We all have people who are important to us, and at some point, we will lose those people. This is one of those awful life truths that you really do not understand until it actually happens to you. It is hard to understand it, until you are actually going through it.
On May 2nd, 1999, My mom, sister, and I were leaving Target in Littleton, Colorado. It was a Sunday, and one of our favorite things to do after church was shop. As we left the parking lot, I asked my mom if we could go visit Duma and Dupa. For those of you who do not know me, Dupa and Dupa are my maternal grandparents, and unlike most grandparents, these people played an almost as vital role in my life that my actual parents did. I lived with them in Switzerland, I traveled Europe and the US with them, my Duma home schooled me (and my cousins and neighborhood friends), and my Dupa would give me flying lessons on any trip we took. I would willingly spend the night at their house over my friends’ houses, as I enjoyed being with them immensely. Even after I stopped being home schooled I would still go to Duma’s house weekly for Spanish lessons. It was a strange week if I did not see them at least twice, and this is not including our weekly Sunday burrito dinners at their home.
As I asked my mom if we could go see them, the clock was at just around 1:00pm. Strange to think that I thought about them at that time…and asked about going to see them even though I very well knew they were away, en route to visit my Aunt Greg and her family in Farmington, New Mexico, because around that time was when their small plane that was piloted by my Dupa went down in the area known as Wolf Creek Pass, in Southern Colorado. I was asking to go see them, and at that moment, it was decided that in this life at least, I would never see them again.
I was 15 years old, and had big plans for myself. So did my Duma and Dupa. They wanted the best for me, and their love and never ending encouragement was a big part of the person I had become, and who I wanted to become. John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” and while I was busy making plans that included my wonderful grandparents, life happened. And everything kind of fell apart for me.
For days after their plane went missing, we held on to hope that the search and rescue team would find them, covered by blankets (Duma always got cold in-flight) in the plane’s fuselage, surviving off of Duma’s travel boxes of puffed wheat cereal. I think the grandchildren (9 of us back then) all really thought they would survive this, and it would be an amazing story we would talk about for years to come, at birthdays, graduations, weddings, and so on.
It is still a story, and it is a part of all of us that loved and were loved by my Duma and Dupa, but the story did not end the way we wanted it too.
Today, it has been 14 years. Next year, it will be 15…and the year that marks I have lived longer without them than I lived with them. That is a horribly sad thought for me, as I expected (and I think we all did) more time with them. I planned to graduate high school with flying colors, and have Duma walk on stage and give me the lotion smiley face on my hand she would give me every morning after I slept over (she said she would come up on stage at my grad and do that, and I would have let her:) I planned to attend Duke University, where she had attended classes. I planned to be Miss America and change the world. I planned for Duma and Dupa to not only see that, but be an active part of it. Instead, life looked entirely different for me and I ended up kind of just “getting by.” I felt like, what was the point? We are just going to die!
It took me a long time to realize that had my Duma and Dupa had that mind set, their lives would not have been so important to so many. Had they just lived mundane lives because, “what is the point, we are all going to die,” then losing them probably would have not been so damn hard. Now, at age 29 (gasp!) I still sometimes find myself thinking of how my life would have been had they survived that crash, and if they were still here. But they’re not, and they won’t be. So instead of living my life just trying to get by, and just survive, I need to live up to the high expectations that my Duma and Dupa left me with. Because even though they are not with me now, someday, I will be with them where they are. And when I leave this earth for heaven, I want to be remembered and loved and missed like they are, and inspire life, even in death.
I think that is a really great way to keep Duma and Dupa with me, by living life like they never left…because in some ways, they never did.
Till next time.