I sit on the airplane, wedged between Tim, my husband, and Reed, my younger son. Seth, my older son, sits just across the narrow aisle. The flight attendant moves down the aisle closing the overhead baggage compartments, signaling that boarding is over and our departure is at hand. I pull my AirPods out of my bag and position them in my ears; then, I look at my phone to choose which podcast to begin. “One missed call,” I notice.
This vacation is the first for our family since the summer of 2020. Since then, we’ve been together for Seth’s graduation, his move to Colorado, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for my dad’s funeral. But ten whole days together…to reconnect and play, to rest and rejuvenate, to adventure and explore? Well, it’s been far too long. I have been counting down the days until our departure, and when I hugged Seth’s neck upon his arrival at our gate just thirty minutes ago, I felt the swell of joy and hope.
The caller ID shows that my sister Beth has just called.
“You’d better call her back,” Tim advises.
I know he is right—she is coming to town to stay with Mom as well as watch our dog Titan while we are away. Her missed call sets off an alarm in my nervous system. So, as a flight attendant begins making an announcement about oxygen masks and floatation devices, I place the call.
“I have some hard news,” she says, gently.
When Beth arrived at our house that afternoon to check on Titan, she found him in his bed, deceased. Our beloved 13-year-old dog had died sometime between our departure that morning and her arrival. As she speaks, I slowly absorb her words while remaining acutely aware of my sons’ nearby presence. I feel shock and sorrow rise within me, yet I quickly steel myself to contain it. This is neither the place nor the time to share this news with our boys. I pass the phone to Tim, and together, we hold the knowledge of our family’s loss for the four-hour flight.
I am flooded with a torrent of thoughts and feelings over the next four hours and pray that the dam will hold, containing the emotional release that feels imminent. How is our pup, who was chasing squirrels in the backyard yesterday morning, gone? My dad gone. Our cat gone. Now, Titan gone. Loss upon loss. And this trip? A desperate need to get away as a family. To flee from the weight of what our world has held and fly toward carefree joy. With one phone call, I am reminded there is no escape.
We carry the both/and with us, wherever we go.
The sorrow and the joy. The anticipation and the disappointment. The mundane and the adventure. The delight of receiving and the ache of letting go. It’s the torrent swirling inside me. Instead of fighting it, I gradually surrender. What has felt like an internal ferocity to armor up settles into a gentle softening of my soul. I embrace both my hope and my grief with equal kindness.
Here, cruising through the air at 36,000 feet, I feel beckoned to bless the both/and as good and holy. I am here for it all.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” – Julian of Norwich
Susan Tucker is a lifelong lover of story, and with curiosity and openness, she often explores in her writing the tension that life holds. A former English teacher, Susan loves meaningful use of language, especially when used to stir the soul and whet one’s appetite for more truth, goodness, and beauty. Compelled by a burgeoning interest in trauma recovery, she pursued training at The Allender Center, completing the Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care, Level I and Level 2. Susan and Tim, her husband of 28 years, are the parents of two sons, now young adults, and adjusting to their newly empty nest.nbsp