Sorrowful family news…Tom is heading to the USA…

Jerry and his lovely wife Lee, his favorite Norwegian.

We knew that eventually, we’d lose a loved one, which would require an imminent trip to the US, mainly because Tom is the youngest of his remaining eight siblings. Sadly, last night Tom’s eldest sibling Jerome, 94, passed away after a short illness resulting in him being in hospice care at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, over the past few days.

This morning, Tom awoke to a message from his daughter Tammy and Jerome’s daughter Jerri that Jerome passed during the night. Tom hasn’t been able to talk to anyone in his family yet since he found out it was the middle of the night in the US with the eight-hour time difference. As soon as the family starts waking up today at around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs. when he will talk to the family to find out when the services will be held to ensure he gets to the US  in plenty of time for the funeral.

Jerome has been an integral part of the lives of Tom’s family members and our lives. In the first several years of our world travels, we sent him our posts daily so he could listen to them on his talking computer. Jerome was totally blind and had been so since 1970 but had adapted amazingly well to this limitation. (We always admired Jerry’s strength and ability to fend for himself, and he has lived in his own home until this recent illness).

When we decided to leave to travel the world, Jerome encouraged us to do so with gusto. We even wrote a story about his enthusiasm for our travels in this post dated December 18, 2012, only a few months after we left. Please refer to that post which so well shares Jerry’s powerful and supportive message that “we’d be his eyes as we traveled the world.”

Jerome was a twin, born on a farm in Winsted, Minnesota. His twin, a boy named James, passed away several days later. The family always honored the loss of his twin and, of course, Jerome, as the eldest of 11 children in the family. The family includes well over one hundred multigenerational members, many of whom we’ve yet to meet with many recent births.

Jerome was a great-great-grandfather. His beloved wife, Lee, whom he referred to as “his favorite Norwegian,” passed away in December 2013. They’d been married for 61 years. He and Lee had three children, Jerri, Steve, and Kathy, with many young ones following from his eight grandchildren and now great and great-great-grandchildren. Jerome always said his only regret was being unable to see the faces of his grandchildren and eventual great and great-great-grandchildren.

Jerome’s attitude and demeanor left all of us reeling with wonder. His blindness was but a blip in his daily life and was often a source of well-intended good humor by his family, teasing him about driving a car and giving great driving directions. He was masterful at playing cards using special Braille-marked cards. Family members often played cards with him, including us, when we lived in Minnesota and when we visited in the past 10-plus years.

When I first met Jerome in 1991 at my then house in Minnesota, long before Tom and I were married, I told Tom after everyone left after a fun day by the lake, “Your brother Jerome “felt me up” (non offensively, of course). He felt the sides of my body and the features on my face. I stood there patiently, not saying a word, nor did Lee, his wife, sitting beside him. Tom laughed and responded, “That’s how Jerry can tell what you look like.” We often told this story accompanied by a heartfelt chuckle.

Jerome loved that we were living a dream life by traveling the world. When we called him, he often asked many questions and was fascinated by our stories and adventures. And we could spend hours listening to his stories of the decades of family life and his experiences before and after he went blind. Like their dear mother, Mary, Jerome was a fine storyteller up until the end of their lives. never forgetting even the most minute details, including dates and events.

Jerome will be sorely missed by all the lives of those who knew and loved him or anyone who may have been fortunate enough to cross his path.

We send our love and prayers to all the family members whose hearts are broken and saddened by this loss of their dear man. We grieve along with you and pray for his restful eternity with his beloved wife, Lee, “his favorite Norwegian.”

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 2, 2022:

We looked forward to sitting here and watching the visitors stop by. But now, there are so many worms I won’t sit outdoors. They fall on my head and face. Yuck! For more photos, please click here.

Losing loved ones in times of Covid-19…Today is a sad anniversary…

A few days ago, we read a post on Facebook that the husband of a well-known couple in Marloth Park passed away from Covid-19 at 52 years old, only after two days in the hospital. Their adult daughter, a popular singer, and performer has been in hospital in ICU for the past five weeks, hanging on for dear life, also with Covid. Neither had yet been vaccinated since their age group for the jab hadn’t come up yet. This is heartbreaking.

There’s no doubt that many of our readers have suffered such losses due to Covid-19 in the past 18 months since this nightmare began, impacting all of our lives in one way or another. Whether we lost a loved one, lost a job, lost income due to cutbacks and closings, lost a business, and lost a dream for the future, no one has been exempt from the ravages of the pandemic.

What brought this to mind, especially today, is that one year ago on this date, my elder dear sister Susan (four years my senior), who was already bedridden and suffering from many conditions (primarily hereditary), passed away. My sister Julie and Susan’s daughter Kely were at her side when she took her last breath.

A lone yellow-billed stork at Sunset Dam.

A few days later, Julie, who hadn’t worn a mask while at Susan’s side, tested positive for Covid-19 and experienced a horrifying case of the virus, still plaguing her yet today, suffering from what is called “long haul Covid.” Little is known as to how to treat these lingering symptoms.

