Finding Comfort in Coach: On Dealing With Death
All I want to do is see him, hug him, tell him a funny joke. As I curl my fingers around the yellow rose I saved from my grandfather’s funeral, I wonder if preserving it will also preserve my guilt of not seeing him enough.
My mind slowly wanders through the memories of my time with Pop. I’m stopping to look at each and every passing image – like I’m window shopping through my life. The beers we cracked at five o’clock, the fish bait he threw at my cousin to scare her, his smile as he told me to enjoy life and all its curveballs. Quicksand begins to swallow me whole as I think that I didn’t make the most of his existence on this earth. I am paralysed knowing I could have had more times like these.
As a young girl, I craved the time I spent with my grandfather. But when the clock ticked on my teenage years, adventure became my priority. It didn’t matter what it was – dirty guesthouses in South East Asia, partying in Canada, or “finding myself” in Bali – I loved and craved it all. I spent almost three years living overseas. I missed multiple Christmases and birthdays and had amazing experiences, but despite all of this, part of my frazzled brain still continues to entertain this thought of lost time.
It’s a rather difficult concept, prioritising the things we love over the people we love. But I’m not entirely sure that’s what I was doing. There’s no one in this world that wants to spend every second of every day with a person. Isn’t that why we have phones, email, Facebook? So we can still be there without actually having to be there? But then sometimes I think about that empty seat next to Grandpa at Christmas while I was celebrating elsewhere.
I find that grief is kind of like an airport. You have your first-class lounges with champagne and showers and celebration, and your troubles waved you goodbye at the check in. And then you have the less impressive plastic seats at each ordinary gate with the announcement of a delay hanging over your head. You could be stuck in that spot for hours, waiting, wishing, wondering if you’ll ever leave, or if this grey, sticky seat is where you’ll be for the rest of your life.
I don’t feel like there is any real right or wrong when it comes to that kind of distance. Everyone has their own way of deciphering the woes of life. That’s the beauty of this world; everyone is different. People deal with grief in many different ways.
I can’t help but think that some people are lucky in first class, where they feel it hard and fast and then their world keeps turning, admittedly a little slower than it did before. Then there’s me, travelling coach in discomfort every day.
The worst part is waking up in the morning: opening my eyes after another interrupted slumber and almost cracking a smile as I see the sun shining through my curtains. A few seconds pass and my brain begins to open its eyes and catches sight of everything that’s happened. Suddenly the sun is gone. My body is glued to my bed. This happens every day, here in coach. In this frozen frame of life.
Although I am stuck in this cold, lonely seat, I’ve still been able to catch a glimpse of my destination. The incredible trip I’ve been on through life is still in my head and I know that wherever I’ve been in this world and wherever I go, my grandfather has and will always be with me. That’s all anyone really wants, isn’t it? Knowing that you’re in someone’s thoughts. Maybe that’s even better than actually seeing them, because it signifies the strength of their love, the distance it can travel.
My grandpa always loved that I travelled. He had so many amazing adventures in his life that made travel a common ground of love for us. The stories we shared were the best part of the adventure. The second best was the French champagne and prawns we shared them over.
I know that he would be shaking his head at me if he knew I was even close to regretting the time I’ve spent away.
“Don’t be silly, Miss Muppet,” he’d say. “Go see the world before there’s nothing left to see; I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
He took the happiness that I got from travelling and made it his own. That made me even happier.
The thing with grandparents especially is that they don’t really care where you are in the world: as long as you’ve got food in your belly, money in your account and a smile on your face, then they’re satisfied. I’ve never thought that Pop was ever disheartened by the amount of time I spent away. Its more the personal, self-inflicted guilt that I’m choking on now that the dust has settled. But I have no reason to feel guilty. Nor does anyone else.
While I miss my grandfather every day and will continue to miss him for the rest of my life, I can take comfort in the memories and traditions we made in our time. Like sending a Valentine’s Day card to each other every February for as long as I can remember, or the routine Thursday afternoon phone calls, or the four-hour long lunches we shared when we saw each other.
With every loss comes a gain. We gain our knowledge, our memories, and our love and these things are tattooed deep within our souls. Sometimes they’re hard to find in times of darkness but they’re always there, ready to shed some light.
I will never regret the time I’ve spent away and I will never stop craving the thrill of travel, even if it is in coach. If anything these cravings have intensified, because every time I’m in a plane, flying high above the Earth, I’ll be a little closer to him.