A month ago, Michelle and I were about to board a flight in Tampa to Zurich to celebrate my 70th birthday in Konstanz, Germany by attending a concert which featured some of my Heinrich Isaac editions; and attending some celebratory parties hosted by my friends in Konstanz.
We were to leave on Friday. We packed on Thursday, preparing to drop the dog off at boarding Friday morning and head to Tampa for the direct flight to Zurich.
That evening we received a phone call from a family friend, who also happened to be the doctor for whom Jennifer (Michelle’s sister who had been battling pancreatic cancer) had worked for over 25 years; and whose two daughters had also taken voice lessons from Michelle.
He informed us that Jennifer was unlikely to survive the weekend. This, despite the fact that Michelle had just been back to Rapid City the weekend prior and spent quality time with Jennifer – shopping, touring the Black Hills, laughing and enjoying time together. In the intervening few days, Jennifer became ill and (due to chemo, etc.) had succumbed quite quickly to this infection and was now in hospice.
We looked at each other and said, “Well, I guess our plans have to change.”
We quickly booked one-way tickets to Rapid City, South Dakota. One-way? Because we had no idea when we would be returning.
Gott sei Dank, we had the foresight to book fully refundable tickets to Zurich when we bought them. Swissair came through with no problems and refunded the entire amount, which gave us the funds needed for the Rapid City flight and then some.
We left from Fort Myers for Rapid City Friday morning and arrived there that afternoon.
Long story short, Jennifer was barely responsive when we got to see her. Michelle spent the next three nights by her bedside along with Jennifer’s daughter, mother, with me and her father spelling them for a few hours. She passed away in the early minutes of Monday morning, surrounded by family and friends.
The next week was spent with funeral arrangements and family matters. The funeral was well-attended, and I was happy to see some people I had not seen in a long while.
I returned to Fort Myers after the funeral, while Michelle remained in Rapid City to help her parents and niece and attend the burial at the Black Hills national cemetery. I needed to retrieve Loki from boarding and relieve our neighbor from having to feed and medicate our cat menagerie.
In Fort Myers, we are still trying to pick up the pieces from hurricane Ian last year. Said cat-sitting neighbor is still waiting to have his roof fully repaired. Other neighbors are still living in campers in their driveways. All of this: Jennifer’s passing, the remembrance of my own brother’s death – who would have been 74 on the 5th of July this year, and the acknowledgement of my own 70th birthday; have made Michelle and I more aware that, regardless of plans, life happens.
On the plus side, we wrote our last check for the restoration of the house. The last pocket door has been installed! Now I just need to go over the entire house and fix the sloppy work that was done by various contractors. The yard is slowly getting back to normal and there is still some repainting to do on the exterior of the house. But we are, by far, way ahead of most of the neighbors, some of whom are still waiting for new roofs or pool cages.
We have decided that it is impossible to recreate or restore the lost Konstanz trip. I will never again turn 70. That concert will never again take place. Yes, as someone said to me “Germany will always be there.” but that moment and experience cannot take place again.
Instead, we have decided to focus on the here and now. We moved to Florida to enjoy the sun, the warmth, and to be together. We have not experienced that fully due to a variety of reasons. There is a great joy in being here in this oasis that we have worked so hard to create. The title photo above was taken today as I wrote these words.
We have learned a great deal in the last year. Some of those lessons include:
- In crisis, listen to others, but trust your gut and make the decisions you feel are best for you.
- When something needs to be done, “There’s a YouTube video for that!”
- Do what you want to do now, don’t put it off. Don’t be stupid about money, but don’t deprive yourself either.
- Live life!
BTW, if you’re wondering what the title of this blog is about, I am again reminded of my dear departed sister-in-law, who left us with this memorable quote:
Google that shit.