Saying goodbye sucks. As I’m walking into the airport, my chest feels tight, the lump in my throat is making it hard for me to swallow.
It pains me to see my daughter, Jenni, cry. It torments me to see her hurting. We’ve been through a lot together the last 5 years, and I hate seeing her so vulnerable, while she tries to be so stinking brave.
I make a bee-line for the bathroom and splash cold water on my face. I’m hoping I can stop the tears from leaking long enough to get through security.
After a long awaited trip to Florida to see Jenni and her boyfriend, Cody, I’m on my way back home. I’ve enjoyed the time I was able to spend with those two. I loved being able to share in their adventure, and I’m so proud of their independence.
Leaving family and friends and moving to Florida for school hasn’t been easy for them, but they are making a life together and preparing for their future. It hasn’t been easy for me either. :) Did I mention how proud of them I am?
As I settle into my seat on the airplane, I look forward to reading a little, with the possibility of closing my eyes for a few minutes. The woman next to me asks if I have enough room, and begins to strike up a conversation. Ugh. I don’t feel like talking, I’m missing my daughter and the last thing I feel like doing is being pleasant to some stranger sitting next to me on a plane.
I sigh and reconcile myself to small talk.
“How many children do you have?”, asks the woman on the plane.
This question comes often, and each time before I answer, I wonder what their response will be.
Sometimes the reaction is shock, with a quick change of subject. Other times I’ll get some response with an, “at least she is no longer in pain”. Uh huh. Thanks.
Even though I thought I’d stopped the tears earlier, they’re back in full force. I hate that!
But here they are, (surprise!) tears rolling down my cheeks as I answer her question.
“I have four children. Three here on Earth, and one in Heaven”.
The woman on the plane looks at me, touches my shoulder and responds, “I understand what you’re feeling. I’ve lost two children of my own”. Huh?
And we talked. I could feel the kinship. One that you can only feel with another mother who shares in the pain of losing a child. The grief, the devastation, the helplessness and the anger.
I immediately asked her about the children she lost. One child was a four year old little girl when she choked to death on a balloon. The other child was another daughter who died at the age of 50 of a heart attack. We talked about Jillian, but mostly we talked about her kids and her life. And it was good.
Jillian’s birthday is Saturday. She would have been 27 years old. I know I’ll never stop missing her or stop wishing that she were here with her family, sharing in our everyday lives. Celebrating birthdays, Holidays, new nieces, marriages, accomplishments, new homes. Puppies. Stuff.
I also know that my life and those in it continue to be blessing to me. I take time for my grief and doubt that will ever change. I really don’t want it to either. I can lean into that.
But I rejoice in the life I have and the gifts in it. I never want to take those gifts for granted.
Even the gift of connecting with a woman on a plane.
I left my daughter, Jenni, in Florida. But she’s here, and we’ll get through this too. We're pretty awesome, like that. :)
In our one wild and beautiful life.
P.S- Cody- Give my girl some extra TLC, won’t ya? :)