86: My Mother the Travel Agent

86: My Mother the Travel Agent

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

My Mother the Travel Agent

Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening. But no matter how hard death tries, it can’t separate people from love.

~Author Unknown

The text from my brother was brief: I’m going to be at Disney World with Hannah and a few of her friends from April 1–5. You’re going there too, right?

I was delighted by his unexpected news. Two months earlier, I had booked a three-day vacation in Disney World for my son and me, with plans to be there from April 4–6. It would fall during our first visit to see my father in the United States since my mother had passed away the previous year, and I knew our trip would be fraught with mixed emotions. Orlando was less than a two-hour drive from the independent-living facility that my father had moved into shortly after my mother’s death, and I liked the idea of breaking up our stay with a few days in the magical world of Disney. As a bonus, I was able to use points I’d accrued on my credit card to cover a significant portion of our booking costs, allowing us to choose a hotel we might not have selected otherwise.

I texted back quickly to let him know our dates and added that we’d be staying onsite at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. His answer surprised me. “So are we,” he responded, and asked if Yogev and I could arrive a day earlier so that we could spend more time together. I contacted the hotel and successfully changed our reservation, all the while marveling at this turn of events.

When I told my father that Josh and I would be meeting up at Disney World, he was ecstatic. He recounted his and my mother’s fear that my brother and I would lose our connection once they were both gone, and he was thrilled that we were seizing this opportunity to vacation together with our children. His voice choked up as he spoke of my mother and how happy it would have made her to know that we were doing this.

Josh and I had always gotten along well when we visited, but we didn’t speak often and saw one another even less. In the days before our mother died, though, we managed to connect on a level that had eluded us for years—a connection that deepened as our family dynamic turned upside-down while we faced our mother’s illnesses and subsequent death.

My brother and I made restaurant reservations and park plans, re-arranging schedules as needed to maximize our time together. I was excited at the prospect of having fun with my brother, and looked forward to Yogev and Hannah having this rare opportunity to hang out. Despite their two-year age difference and the miles that separated them, they enjoyed each other’s company, and I wanted them to develop their relationship even further. They hadn’t seen one another since the days surrounding my mother’s funeral, keeping each other company during the day and sleeping on matching sofas in my parents’ living room at night. I loved the idea of us wandering around Disney World with my brother and one of my nieces, making memories together.

But even as my excitement grew, like my father, I was deeply saddened by the fact that my mother wasn’t alive to witness what was happening. I, too, knew how happy it would have made her to see her children and grandchildren planning and taking a trip together. My grief over her loss was palpable and still felt fresh; knowing that she was missing it all made my heart ache and filled my eyes with tears.

And yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if my mother somehow had a spiritual hand in bringing my brother and me together in this way. After all, what were the chances that Josh and I—completely independently of one another—would make plans to be in Disney World at the same time and choose to stay at the same hotel?

I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I wanted—perhaps even desperately needed—to believe that our mother had been the guiding force, that she was watching over us from wherever she was, doing her best to help us celebrate our sibling relationship. I was utterly devastated by her death, and I missed her terribly. The idea that she was somehow responsible for bringing us together was soothing. On the other hand, the cynic in me was skeptical, unwilling to accept the possibility that what had happened was nothing more than an incredibly wonderful coincidence.

My friends were more confident than I was. “It does sound like something your mom would help to orchestrate,” noted Sheri, one of my oldest friends who had known my mother since we were kids. “You know she did,” exclaimed Denise, whose wisdom and friendship during the previous year had been a lifeline when my grief was overwhelming and I needed a confidante. My friend Debbie called it “mom serendipity”—a term that brought a smile to my face.

I allowed myself to accept the possibility that my mother had intervened to create this unexpected family reunion. I liked what my friend Roni had to say: “It doesn’t matter what the situation is. If you felt that your mother was there and helped you, then she was! Your mother is always with you.”

And my mother was clearly with us as we traveled, hovering in our thoughts as we stopped for lunch at her favorite roadside restaurant chain on the way to Orlando. I felt her with me when I hugged my brother in the hotel lobby and as we watched the sunset from the balcony of our room. Perhaps we couldn’t see or touch her, but my mother was definitely with us at Disney World, and the one thing I knew for certain was that she was happy.

~Liza Rosenberg

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