December 25, 2008

Happy holidays, everyone.

Vicky, Max, Patsy, Beverly and I returned to Montreal early yesterday morning. After driving from Montreal, to NYC, to Lake Worth (near Ft. Lauderdale), we hopped on a plane to Jamaica. We spent six days in Ocho Rios. Our friend Kelly and I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale on the 15th and were present so our whole crew could help Max take his first plane ride back since he was 2. It was pretty traumatic back then, so but he did better this time. Thanks to all the familiar faces, some noise-cancelling headphones to help with his over-sensitive hearing and sitting far away from the engine.

I also want to mention when we got off the plane, another plane from Manchester, UK, landed right after us. I was mostly watching Max but I looked back at the passengers and looked directly two faces I had previously only seen on BBC News, Facebook and YouTube: Sarah Murray-Thompson, who needed an unrelated bone marrow donor and had a successful bone marrow transplant, and her husband Mark. I went over to them and lost all of my words. I barely squeaked out, "Tamu... It's Tamu." After greetings and extending condolences we marvelled at what the odds would be that we would all meet like this. Sarah continues to raise awareness about the need for more black and mixed ethnicity donors and funds for the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust.

We took some much needed rest at a resort. Fortuitously, two of our friends live right next door to the resort, and we also visited a few members of our extended family and friends in the short time we had in Kingston. The Rockfort Mineral Baths were closed for the season, so my parents spread some of Emru's ashes in the water nearby. I also spread some of Emru's ashes in my late aunt's garden when we got to her place. Two cities out of three requested cities down. Montreal can wait until the snow melts.

When it was time to leave, we got Max on the plane and he did very well. His new catchphrase is "[Insert name] so proud of me?" because he heard us tell him so many times. Emru would certainly be proud of him for conquering his fear, especially dealing with a very real discomfort. In fact, when we landed he remarked that taking a plane was fun! During the later stages driving back home, he inquired about taking a plane alone.

We drove back from Florida, first stopping by family on both Beverly and Patsy's side, as well as some good friends in that state. We left the state and drove through Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, DC, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. We did it in two days because we were having a good time, but it was time to go home. Because we drove through the night, Max forced himself to stay awake for most of it. When he got home at 5:00 am, Max went to bed for a nap and was up very soon after, and wanted to go for a drive! Beverly and Max drove me home in the mid-morning so Max could get his fix.

Of course, we talked about Emru a lot. I think we all had our internal conversations going as well.

I'm not much of a Christmas person these days, and my family has celebrated Kwanzaa anyway since the 70s, which is a lot less about the gifts in our household and more introspective. Whether you've just finished celebrating Chanukah or Yule, are celebrating now or about to celebrate, all of these festivals are really about one thing: family, friends and community. So if you celebrate these ideas and put your ideas into practice everyday, I think everyone reading has been celebrating the entire time. We are so grateful for the help you have given our family and to the countless people you are also trying to help.

Enjoy your holiday and all the best to you and your family, from me and mine.

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