Losing A Loved One While On The Road

Jun 20, 2015


It’s a traveler’s worst nightmare. Especially for those of us who are exceptionally close to our friends and family back home. You spend your time planning for your new adventure expecting that everything will be just as you remember it the day that you return home. Maybe a few people will have moved on to their own adventures elsewhere, but otherwise the important people in your life will be there to greet you with excitedly open arms, eager to give you a hug long enough to make up for those put on hold during your absence. They are there to share what’s happening in their lives and are ready to hear all the fun things that have been happening in yours. This is the plan. It’s been a part of your vision from the day you started dreaming this whole thing up. Your parents, grandparents, friends and family are all there to see you off, secretly wishing that you would change your mind at the last second but also equally just as proud of you for doing something so bold. And you say to them before giving them that last hug and kiss before heading off, “I’ll see you next year!”

You do your best to keep up with everyone. Sending e-mails, texts, comments and posts on Facebook, the occasional phone call or video chat that are always too infrequent. You do your best but there isn’t always time. You’re busy experiencing this journey in this new life that you built for yourself, out seeing the world that was calling your name.

“I’ll call you this weekend,” you say. “We’ll video chat next week.” And next week turns into a month and a month turns into two. The next thing you know, it’s been three months since you’ve talked on the phone with anyone.

And then you get a text. “Call me, it’s important.”

That’s weird; you don’t get those texts. Those texts don’t just show up because someone just feels like chatting. You think the worst but hope like hell for the best. Hope that they really did just want to chat.

But they don’t. You hear the words come through over the crappy Internet connection like a kick in the face.

“Dad died.”

Dad died. Dad died. Dad. Died. It’s all that you can hear.


Silence. Why silence? Why right now? Your phone no longer has an Internet connection. Of all times to be so completely disconnected; the time you need more than anything to hear the voice on the other end of the line. Unfortunately while on the road, it’s completely normal to lose connection. Except that every other time you try and send out at least a few words to the person on the other end, “I’ll try you again later.”

This of course, is not one of those times. You try and try to get them back on the line, desperate. Nothing works. Now what? You grow more and more tense, confused, angry, upset, like your world has caved in completely. A concerned voice asks if everything is OK. It’s not OK. It will never again be OK. He’s gone. He’s not sick. He’s not in the hospital. He’s gone. Never again there to give me a big bear hug or to give me the latest sports or weather update. No longer a leading candidate for “World’s Best Grandpa.” He’s gone. “I need to go home. I need to go home right now.” But you're a world away, and it's not as easy as just going home right now.

But that’s all the information you have. How? Why? When? What? Luckily a friend has a phone to call from that will of course only work from a park several blocks away; in public, where people can see and hear you. Luckily they don’t speak your language. You finally get your family back on the phone where the details come out.

Last night. Heart attack. Didn’t show up for work. Found this afternoon. Autopsy. Lawyer. When can you be home? It comes in bits and pieces and you struggle to process the reality of the situation. You’re in a foreign country thousands of miles away. What do you do? What can you do?

For those of us close to our friends and family, it’s not a question. You’re going home. You’re going home right now. 

I was lucky enough to have three caring people with me to help me to get through the most difficult situation I’ve had to date. Teague and Matt set off to the computers to find flights back to NY as soon as possible. Elissa sat with me, just to listen when I could speak and consoling me when I couldn’t. When I cried away all the tears I had, she took me out in search of chocolate, ice cream, and a cocktail. In the mean time, Teague and Matt had found us a flight home the next day that required a rental car from Newark, NJ to Rochester. The help these three provided was incredibly helpful in getting me through this.

So when it comes to being on the road, don’t forget about the folks at home. Call as often as you’re able to. I’m still guilty of not doing so great at this and it makes me paranoid that something like this will happen again. I’ve been telling myself the last few days that I need to call family and friends because it’s been weeks and months since I’ve talked to them. So if friends and family back home are important to you, call and call often. You don’t want to hear the despondent echo coming through saying, “Dad died. Dad died. Dad died.” And you thinking to yourself, I wish I could tell him that I love him, just one more time.

Now four and a half months later, I still have a hard time accepting the reality of it all. I look at pictures of him all the time and every time I am in disbelief that I will never see him again.

In the time since my father’s passing, I have dedicated my travels to him, spreading his ashes in every beautiful place I come upon. We were planning to go hiking in the Adirondacks this summer and since he will no longer be able to physically be with me on that adventure or any other, he will always be in the beautiful places I leave him.

View Tribute to Steve Hays


Love you Faj xoxo




Written by Jen Hays
Jen is a marketer with a passion for the digital world and an insatiable desire to travel and explore all that the physical world has to offer; marrying the two to share her experiences with and inspire all who join her along the way.

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Tags: Family, Travel

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