We’ve had an abrupt and awful pause in our travels.
Last Thursday morning as I watched from our motorhome and listened to some waves roll in at Castillo de Baños in southern Spain I received the phone call I’d been dreading every time my mum phoned in the past 18 months: “Your dad died this morning.”
Dad had been struggling with heart failure for a few years now and although he was getting progressively worse, overall his condition had actually been stable for 12 months when we decided to come away on this project to see as many friends and family as possible.
After that phone call the waves seemed to stop rolling in, more that they sucked me in to some silent abyss, and I felt numb. It was as if everything was surreal.
I flew back to England with Daniel, aged 5, taking his first flight – his inquisitive mind taking my mind off things – while Debs had to stay with his three-year-old brother Darley, Colin the dog and our motorhome. On the plane as we touched the clouds then went above them I noticed Daniel staring out in wonder.
I watched him for a few minutes taking in the amazing spectacle of a first-time ever experience. Then he turned to me.
“Dad, I can see Grandad in the clouds right over there.”
I nodded, with sadness still hanging as it had since I’d heard the news, but also a joy at Daniel’s assured words.
“He’s still around us,” I said. “Like everyone who’s died. You can always sense them and talk to them if you want.”
“Or you can ask God to as well. I can see God in the clouds near Grandad.”
We looked into each other’s eyes and took each other in. It was a special bond.
The funeral came, a dreaded day, that went at least smoothly. I realised that as my dad didn’t exist in the physical sense I’d always known him, his energy did, that he would always in some way live forever. Kind words and deeds remained, any show of love, it has stayed here.
During the service I thought of some happy memories of my dad and of how he loved travelling, including to Australia, Israel, the US several times and to Spain the most of all. But the main memory that came to mind was how he affectionately squeezed my knee as a young boy.
Absent-mindedly I squeezed Daniel’s knee in the church while staring at my dad’s coffin, and Daniel squeezed my knee back. I looked to him and it was he, my five-year-old son, that gave me, his dad, a reassuring little smile. Our look to each other was full of the most love imaginable.
When I returned to the beautiful campsite at Castillo de Baños, the first thing I heard was the waves rolling in again. Then our amazing family was reunited and I hugged Debs and Darley and our hugs were that bit tighter, more than ever.
Something my dad always said to me was “Walk tall”, so maybe it was apt that we were then heading to the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada. Up there it was awesome, and we really were touching the clouds again.
Las Lomas campsite is one of the best we’ve stayed at, with such stunning views of the lake and snow-topped mountains, but it was really cold compared to the coast (but still twice the temperature that England had been in December!).
We’d gone there to meet up with our great old mate Tony who has a fantastic place this way that he spends some of his time at away from that bitter winter cold of England.
We walked around his pretty village and the boys picked some delicious oranges and lemons from the trees. A wonderfully relaxing afternoon.
Then we headed back, enticed by the warmth of the coast near Nerja and as we drove down from the mountains I thought how exciting it was being on the road again.
If we lived forever I’d want to try a year living in most countries, in all parts of the world. But we don’t live forever, so I need to travel.
Although of course, as I’m experiencing right now, the energy we make in our time on this world and that we pass on through our kind words, deeds and actions, through our love – it does live forever.
Back on the coast the endless waves rolled in again, and we walked tall forever beside them.