Tuesday February 16, 2016:
- 1AM PST mom texts me the hospital has called, dad’s condition has changed but he should be OK, she’ll see him in the morning.
- 1:30AM I finally managed to wake my baby sister up, telling her to get the hospital fast.
- 2AM my sister arrives at the hospital and it’s bad, she calls my mom and one of our older sisters.
- 2:30AM I join them in his hospital room 4,250 klms away via FaceTime.
- 4:20AM we say good-bye to the most amazing man the world has ever seen.
I had already booked a flight on WestJet to see him, prior to this latest trip to the hospital, but it didn’t leave until Wednesday evening, the following day! If only I’d listened to my gut and bought that ticket for Monday! I’d missed saying good-bye in person by one day. My number one goal now was to get on the next flight to BC. WestJet bumped me up from the last flight of the day out of Kitchener, Ontario to the first flight of the day out of Toronto, Ontario and they reimbursed me almost $200 as my trip was now considered bereavement travel.
The rest of the day after that was a blur.
Wednesday February 17, 2016:
I left the house at 5AM EST to catch the 8AM EST flight to Vancouver, BC out of Toronto, Ontario (WS 637). I’m not sure I slept the night before. My eyes were almost swollen shut from all the tears. Why bother with makeup, my fellow passengers should be thankful I remembered to wear deodorant. My hands were shaking as I stood in line to pass through security. Then as a man in his mid to late 60’s passed by in my peripheral vision, every tear I hadn’t cried the night before came pouring out. The lady behind me handed me a tissue, my sleeves were already soaked. Red faced and puffy, I must have looked like quite the risk because I got the pat-down like no other pat-downs before. “Ma’am can you come with me please?” it wasn’t really a question… They made me throw out my well-used tissue. Blue rubber-gloved fingers went deep into my armpits, in-between and under my breasts, over every inch of my torso, my legs and even between my toes and then all through my hair.
I made it to my gate and did everything I could to pull it together. Get it together, crying makes people feel uncomfortable, I told myself. We boarded on time, I was sitting between two lovely people, the lady on my left wanted to sleep and the man on my right looked like he was reading a good book. I just wanted to sleep myself, but every time I closed my eyes I saw the last images of him on his death bed, wasting away, a shell of the man who only 8 months prior had been, to our knowledge at the time, the picture of health. How could this be? This can’t be real? These questions plagued me, it was all a bad dream, right? You see, the last time I saw my dad in person was at the beginning of January, we’d spent Christmas out west with him. He and I would drive around in his brand new to him Jeep and go for lunch. We talked about how tired he was but that he was looking forward to getting better. I helped him book a trip with Mom to Mexico for February. We talked about how important family was and he asked me to move home, he wanted to see us more often. Those are the images I had in my head prior to FaceTiming with my sisters and mom the morning before. He hated his picture taken and he never wanted anyone to know how bad it was, so I, living 4,250 kilometres away, had no idea this was the end.
Two plus hours later… you’ve got to love flying in the winter in Canada… we were finally off the ground. By the time we’d levelled off and the flight crew started to make their rounds, I knew I may be in jeopardy of missing my connector flight through Calgary, Alberta to Abbotsford, BC (WS 683). “Yes Ma’am you’ll have to catch the next flight out of Calgary to Abbotsford this evening.” Wait?! What?! I was going to be stuck in an airport for most of the day! Realizing I would miss the appointment at the funeral home with my mom and sister, I started to cry again.
The crew member asked for my tickets, handed me more tissues and said she’d be right back. What they did next makes them heroes in my book, WestJet wins for best customer service, hands down…
Thirty minutes later she returns. She’d worked hard to help me out. WestJet switched my flight, they got me on one leaving Calgary for Vancouver (Flight 101). I was to get off first and go immediately to the new gate and board right away. They’d get my luggage to me. I got off that plane and ran, I was the first to board my new flight, I was given Plus seating with free food (thank goodness because I am pretty sure I hadn’t eaten since the day before) and they provided me with a full box of tissue. That in itself was extremely helpful, I couldn’t imagine waiting 9 hours for the next flight to my original destination. Then they went out of their way to make me feel the WestJet love… they had a cab waiting for me when I landed in Vancouver to take me directly to the funeral home.
Now that is service!!
I walked in to the funeral home exactly at the right time. My mom and sisters were trying to figure out dad’s family history, where his parents were born, Grandma’s maiden name, etc. for the death certificate, and only I had the correct answers they needed. Dad and I had spent an enormous amount of time on Ancestory.ca putting together our family tree. He was the last of his immediate family and so it was important to me that I knew as much about the Kushnerik / Jacobson family as possible.
Later that evening my husband and oldest son landed in Abbotsford, BC. As the luggage came off the plane, their suitcases arrive right next to mine. Providence.
So thank you WestJet — thank you!