France Day 5.5 – ALS interlude

I’m adding this post to conclude what happened to my Aunt while I was in Saumur. If you don’t want any sad stuff, skip this post.

If I remember correctly, and am doing the math right, it was during my first night in Saumur that my aunt passed away. I had visited her before heading to the airport to go to France, and promised I would see her when I got back, and was confident that I would. She had gone to the hospital the week prior because of some issues, but they had supposedly been resolved. It had been a steady decline for her for about 2 years (1 and a half years since I found out) and I absolutely did not expect her to pass while I was away. I had been putting off travel plans just in case. When I finally decided to go, I convinced myself that I had kept delaying things that would have been fine, and this would be fine too. Unfortunately it was not to be.

I was informed that she had taken a turn for the worse, and my entire family was scrambling to get to her bedside. My brother and his wife even paid for a helicopter to get them off one of the coastal islands so they wouldn’t spend hours waiting for and trekking on a ferry. They all made it in time to speak to her one last time. All except for me, of course. Even if I had been able to find a flight over there, I never would have made it. I was devastated that I was the only one not there. The timing was terrible. One of my aunt’s requests was that she not be sustained artificially, and to not have a breathing machine. She was in a coma, and was being supported by some sort of respirator. They were going to remove it. The doctors said she would last between 20 minutes and 2 hours. “Is there any chance she will last longer?” I asked my dad. I was hoping to get back in time to say a last goodbye. “A very small chance.” He replied. As much as I wanted her to last long enough for me to get home, I knew that wasn’t what was best for her, and not what she would have wanted. I knew in my heart that it wasn’t to be the case. I asked him to call me when they removed it. So he did, and I sat in silence on the floor in the bathroom with my phone plugged into the wall and waited. I was about to run out of battery so I said I would call back in a half hour and to call me immediately if anything changed. I called my husband and I told him to put me on speakerphone. I muted my end, as my traveling companion was doing her thing.

And I waited.

Everyone was sniffling. Her brother and sister, nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews all gathered around her; almost everyone who mattered to her most. I’m sure she was pleased to know that she was so loved. I knew she had passed on when the sniffles turned into sobs and they began to comfort one another. I was just sort of numb. I didn’t know how to react. I was in another country, alone enough that there was no one to comfort me, but not alone enough that I could mourn freely. I was having a wonderful time on the other side of the world, when at the same time, my whole family was in mourning. I felt stuck in some sort of limbo.

I then had to figure out what to do with my trip, and whether or not I should come home early. Luckily fortune was on my side as the funeral wasn’t scheduled until the day I got back, despite attempts to make it earlier, and it being more than 2 weeks away. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that news. I could finish the trip that I had planned, although this news put quite a different tint on everything. If I had gone home right away, nothing would have changed, and I would have wasted a lot of money and opportunity. So I continued to journey with the heavy weight on my heart.

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