Returning from Australia, I was anticipating my next flight off Guam would take me to Manila in June for our service trip. The week after my horrible illness as I was recovering, I got the sad news that my grandfather passed away in Florida. He had been in hospice for several weeks with a steady decline, so the news was not completely unexpected. It was, however, difficult timing to think of rallying my weak body to make the grueling trip back for the service. I found out Wednesday morning, when I was finally able to leave the house for a staff meeting, but still had trouble standing for long periods of time and got winded easily from even short conversations with people. At that point, I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself to not be able to go. I just didn't know if I could physically get there.
The human body is an amazing thing. With the goal of leaving on a military flight out on Friday, I forced myself to consume large protein shakes, big meals, and lots of Gatorade. My physical state returned well from this routine, but mentally I was still in a fog. I was dreading the 2-hour mission trip meeting I had to lead at church Wednesday night. I just didn't have the energy for it. Somehow, though, about halfway through the meeting as we were brainstorming ideas and singing songs (not your typical boring work meeting!), I snapped out of it. Suddenly I could think clearly again, my mind finally awake after two solid weeks of being sick and out of it.
Thursday morning I awoke after a good night sleep feeling amazing. I spent the morning tying up loose ends and then Nick called to see if I was up for a round of golf. At this point, we were anticipating not seeing each other for two and a half weeks or more, and given I was a slightly warmed skeleton the previous two weeks, it felt like we hadn't actually hung out in forever. So I rallied, chugged a protein shake and decided I'd take it easy this round and just enjoy being out there. After five minutes of warm up, I was winded like you would be in your cardio warm up at the gym. It was kind of ridiculous, but I was still able to play. Nice easy swings. No pressure to do well. I can't believe it, but I had my best round of golf EVER that day, even after not playing for three weeks! I shot a 95, and FINALLY broke 100. I even had a chip-in birdie on a par 5 (for those non golf enthusiasts, this is really hard to do and at my playing level requires an enormous amount of luck!). Just like at the meeting, about halfway through the round of golf, I felt myself physically snap out of it. I felt much stronger and almost completely like myself. It was a joyous feeling, especially anticipating the morning flight out.
As Space-A goes, the morning flight out turned into the afternoon flight out. (Of course, part of the fun of Space-A is the war stories you get to tell afterwards... I am lucky to not have any this time!). I was so grateful to get on the first flight I tried. In fact, because there was a death in the family, I was eligible to get bumped up to the priority travel category. Ironically, I had to call the Red Cross in San Diego and speak to a Red Cross caseworker who was one of my former coworkers in order to make this happen. After all those years of plugging the Red Cross's services to the military, I found myself needing the very program I had written so many press releases about. I actually feel like making a donation.
After a non-eventful 7-hour flight from Guam to Hawaii, I arrived there at 4 a.m. local time. An hour later, my friend Melissa who lives in Honolulu was online, up early feeding her baby, and offered to bring me breakfast. At this point, I was starving and so grateful not to have to choke down another granola bar! Melissa is my friend from a Bible study in Annapolis and she helped me with Space-A in January when I was there. She showed up at the terminal with the best Egg McMuffin I have ever eaten, and she and her now 10 month-old hung out with me for the two long sleepy hours before I boarded the flight. She was definitely my Space-A angel!
Five hours later, I found myself landing at Travis AFB in San Francisco. I collected my bags and hopped on a shuttle to get off base, where my sister was waiting to pick me up! We immediately headed to Panera Bread (!) for dinner and wifi, where I booked a flight out to Florida for that night. After a quick turnaround at their flat in San Francisco, Courtney, Ben and I headed to the airport. Another red eye flight and here I find myself in Washington, D.C., about to board another flight to head to my final destination, Pensacola.
It has been about 48 hours since I last laid my head down in a bed. But luckily I am a Space-A champ and brought a ground pad and sleeping bag with me and was able to lay out and sleep on the floor of the military flights. After so many long hauls, this next hour and a half flight to Florida is going to feel like a breeze. And on the other side await my parents, cousins, aunt, friends, and the celebration of the life of a most amazing man. A long journey, indeed, but worth the effort to have this time together.