Traveling has become a normal part of funerals as families spread out by moving and growing. Our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, etc. live longer as each generation grows older and expands their own branch of the family. My great-grandmother passed away Saturday, February 2, 2019, and I found myself traveling to Texas from Tennessee (a 10+ hour drive) for her funeral. There was a mixed sense of emotions as I was faced with this emotional loss, but also the opportunity to visit with family which I do not have the ability to see or spend time with often due to time and location.
As we piled in the car to begin the trip from East Tennessee to Maud, TX, I found that I was filled with conflicting emotions about the next few days. Being in a car with family for that extended amount of time gave me a chance to visit with part of my family I do not spend as much time with as I would like. As much as we don't like to admit it, our chaotic schedules of running children to and from school, running errands, even our own homework (if you're in graduate school like me) fills up your daily schedules. Our lives are fast-paced, we schedule the day to fit in as much as possible and this trip provided us with a chance to slow down and take a moment for ourselves. This perspective gave me a moment of happiness and enjoyment, but I also found myself feeling unsure because of the mixed emotions I was feeling. While traveling for a funeral you would expect to feel saddened and upset, and while I felt those things, I was also excited and enjoying my time.
Once we had arrived in Texas, I found myself with expected emotions of sadness for the loss of my great-grandmother and the pain I know her loss caused my grandmother. However, as I do not have the chance to see my grandmother often due to the distance between us, I was happy to see her. It had been over a year since the last visit to Texas which was for my grandfather's funeral the previous year. All of the family had traveled from various places across the U.S. (from Baltimore to California) to be there for the funeral and as everyone arrived, we packed the house full. While there were tears of sadness, there were screams of excitement as children that hadn't seen each other in over a year chased after each other, loud voices floating from the kitchen as everyone talked all at once, and roaring laughter that was a mixture of joy and relief of everyone being together again.
While I had thought the mixed emotions I was facing of the bittersweet trip were perplexing to only myself, this was also a reality for others as well. Our families are complex creations of people we love and share emotions with because of this, traveling to celebrate the life of someone that has passed with family can leave you facing mixed emotions of your own. Losing a loved one brings a family together in sadness, but also in love, and provides an opportunity to share time with one another that wouldn't normally be possible otherwise.