This week I made a choice I did not expect to make. I chose to not travel to my grandmother’s funeral. She passed away late Tuesday night, and over the past few days, knowing she was in the hospital, I had mentally been preparing to fly back to Mississippi. But at the moment of decision, I suddenly knew it was the wrong choice.

Rob and I have had a difficult year. We have recognized that many decisions we made in the past few years have not been healthy for us, for our relationship, and that to correct that, we needed to make radical changes. To be honest, with all the amazing adventure that Alaska has offered…experiencing the Arctic, seeing dog sled teams race, traveling to remote and beautiful locations by float plane and ferry, seeing glaciers and northern lights…if I had it to do again, I wouldn’t move here. The distance from family is too great, and adventure doesn’t replace the ability to be present.

Still, this is where I find myself today. I looked at flying out today, knowing that Rob would spend the holiday and the next week alone, and I couldn’t do it. He’s a big boy, he’s spent a fair amount of time alone in the past three years due to work and travel demands. I know he could do it. But the point is, that choice has been a bad one. We are both weary of spending time apart for the sake of work.

I considered the reality that this was a family emergency, a moment to mark and honor a beloved woman in my life, and to renew my connections with family members that I don’t see often. But in the end, I think I am honoring my family. I’m acknowledging that this relationship, even at a moment like this, has to come first. It feels a bit selfish, and I have some anxiety that this choice will not be be understood. But after a time of reflection, I am at peace.

So today I’m sharing a Thanksgiving meal with a few others from the clinic where Rob is covering call. I will miss being with my family who have gathered to say goodbye to my grandmother tomorrow afternoon. I will miss seeing the little ones who’ve grown and the ones who have joined the clan since I was last with them. I’ll miss sharing the tears and the memories, the hugs and the smiles. It hurts my heart to choose absence.

But this morning, drinking my coffee and looking at this man who has been my life for the past 30 years, I knew I was right to stay. The lesson of the moment is that we have the present, and that’s all. We may not have the good fortune to live to 90 with all our faculties intact. The choices that we’ve made, we live with, and we look for ways to re-align our priorities with family and future needs.

And my grandmother? If I could ask her, I believe she would support my decision. She was a lighthouse, staying put, watching her children roam the globe, but I don’t recall ever hearing her complain about their choices. She was accepting that life has to be lived.

Rob and I had already planned a trip back in March. I regret that she won’t be there to sit with, to share with. But we’ll visit the cemetery then with my mom, and remember her, my grandfather, my dad, my uncle and aunt…all the family we’ve lost. It will be sad, but it will be sweet, full of happy tears that these people…human, imperfect, funny, wonderful, loving…touched our lives.

And until then, I’m where I belong.

15 thoughts on “Choices

  1. I am reading your blog for the first time but this is such a powerful post. I can relate to you, my uncle suddenly passed away last year after just a week of having fever but my mother wasn’t feeling either. My thoughts and prayers were with my uncle and his family and I did want to meet up with my relatives and share the memories. It’s not that I didn’t love my uncle but I trusted that he is in a better place watching over all of us and happy that I am taking care of his beloved sister (my mum).
    Just as I am sure that your grandma must be so proud of you for making a decision and working on your relationship with a loved one:)


    • Thank you for your kind words! You are exactly right, these are tough decisions. But we each have to do what seems right and best to us at the time. My family was very understanding, and in fact there were several who did not make it back for the funeral. But I’m grateful for those that were able to be there, and glad to know my grandmother is at rest.

      Thank you for stopping by, I hope you’ll visit often! ~ Sheila


  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandmother and for the turmoil of having to choose between two places. In the end, we each know instinctively what is best for us and heeding that is all we can do. I feel like your grandmother would approve. She seems like the one who helped you all find the courage to explore the world in the first place. Good thoughts are with you.


    • Thank you Renee! I know staying put was the right decision, and my family was supportive of that. There were others who did not go back, although a number of out-of-town family did make it for the funeral. My only regret is missing the chance to connect with those who were there. I think of the gathering that occurs at a funeral…even though there is sadness, I think that drawing family and friends together is the last gift from the person who died. Blessings, thank you for your caring words. ~ Sheila


    • Well, thank you very much! I hope to do some catch up posting soon, working on my list of blogs to highlight! Thanks for your generous inclusion of my blog in your selection of award winners! ~ Sheila


  3. There’s a quote I love that reads like this, “Trust your instincts; you know more than you think you do.”

    It is a hard decision to make and I made the same one when my Grandfather passed suddenly. It wasn’t understood by all but .. it was right for me and, like you, somehow I knew that he would have understood. I also knew, like you, that my being absent didn’t lessen how much my heart grieved his leaving.

    Hugs to you … MJ


    • Thank you MJ! Yes, I’ve learned to listen to the still small voice inside more than I used to. And fortunately, my family was supportive of my decision and of others who were unable to get back. The hardest time is ahead. I think the reality of my loss will hit when we visit my mom in March and my grandmother is not in her usual place. It is hard to live far away, isn’t it? And yet, there are reasons these choices make sense too.

      Thank you for sharing. ~ Sheila


  4. Choices are hard at times…but, when your heart is telling you to go against the grain as they say…it must be for a reason…Accepting your decision is what’s hard at times…YOU feel it’s right but, you worry about what others will think… Glad you were strong enough to take a stance…it takes a lot of courage…


    • Thank you for the vote of confidence! Actually, I feel supported by the ones in my family I talked with about this. It was mostly my own struggle I had to deal with, wanting to be in two places at the same time. Thanks for the encouragement!


  5. Wow! Sheila, what an inspiring post! Definitely one that causes each of us to pause and reflect on life and the decisions we make! How we can become people who choose to be fully present with ourselves and those around us, and not always in “the way we’ve always done things” fashion!
    I know this was and is a most difficult time for you! I genuinely appreciate and applaud the decision you made to honor the life of “Mama” by honoring your marriage.
    Bless you for challenging us to Stop on a day of Thanksgiving and reflect on what we are thankful for not only as a “past” but as charge to consider our future based on decisions we make!
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, you & Rob, and your extended family!!

    Much Love,
    R & JL


  6. Oh, Sheila, I can just imagine how difficult that decision was to make. I can almost feel you being pulled in two different directions.
    But I believe you’re correct in saying that your grandmother would want you to be there with your hubby. I’m sure she’s smiling on you today and happy with your decision!


    • Thank you for your encouragement! My mom and other family members are supportive, this was mostly about fighting myself. You know, that part of your heart that wants it both ways?! But thank God, I had a great relationship with my grandmother, and we both knew how we felt. We talked for the last time last Sunday, and I heard her “I love you” once more.


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