After these events, I felt confident that although Susan was suffering from many conditions, none of them were imminently life-threatening. With Julie getting sick only days later, I am convinced that ultimately Susan passed from Covid, or at least her many conditions were exacerbated by contracting Covid while living in a small nursing facility.

The hardest part for me was finding out she’d passed by a phone call, which transpired while Julie read one of our posts to her, while we were on day #145 in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India. There was nothing I could do. Tom, who also cared for Susan, cried along with me that day when the only thing we could do was sit on the edge of the bed in each other’s arms in our hotel room and let the tears flow.

Elephants were heading to the river.

At that point, unbeknownst to us, we were only halfway through those ten months in lockdown in India, waiting for the Mumbai and Johannesburg airports to re-open to international flights so we could finally be on our way to South Africa. I wonder if we’d known then that we were only halfway through the lockdown if we’d have done as well as we did, with the grief of losing my dear sister and the fear of losing other loved ones in the process.

Our inconvenient situation in lockdown was nothing compared to the sorrow of losing loved ones and becoming ill with the dreaded illness. The fact we stayed safe all those months still surprises us. At that time, if one of us had become sick and required hospitalization, the public and private hospitals were full. Ill patients were placed on “Army cots” outdoors in parking lots.

The terrain along the Sabie River.

That was a terrifying thought to both of us, especially as the months passed and new guests entered the hotel, staying on our floor, talking loudly, with few wearing masks and social distancing. We often forgo walking in the corridors when other guests were careless coming in and out of their rooms.

Today, again, I mourn the loss of my dear Susan and will do so each anniversary to come, along with the anniversaries of others we have lost over the years, regardless of the cause.

May you all find peace and comfort in recalling great memories of loved ones you have lost over the years. Stay well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 15, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #145. Good thing I couldn’t eat any of this. We’d have spent a fortune, and I’d have gained so much weight I wouldn’t fit into my clothing. For more photos, please click here.

We lost a friend, a reader, an adventurer…May he be remembered with great love…

Glenn and Staci had the opportunity to enjoy traveling together.

In many ways, the friendships we’ve been gifted in our travels have taken on a new meaning. Fancy dinner parties are no longer at their homes or ours. Instead, it’s typical to get together for a barbecue, picnic or dinner and drinks on the town.

The relationships we’ve developed over these years of world travel have morphed into an entirely different context. Our friendships grow in short moments in time; on cruises, at public venues, in small towns, and online.

The online aspect is most surprising to us, but then, marriages and lasting relationships are often built and grown through the magic of the Internet, which had become a common medium for incorporating new people into our lives.

In no way can we diminish the power and significance of this means of making friends. Through social media, including chat sessions, Facebook, blogs, and email, we can easily develop meaningful friendships through the written word.

Without the benefits of the inflection in one’s voice or the expressions on one’s face, somehow, many of us who are comfortable communicating online allow ourselves the privilege of becoming close and connected with those we meet along the way in cyberspace.

Such was the case with our online friends, Staci and Glenn, whom we met a few years ago via our posts. Unfortunately, from a message online and in an email, dear Staci informed us that Glenn passed away a few days ago due to a brain injury.

Ironically, Glenn had sent us a beautiful email on April 13th, which I won’t re-post in its entirety with respect for the privacy of Staci and the family. But today, we will share but a snippet that he shared with us for his love for travel. 

Glenn wrote:

“Years ago, I took off for a year and visited Africa riding hot air balloons over seven countries. I navigated some of the terrifying rapids in the world under Victoria Falls and kayaked the Zambezi River for a month all the way to the Indian Ocean.”

Glenn went on to share his myriad worldwide experiences making valuable suggestions to us for our upcoming return to Africa, which we took seriously as we read that April 13th email. We realized his thoughtful suggestions were meant to enrich our experiences in every way possible. That was who Glenn was.

Now, after he has passed, he’s left the world another legacy, the generous donation of his liver and kidneys that are now ready to be transplanted into as many as three fortunate recipients when a transplant list is often lengthy and unyielding. 

As we continue to travel, we have the “world” with us, enriching us, embracing us, and leaving us with memories that neither time nor place can strip away. Thank you, Glenn, for being a part of those memories. 

May you travel on that river of eternity with the sun on your handsome face, fearless and passionate for the treasures this exquisite planet bestowed upon you and for the treasures you bestowed upon others both in life and in death.

Staci and family, no words can ease your sorrow. But, may your hearts and minds flourish with good memories as you work your way through this sorrowful time. Our thoughts, love, and prayers are with you always.

Photo from one year ago today, April 25, 2016:

No sooner than we stepped off the shuttle bus in Darwin, Australia, we spotted this local zoo staff person promoting the venue to the ship’s passengers while holding this baby croc. Its mouth is wrapped in a rubber band, as shown. For more details, please click here.