Losing a Loved One on the Road

On Thursday, I woke up thinking it was any other day. I stayed in bed until late, made a cup of coffee, and toasted some bread in the frying pan.

I had plans to spend the day like I usually do. I’d buy fresh tortillas, work until mid-afternoon, then head to a cafe and walk around Oaxaca.

Instead, I packed up all my things, ditched my new apartment, and spent the following 24 hours traveling to my hometown of Tampa, including a 7-hour bus ride, a sleepless night in Mexico City’s airport, and a lengthy layover in Miami.

us at the airport amped up for Italy

That morning, I got a phone call that turned my world upside down. One of my closest friends, who happens to be my grandmother, died of heart failure.

My grandma and I did not have a traditional grandparent/grandchild relationship. Despite our age difference, we were great friends. I called her regularly from the road. We always laughed, reminisced about old times, and updated each other about our lives. I confided in her with complete trust. She was one of my biggest supporters and was proud of me and the travel lifestyle I had adopted.

I have lost one of the most important people to me. Her passing has left a gaping hole in my life. I’m sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye and tell her how much she meant to me. It crushes me to think that she will never see me walk down the aisle, or meet my children, or share any other big moments with me.

Yet on my pilgrimage back to the US, during the deep period of introspection and reflection that a continuous journey like that elicits, I found myself smiling and giggling out loud. You see, the memory of my grandmother makes me happy, not sad. We spent so many great years together and shared so many special moments. I wouldn’t change a minute of my time with her.

In 2008, the two of us traveled to Italy together. Though she was born in the US, my grandma’s parents are immigrants from Italy. It had always been a dream of hers to see where her roots come from. Since I was a nomad and was so close to her, I threw out the idea of us going to Italy together, which she quickly accepted.

It proved to be the trip of a lifetime for both of us. We spent 10 days sightseeing in Rome, relaxing in Sorrento, taking a boat trip around the Amalfi coast, and laughing like teenage girls at a sleepover.

in front of the Colosseum, Rome

in front of the Colosseum, Rome

The last time I saw her was before my trip to Latin America. I gave her a tight hug as tears rolled down her face. She spoke aloud what we were both thinking: “I might never see you again.”

me, my grandma and my sister

me, my grandma and my sister

I could write 5000 words about all the ways that she was good to me. Yet I am just a drop in the ocean of people whose lives have been touched by her presence. My grandmother is one of the purest, most beautiful beings that I have ever known. She was the epitome of empathy, kindness, and selflessness. She oozed compassion and love. She was the best grandmother a girl could have asked for. I am so grateful to have known such a wonderful woman and hope I can have the same positive effect on others that she has.

Have you lost a loved one while traveling? What did you do and how did you get through it?

  • David Krug

    My condolences and when I lost a loved one I returned to the States for a few months to get my emotional bearings. Hope you find some time to relax and mourn. Hugs! 

  • I’m so sorry to hear that Jasmine. What a beautiful and moving testament to your Grandmother though. I’m glad you have many happy memories to get you through this difficult time.

  • So sorry for your loss. This post made me reminisce about my own grandmas passing and how much she is missed.

  • Sue Fredrickson

    Aw Jasmine, I cry as I read your passage. Your Grandma sounds like a wonderful woman and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to say good bye. Losing someone you love so much is so hard, as I know first hand. Please know that I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Love, Sue

  • Thanks for sharing, David. Sometimes the best thing to do is just go home.

  • Thanks for your kind words Erin :)

  • Annette, I don’t know what happens after someone dies, but I like to think that my grandmother will travel with me in spirit. Maybe yours is too.

  • Thank you so much, Sue, I really appreciate that.

  • So sorry for your loss. I’m sure she was really proud of you.

  • Leslie

    Dear Jasmine,

    She was so proud of you – of your courageous wandering spirit, of your own compassion and curiosity, and of your thoughtful nature. Her trip with you was a true highpoint and I loved how much she valued that she made it with you. Both you and Aleah had very special relationships with her, and they were treasured by her. Thank you for the joy you brought to her. My heart and thoughts are with you and the rest of the family. hug your dad for me. I’m thinking of you.

