I can’t think of a worse place to learn about death of a close person than the airport. Luton especially. Death is usually something very personal, something we don’t wish to share. But since I was forced to parade my sorrow in front of hundreds of cheerful holiday makers, I decided to carry on exposing my soul. Maybe that’s what it was meant to be like. Maybe she wanted the world to know about her last journey.
The plane was standing on the runway. Sat inside, I could feel another long minute passing by. Stillness.Nothing was happening.Then suddenly, without any warning, I began to hear the engines starting to roar. Yet still nothing happened. We weren’t moving. Despite the vibrating desire to move, the plane remained stuck. This is what death feels like. One moment you feel nothing, then suddenly numbness gives way to the feeling inside that commands you to cry, to scream, to turn inside – out. Yet despite that inner vibrating roar of your soul nothing happens. Your eyes remain dry. You are stuck, shaking gently, like a plane waiting to take off. And finally that moment comes. The plane moves and forgets the land. So do your eyes, bursting shamelessly into tears, forgetting the stares of people around you. And while the plane keeps flying, the tear drops keep flowing down your cheeks.
My grandma didn’t travel much. The war generation above all seemed to appreciate stability and all things known.Besides, looking after her brothers and sisters from the early years, while their mum had to work to support the large family after father’s death, didn’t leave much time for anything else. She traveled enough while fleeing from the Russian soldiers and when forced out of her home by the Germans. She did travel to Hungary though, but that was much later. After the war she would support her salary by selling things from Poland and bringing back goods unavailable at the time in our country. I would sit in her small living room, listening to the stories about the people she met during those trips. But I didn’t listen closely enough. I thought I had the time. I thought I could write down her stories some day. I didn’t know that day would never come.
This is the lesson death always teaches us – you should have paid more attention when you could. You should have listened to their story while they were here. Being present, savoring every word. Because you never know when someone is telling you their story one last time.
Every person, just like every place, shares their story with you. But you need to really listen to hear it. You need to be really present to discover it.
And just like every journey teaches you something, so does every death. Babcia Ircia, used to say”if you have a soft heart, you need to have a tough butt”. If you’re not strong enough life will keep on giving you kicks in the behind, until you’ve toughened up. And she was one tough lady!
The 28 year long journey I shared with my grandma taught me how important it is to be true to yourself, to stay strong and keep pushing through the stuff life throws at you. Now that our paths have parted, I need to keep traveling alone.
Cherish the people you encounter on your way. Listen to their journeys, regardless of what they may be. Collect their stories and cherish them like the treasure that they are. And live your life according to your rules. Just like my grandma did.