am not special or unique in these seemingly irrational feelings that can push you right back to a place you have been running from. It is normal and should be expected. I just didn’t expect it that day after I had found a place of complete joy as I released Robert’s life story into my publisher’s arms.
I hope you will understand this post. I know many of you who are or have been caregivers will understand it completely. Sometimes grief lingers on for years and catches you by complete surprise. I hope you will recognize it for what it is: a deep sense of loss that is born from a deep sense of love.
This month marks a specific day when we bring awareness to those who are grieving. Tuesday, August 30th, is National Grief Awareness Day. Ironically, it is also the day our oldest son, James, was born, bringing his bright, beautiful soul into our family. This day reminds me that while I celebrate James’ birthday each year and always rejoice for the person he has become, there are those who suffer deep loss on the same day.
You are not out of your mind. Your heart and mind are doing exactly what they are meant to do — mourn and heal. On this never-ending journey, may my heart mourn and heal in due time. May healing and peace walk with you on your journey at the perfect pace you need.
Keep moving forward, my dear friend.
Listening Library: It’s Not Over (Mandisa ft. Jasmine Murray, Rita Springer)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV)
It’s Not Over
You're right here In the questions In the quiet You're still speaking
You're out here In the unknown In the lowest low You're still reaching
Nothing lost and nothing wasted I'm steady in Your hand Even now You're orchestrating A miracle
It's not over It's not over It's not over You'll finish what You started It's not over Something good is coming It's not over You'll finish what You started What You started in me
You're right here In the tension In this season You're revealing You're the breakthrough And the answer Every promise All my healing
It's not over It's not over It's not over You'll finish what You started It's not over Something good is coming It's not over You'll finish what You started
And even when my heart can't understand You still have a future and a plan, oh yeah Even when my heart can't understand By faith I will believe that You still have a future and a plan For me and You'll complete it
It's not over It's not over It's not over You'll finish what You started It's not over Something good is coming It's not over You'll finish what You started It's not over Something good is coming It's not over You'll finish what You started
Songwriters: Rita Springer / Mia Leanne Cherie Fieldes / Cavanaugh Christian James
It's Not Over lyrics © Be Essential Songs