Today, I learned that my Grandma passed away. The funeral is being planned for Thursday or Friday. And suddenly, all of my family’s grief, all the CNN news reports, all the travel restrictions, and all those clouds of volcanic ash from Iceland came tumbling down on my head.
I immediately found myself living inside the news story — wishing and scratching and scrambling for an airline ticket to Minneapolis. Unfortunately, they’re a bit hard to come by these days. Just this evening, the Dutch Minister of Transportation revealed that some of the national airspace is finally being opened up after being shut down for the better part of a week (in response to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano on Iceland and subsequent ash plume fall-out). Within an hour after the announcement, Marci and I heard the first jets roaring over our neighborhood again. But even so, the back-log of travelers is severe. They’re all in a hurry to get to their homes, their jobs, their families, their weddings, and their funerals. So I’m just one of a crowd, with limited options for getting back to be with my family during this time of mourning.
I realize that things could be a whole lot worse. I’m with my wife and my children. I’m staying in my own home. My extended family back in the United States is remarkably understanding about the challenges that might prevent me from being at Grandma’s funeral. And with the recent chain of events that has opened up some possibility for air travel, even my immediate situation is not all hopeless. Still, it’s hard to be stuck like this. Situations like this are the worst, when it comes to living so far away from my homeland and my loved ones.
The odd thing is: even though I’m living under a vast cloud of ash, here in Amsterdam, I look outside and can’t see anything unusual. The skies are blue. Spring is in the air. It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year in Amsterdam. I guess I’m only just now starting to notice the ash.