It’s a fact of military life: we can’t always be with our extended family when we/they want us to be. Whether it’s a wedding, a family reunion or any other major event; sometimes often we simply cannot be there.
In 2007, Stretch was in the midst of a 12-month deployment. He came home for R & R just in time for our oldest child’s birthday. We were able to meet family at a half-way point to celebrate and generally had a great 2 weeks. Then, almost as soon as Stretch left to return to the sandbox, I received a call telling me that his great-uncle had passed away. Stretch had been close to this uncle and was even named after him. I had no way of getting in touch with Stretch to tell him. And even if I could, the likelihood of getting him back for the funeral was nonexistent. I had to wait for him to get in touch with me after he had returned to duty. By this time, the funeral had already occurred.
It was never far from my mind when we moved 12-13 time zones in 2005 that something could happen to a family member back in the States. We were, quite literally, on the other side of the planet. Getting “home” would be time-consuming and expensive, even if it wasn’t on short notice. Stretch’s grandmother’s health was declining and we could never be sure how much time she had left. So for the 2 years we lived overseas, I had plans percolating in the back of my mind, just in case. The past 2 years, we lived in the same time zone, but were still at least 14 driving hours away. So, again, I tried to formulate a plan in case we got that call. Fortunately, we never needed to implement any of those plans.
Last summer, we PCS’d closer to Stretch’s family. Now, we are merely 6 hours away. But, oh, what a difference that makes! At the end of the summer, Stretch’s grandmother passed away. We were able to attend the funeral and even stay a few days to spend some time with his parents. Although the occasion was sad, I was so grateful that we were in a location and position to make that possible. Just a few years ago, I’m not sure we could have made it happen.
Just a few months later, I received notification that my grandmother had passed, too. And that the funeral would be 2 days later. I spent the rest of that day scrambling to figure out what to do, make travel arrangements and pack. We decided that I would fly to the funeral alone since taking the entire family would be prohibitively expensive and the kids were in school by this point in the year. Fortunately, Stretch’s schedule was such that he was able to look after the kids without additional help. Thank goodness for our current assignment! If we’d been anywhere else and if Stretch had a different assignment, I don’t think attending my grandmother’s funeral would have been possible for me.
Although we’ve mourned the passing of both of these ladies, we’ve been grateful that we had the opportunity to be with our extended families to say good-bye to them. As military families, we’re not always that lucky.