It’s 1979, my parents dressed me up, and I’m ready to take my first flight to Honolulu, Hawaii on WardAir. To secure the best possible seats at the front of the 747-200, our family made sure to arrive at the airport ridiculously early. We did it! Having never flown, part of me was scared, anxious and wondering what would this feel like?
My mom held the hand of eight-year-old me for take-off, assuring me the flight would be okay, and it was. Ironically, unbeknownst to me, my brother would tell me years later that mom was making good use of her air-sickness bag the entire flight.
Now, I’ve taken thousands of flights since that first flight on Boeing’s Queen of the Skies, and generally give it little thought, but none have rekindled that same anxiety of 1979 until my most recent flight.
Sadly, while my wife Lana and I were away in Tunisia (we had just left Canada) my mom passed away on October 26. While this was not unexpected, as we had been alongside mom through her three-year progressive decline from Lewy body dementia, the sting of the news was still paralyzing. Being an unbundling mess for Lana to deal with, I couldn’t go on. We navigated Covid-19 protocols, and expedited our way home to be near family.
A couple days following my mom’s passing, I was now home, but still overcome with grief. How was I going to find my way out of this sadness? I did what any normal person does nowadays—taking to the one reliable vessel for immediate support. Psychologist, pastor, family? Nope. I posted to Facebook!
I’m certain you are either laughing or shaking your head at me (mom would be doing the former), but believe it or not, the comforting words from friends and family around the world brought me both peace and hope. Coupled with hugs from family and close friends at the celebration of life for mom, I realized my community of friendships are strong and I have their support.
Now… Chin up! Mom wouldn’t want me to brood. Find the uplifting message!
Mom may not have been as outgoing as her “little Pootsa” (her name for me), but she had a profound understanding of the importance of community. Never seeking to be the
“star of the show,” shying away from all attention, mom had a spirit of participation and she instilled it in her family. Be it fundraising, helping out a neighbour, or simply cheering on or comforting those she got to know, she always gave everything and we were expected to do the same.
When it came to traveling, mom enjoyed what she saw, but she preferred sharing her experiences with others. This makes me think back to why we joined this club. Was it the paper recognition and list completion? Maybe at first, but I think we were seeking to be part of a community of travelers.
Similar to mom holding my hand the first time I traveled, maybe we should be there to carry and support each other through our respective journeys around the world. Even remote, we all have that opportunity to make a difference. Whether it be to vote on photos, join a Zoom call, or offer your story… Participate!
When our time comes to leave this earth, I’m not sure how much people will care about our country count, but being a building block in this circle of travelers—a growing legacy since 1954—and making this community stronger? That is what I believe will matter.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov sums it up best: “And even if we are occupied by most important things, if we attain to honour, or fall into great misfortune— still let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us… better perhaps than we are.” May that kind feeling surround you and your family this holiday season!
It’s been my pleasure to serve as your president for the past two years and being part of your travel community. I wish you safe travels and implore you to get involved. After all, my mom, a feisty Slovak, will be watching!