Have you ever been hugged by a 90-year old relative or someone close to you? If you have, you know that words can not adequately describe the moment. It is a moment filled with joy and sadness, but mostly joy. The thoughts that this could indeed be the last moment the two of you will ever share quickly transition towards a serene thankfulness for the moment you do have.
2013 was a year of mixed blessings, as we were afforded the opportunity to travel abroad for a second time in two years and it ended with me once again seeking new career opportunities. I enjoyed working for my last employer and am disappointed in not being there to help the team overcome some significant hurdles in their business. I have chronicled some of our 2013 visit to Spain on this blog in the past year and ‘resolve’ to include more in the near future. Yet, as I recently reflect upon our visit my mind is brought back to the events back home in Minnesota and in Rome, Italy that coincided with preparing to return home.
On June 19, 2013 my mobile phone buzzed twice. I was expecting a text from the airline notifying that our flight would be on-time. It was from my buddy back home, notifying me that actor James Gandolfini had died while in Rome of a heart attack. While not a surprise that my buddy would text me when celebrity dies, (it is our thing, I will leave it at that 🙂 ) it was a bit more shocking when I received a text hours later stating that noted Minnesota author Vince Flynn had died of cancer at the age of 47. While I was only a casual Vince Flynn fan, I enjoyed his local media appearances and took pride that ‘one of us’ was a world-renown author. My only first hand encounter with Mr. Flynn was giving him the ‘where do I know you?’ stare at a bookstore in the MSP airport. He kindly blew me off, but yet his passing really hit home, age 47 is far too young to go.
As we were finishing preparing to leave Spain, my mind began to wonder. I began to process our visit, the new and old friends met, and the incredible sites seen. I honestly wondered for the first time if we would see them again. In the fifteen minutes that eclipsed after picking up that text and finishing the packing of my bags, the inevitability and invincibility of youth left in my mind seemed to be gone. In a moment, the tears in our friends’ eyes as we left their homes in France in 2012 and Spain in 2013 made perfect sense to me. This could be the last time.
While there are no guarantees that we will travel to Europe again, there really were not any guarantees that we would be there again after my visit in 1995 or either of our visits in 2002 and 2012. We were blessed to have these opportunities and even more fortunate that we embraced everything in our visits, leaving no regrets of what we should have done or seen. My hopes for 2014 go beyond travel and into life. Embrace it with thankfulness for that moment, realizing that another moment quite like the one you are in is not inevitable. Embrace it, like a 90-year old would embrace it.