    With affection,

  • sorry to hear the news but a beautiful post you have written about her.  She seemed like the type of person everyone would want to meet.

  • Thanks Erik.

  • Thanks Leslie. Grandma was also proud of you and the life you’ve built for yourself :) She loved all of her children and grandchildren very much, that’s for sure.

  • She definitely was! If she was a little bit younger I would’ve taken her on the road with me :)

  • Cam

    So sorry to hear of your loss. We’re sending you and your family positive thoughts :-)

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, and yet it’s so wonderful that you had a relationship like this with your grandmother! She sounds like an amazing person and I wish I could have known her. I have lost a few loved ones while I’ve been away, but none as close as this. I can’t imagine how hard it must be.

  • I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. one of my greatest fears is to lose someone on the road. It’s very admirable that your focus is on the loving memories of her and not the actual loss.

    i’m also very close to my grandmother and call her often while traveling. i enjoy reading about your relationship with her because i feel sometimes people dont understand my own relationship with my grandma.

    i, too, went on a trip to europe with her and am very thankful to have done that. it was a special time that we shared and we will always remember. i’m sure that’s how your grandmother felt about her trip with you.

    thank you for sharing this personal story with us.

  • She’s got your smile!

    The same thing has recently happened to me. It sucks not being able to say goodbye, but our memories of them will keep them alive.

  • Sorry to read about your loss.  She sounds like a wonderful lady and I can say I was lucky enough to have two great grandmothers as well – one still is alive.

  • Lori

    Jasmine, so very sorry. Time goes by much too quickly.  I lost my Grandmother years ago.  She meant the absolute world to me.  My son bearly remembers her so it is important that I speak of her often, display her photos, talk of her lessons (so MANY lessons), her ways, her sense of humor, so that he can “know” her.  I carry her inside of me, just as you do.  I am so glad that you had that wonderful trip together. 

  • Thanks Samuel, you’re very lucky to have them in your life.

  • More like I’ve got hers! :)

  • Alex, it was one of my biggest fears too but I’m glad I had the means and the funds to get home quickly. Thanks for sharing about your grandmother too :)

  • Hi Jana, I feel lucky I got to know her and that I could get here quickly.

  • Thanks Cam :)

  • That sounds like a great idea, and I’ll be doing the same with my kids too.

  • Lash

    Hi Jasmine,

    Really sorry to hear about this. I hope your world gets turned upright again soon.

    I came to your site today in order to compile the interview we agreed to do, and quickly came to your most recent posts.  So, we’ll save the interview for a later time.

    Meanwhile, you’re in Tampa. I’m in St Pete! If you have time, energy,and right frame of mind, I’d love to  meet you!  lashtour@yaho:disqus o.com  

    cheers, Lash

  • Jasmine, I am sorry for your loss.  I can relate to this.  In 2004, I was working in Santa Cruz when I got the call that my grandfather in South Carolina had died.  He was a special man and I cried when I heard the news.  I know what it means to be far away and have to get that call to head home.  It’s a tough journey to make but one worth it to honor someone you cared about so much.

  • You’re right, Jeremy. It’s a hard trip to make, but It’s fairly likely to happen to those of us who travel full time or live away from home.

  • Thanks for your condolences Lash.

  • Oh goodness. I went through the same thing when I was on my RTW trip in 2010. It is the hardest thing to go through, and even harder when you’re alone. I got so sad reading this and couldn’t finish it. I am so sorry you had to experience this and so sorry for your loss. 

  • Thanks for your condolences Diana and I’m sorry for your loss as well.

  • Stoney

    Jasmine, what a wonderful story about your friendship with your grandmother.  I was very fortunate in that I was able to travel and see my grandfather before he passed away.  I wish you many fond memories of your grandmother in the future.  Also, thank you for your excellent blog :)

  • Very sorry for your loss.. I know what it feels like to loose loved ones …

    love & light your way


  • Love this post. I think of my Grandad a lot…a formative figure in my life. I think about his life, his death, the laughs and the private jokes. I hope we’re as good grandparents…