A sad journey.

Less than two weeks after getting back from Alaska I learned that my Aunt Bea has an advanced, inoperable cancer. I’d planned to go to New Jersey to see my dad in the middle of September. After thinking this over for a few hours, I decided to move up the trip by a month.

The day after tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to Philadelphia. About an hour from there is my home town, Fairton, known mostly for truck farming but more recently for prisons — two have been built there since I left. I’ll visit with Bea and also with her sister, my Aunt Dot, whose deathbed I raced to in early April. Well, Dot made liars out of the doctors yet again.

Sure, I could wait until next month. But I’d rather go for a visit than a funeral, so I have been making arrangements:


  • Looking for a last-minute ticket that wasn’t too gouge-y, with help from Hotwire through Mr. Rebates (I will get 3% back)
  • Finding a house-sitter and, until I nailed one down late Saturday, figuring out how I’d manage if the place were going to be empty (USPS holds mail for only 30 days and I’ll be gone slightly longer than that)
  • Researching and writing my Living With Less column for MSN Money, due the morning I leave (still interviewing as of this morning)
  • Renewing prescriptions because I don’t have enough for a month; I’ll hop on the bus tomorrow to pick them up
  • Trying on hot-weather clothes to see if they still fit (I put on weight in Anchorage due to ice cream and inactivity). They do. Kind of.
  • Pulling together other odds and ends that I’ll need: checkbook and tax paperwork (quarterly payment due Sept. 15), info on how to pay the bimonthly electric bill (it’ll arrive mid-month), contacts for three side trips I hope to make (two business-related, one not), cell-phone headset (I’ll be doing interviews for the next two columns from my dad’s house), asthma inhaler, pre-addressed envelope to mail my October rent
  • Creating my airline survival kit: earplugs, reading material ( Surface of Earth by Reynolds Price), snacks, free-after-rebate Advil PM so I can sleep
  • Making my one and only batch of jam for 2010 with the berries I’d picked on Thursday and Friday (five jars, so pretty on the countertop)
  • Dithering when I couldn’t focus: What’s the best way to get to D.C. for one meeting and then to Charleston, S.C. to see my friend? How clean does the apartment have to be before I expect someone else to stay in it for a month? Can I use the last of this milk before I leave? Do I have a frequent-flier account with Continental? What about food on the plane, since I’ll be traveling for 15 hours door to door?

I am going for a visit, but I am packing for a funeral. Bea is on a feeding tube, nothing by mouth. Dot is 87 and so frail and ill that I can’t believe she’s still with us.

These two women are the last Burgess siblings. They’re my last strong tie to my mother, who died seven years ago this month. It’s going to be hard for me to let them go. That’s why it’s important for me to drop everything and head back east.

I hate saying goodbye. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.

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  1. Susan Morgan

    Thinking of you, Donna. Safe travels.

  2. My thoughts will be with you also. Stay well, travel safely. I hope you get as much time with Aunt Bee as possible.

  3. BeBrave! Our thoughts are with you.

  4. Prayers will go with you Donna <3

  5. Emma Sutton

    May your visit be filled with more laughter than tears….
    God Bless!

  6. Travel safely — and fly casual. Sorry to hear about your Aunt Bea’s struggle. Best of luck with everything.

  7. My heart and prayers are with you. You are loved.

  8. Have a safe trip and enjoy the time you have with your family.

  9. So sorry you are traveling for a sad reason. I wish you a safe journey and a meaningful visit with your Aunts. God bless.

  10. lostAnnfound

    Safe journey to you.

  11. I’m sorry. Hope you find some good time with the two women, in spite of it all. Come back to us!

  12. Isn’t life grand sometimes? So busy, what a list but so important to be making it now to go where you are needed and need to be. In my thoughts.

  13. I’m so sorry you have to travel for such a sad reason. Sending lots of positive thoughts and prayers your way. May you have safe travels!

  14. Donna Freedman

    Many thanks to all for your kind comments. I’ll be posting from on the road, as it were, but it won’t just be sad stuff. Promise.

  15. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Godspeed.

  16. Awww, this is so tough. What a heavy heart you must be carrying. I love your last sentence; “I hate saying goodbye, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.” Aunt Bea may feel the same way, only I’m thinking she’ll be grateful to YOU for the opportunity. Be safe!

  17. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  18. Sarah L

    You are in my thoughts. I had to do this last month, with my grandparents on the other side of the US. Yesterday got a call one doesn’t have much time left. Like you, I’m grateful for the chance to have given a proper goodbye. We don’t always get second chances in life, and its good to not have to regret things.

    I am sure your aunts know how much you love them, and your having the ability to drop everything and go over there will be something they remember for the rest (and you for yours) lives. I hope though, they have many more years in them, and you go, and just have an enjoyable visit. No funneral.

  19. I’d have moved up the timetable as well. It’s wonderful that you have the flexibility to pick up and do that.
    May White Light and Good Energy follow you(and Aunt Bea) on your journeys “home”.
    And if you need a lift or a place to stay in eastern PA at some point, just lmk. 😎

  20. Catseye

    Sure hope this trip is just a visit, Donna. Take care and travel safely.

  21. Donna, it’s a bitch getting older and losing our elders is one reason.

    Hugs to you and prayers for your Aunts.

  22. Tracy Stone

    I’m so sorry you have to go under these circumstances. I hope you enjoy your time with your family.

  23. Amber Storck

    My thoughts and prayers are with you Donna. Good luck at your dad’s.


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