Three years ago I told the kids, " We are going to America in the morning"
I still remember their faces, there was a mixture of elation and sadness. They knew that we were having late night phone calls and little or no sleep.
The two eldest knew their beloved Gran was very ill.
We had to make a decision and quickly, I offered my husband the chance to go ahead of me, I told him I'd take the kids so as he'd get to see his mother. I remember his long pause, I knew in my heart that I wanted to do that. I couldn't have imagined taking three kids on a 20 hour flight plus airport queues and all of that, but I'd have done it.
As things went he decided he'd call the hospital and say what he had to say, I never asked what he said, what do you say to your dying mother. I didn't feel it was my place to ask.
We decided to travel together with the hope that we'd make it in time.
I must have been operating on adrenilin otherwise I could not have gotten things done, I know I had a near breakdown in the passport office whenv we had missed our appointment for emergency passports. Red tape and beurocracy somehow let us slide that day. I know that I didn't have time to even think, I had to pack I had to get photographs taken , I had to have them witnessed and signed by our school principle, I had to pick up passports, I had to organise who would look after the place for 5 weeks. I had to tell school that the kids would be away, they had only just begun the third grade and prep, my son's first year of school.
Leaving that next day went smoothly, my neighbour packed us some homemade florentines,and drove us to the airport my other neighbour looked after our then cat, without instructions or lists, she just did it, that was just so kind. My husband instucted my to only pack three bags for us all, for five weeks!!! I could see his point we needed to travel light with only carry on luggage, I knew that speed was of the essence here.
It was like everything was going our way, even the cattle class flight was half empty we had the entire back of the plane to ourselves, 15 rows to pick and choose where to sit, lay, hang with an 18 month old , have you ever heard of that on a long haul flight.
Eliza at the time as I say was 18 months old, she was the best baby traveler you could have wished for, she slept, she was quiet ,she sat for hours in ridiculous queues and never once whined. I don't even think the others did either. I could not imagine taking Circe my 2.4 year old on that journey, OMG she would have been such a handful.
All was going so smoothly till we reached LAX, the customs officer was scary, when I was getting a little shirty with his lack of compassion, Aaron whispered to me, "we need him on our side", he was right. In fact in the next few minutes we really did, my three children were on a kidnap watch list. Yes that's right, because we had their passports processed less than 24 hours before, Australia had sent out a warning. That's amazing, yes usually not right then. We had a connecting flight we needed to make, not an interrogation. My five year old son piped up with "How long is this going to take" we said," a minute Honey", he said loudly " A metaphorical minute or a literal minute".
The custums office did a 180 turn, "did he say metaphorical?" all the severity from his face washed away, we became human, different even from the normal folk. He still sent us off to see someone else but I am sure he could have made things a lot worse for us.
As it turned out we arrived and were greeted warmly with coats, scarves hats gloves for each of us.The air outside was cold and bitter, my children had never experienced such crisp coldness, in our part of the world it was 40 degrees when we left we'd just experienced the hottest day in our lifetime 46 degrees. Parts of our state had only 10 days before experienced the most horrific of bushfires, killing almost 400 people, whipping townships off the map, killing entire families.
We didn't even own coats for this type of cold, and three bags weren't going to hold them. My husband's cousin offered us one entire floor of her home to live in , she had organised a cot, car seats, a stroller even, graditude beyond my expectations.
As we stood in her home those first few minutes, I wondered why isn't anyone mentioning Mom, why weren't they whisking Aaron away to see her. I didn't know that we were too late, that she ahd passed away that morning. I didn't imagine that at all this scenario, adrenilin hadn't allowed it.
My heart sank when I knew, all our efforts had been in vain.
I felt for Aaron for all of us. I knew we'd have to tell the kids. That was hard, really hard, they loved her and had formed a real bond with her, she'd been to see them three times in their life.
My son said , holding back tears " Daddy you don't have a Mom anymore, you will be ok" a five year old was giving comfort, it warmed my heart, it made me love him a whole bunch.For me the hardest thing was knowing that my mother in law never met Eliza, they had spoken on the phone but she never had one of granma's warm hugs or stories read, she never saw her silvery white hair or had her bright smile light up your face, she never saw he full of life.She never knew that I was only just pregnant then, I hadn't even known.
Today I think of the times we shared ,the laughs, the many visits we had from her,all the different places we'd lived when she'd come to see us, the times we'd play scrabble, all the chocolate she feed my kids one morning before we were awake. I remember how much slower she moved the last time I saw her, the last picture we took with her, you never think goodbyes are forever.
I miss her Sunday calls, the updates on her treatment the hope in her voice. She always said she was doing great, she kept strong, she didn't want to worry us.
I miss having her to tell how things are going, how the kids are.
I miss the boxes of whiteman's chocolates, stupid but I do, the Christmas packages for the children. I miss having them make letters for her, I miss her in our lives.
I hate that death is so forever, so final, her passing taught me that for the first time.
Her passing also gave us precious time to spend with Aaron's father, we have beautiful memories of those moments with he and his wife. He passed a year later.
I never believed more in things happening for a reason than I did then.
Aaron's cousin of only 48 years was diagnosed with lung cancer only 2 weeks after we left, it would take his life 2 years later, take him from his three small children and beautiful wife. We spent an amazing time with this family, they began and still are so so special to us.
This family would move mountains for you ,seas if they could. for us, the warmth and kindness of my mother inlaw's community gave was over whelming. I had never known I think neither did Aaron the woman she was to this town, to her church. I felt like we spoke and met them all, each one had a story a piece of her to share with us. It was a glimpse of her, the way others too saw her and loved her, it eased our pain and helped us to let her go.
If you read this right through if you managed to stay with me I hope I didn't make you cry . I know mother in laws get a bad wrap, but I'd give anything to have her with us again. When I first met her I thought I'd have to try to make her like me, but I knew right away that I didn't have to.
You can take people by the hand and give them the best of you she always did that. She certainly gave Aaron the gift of, kindness of community, of an open heart and home of generosity beyond your own gain.