Traveler’s Show & Tell – Plus, an Unexpected trip to Florida

June 18, 2011
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Tear streaked Florida skies. (photo by Tui Cameron)

Tear streaked Florida skies. (photo by Tui Cameron)

My week: an unexpected trip

A death on my husband’s side of the family caused me to spend this past week in Florida. I never met the woman who passed away, and yet, by the time the funeral and other ceremonies were over, she no longer felt like a stranger to me.

Spending time with her mourning relatives, who were eager to share their memories, transmitted so much of her essence, that I felt as if we had met. (It was such a strong sensation that I actually had to remind myself that we had not.) It was beautiful to see how she remains such a vivid aspect in her family’s life, and it left me missing her, too, as odd as that may sound.

“I think people should have funerals while they are still alive,” one of her sons later told me, his reason being that the living should have a chance to feel the full force of the love that surrounds them while they are here.  I think he has a good point. What do you think?

I wish I had remembered to tell him about the time my friend Pete, a fantastic jazz musician, threw a lively wake for himself in conjunction with his CD release party.  Somewhere I have photos of a bunch of us ladies gathered around his coffin as he posed inside it. (I will have to find it – it was a good photo of all of us, even the “deceased.”)

As Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Judging from the ceremony and other gatherings we had over the past several days, the woman who passed away made everyone she met feel wonderful during her lifetime. What a tremendous legacy. More than anything tangible on my bucket list, that is something I would like to achieve in my life, as well.

At the funeral, tears were shed, yet the overall feeling was simply love. As her husband remarked, “I never would have expected such a sad day to also be a day of so much joy.” I was moved to tears several times, and not always out of sadness. Sometimes, the beauty and rawness of everyone’s love is what choked me up.  Witnessing her husband tell her how beautiful she was and how much he would miss her as he viewed her body was especially moving.

It was the first time I ever attended a Jewish funeral. Neither my husband nor I are Jewish, but he wore a yarmulkeh out of respect, and we all participated in sprinkling dirt from the Mount of Olives onto her casket as it was interred. Another ritual I liked involved the closest relatives tearing a piece of cloth to indicate that they were mourning, and that they required special care as they moved through their grief, the torn cloth symbolizing the irrevocable tear in their hearts created by the loss of their loved one.

I must admit that I was taken off guard to catch a whiff of rotting flesh at the mausoleum. I later learned that Jewish people do not embalm their dead. I debated mentioning that in this blog post, because I do not want to seem disrespectful or morbid, but strange as it may sound,  I was actually grateful for this smell which, while unpleasant, did serve to remind me that humans are just as much a part of this planet’s cycle of life as any other creatures. Our modern culture is sanitized on many levels, and we are so removed from death in our daily lives. (Example: I eat meat, but I do not slaughter that which I consume. I could go on, but this is fodder for a separate blog post.)

Not surprisingly, the whole experience has left me feeling rather pensive and mortal. This year so far has been full of major life transitions. In the past six weeks, I’ve experienced a wedding, a honeymoon, and a funeral.

I wonder what’s next? But, enough about my week of unexpected travel. It’s time for:

Traveler’s Show & Tell – 17th Edition

This week’s edition takes us to Singapore, Hawaii, Africa, Jordan and Cuba. As for this week’s photo,  I snapped it from a car window last week  near Miami, Florida. Don’t let the rain fool you; it was 95 degrees out and humid as blazes.

First up, Skyler Reep presents 60 Hours in Singapore posted at Skyler Reep’s Blog. Singapore sounds fascinating, but don’t just take my word for it. As Skyler explains:

My interpretation of Singaporean culture is a conglomeration of the most agreeable parts of any number of international societies: Asian foods seasoned with French techniques, pop music from Europe and the US – remixed into something purely local, architecture that blends pagodas with skyscrapers. In the central Orchard District, it seems like the shopping centers have an inexhaustible supply of resources. Their wide-open doors flood the streets with deep synth or techno beats and icy, perfumed air.

Next,  Jennifer Miner presents Hanalei Colony Resort: Kauai Authenticity posted at The Vacation Gals – Family travel, girlfriend getaways, romantic getaways, destinations, things to do, travel tips. According to her:

A stay at the Hanalei Colony Resort in Kauai is like going back in time: No televisions, no radio, no phones or even air conditioning. It’s a wonderful way to experience Hawaii as it’s meant to be.

Jessie Costin presents Cape Town: Even the Dogs Have Street Smarts posted at What?, in which she remarks:

I suppressed tears watching the way people were living in some parts – rough corrugated housing, rubbish dumped on the side of the road, right next to a sign that says “No Dumping”, and this is not even in the townships. But I wasn’t moved by feelings of pity, but just at watching children playing on the side of the road, women gossiping over their back fences. They weren’t pitiful. They were living their lives they way they know them. And I was saddened by the fact that nobody knows about them. I don’t think most people outside of South Africa, or even outside of the Western Cape, know what Cape Town is like beyond the tourist destinations. I definitely didn’t.

Shannon ODonnell presents A Little Vignette…Finding the Cultural Norms in Jordan and the Middle East posted at A Little Adrift: Round the World Travel, which she describes as:

Lessons learned adjusting to a new cultural and new cultural norms while traveling as a solo female in Jordan and the Middle East.

Photo Editor presents 77 Award Winning Pictures of Cuba posted at Cool Pictures & Beautiful Pictures. “Photo Editor” didn’t send along a description to go with the photos, but they are each worth a 1,000 words, right? Seriously, though, these photos of Cuba have a story to tell. I find myself curious about the people in them. Meanwhile, the black and white film gives these images a timeless feel.  I hope you enjoy them, too.

That’s it for this week’s blog carnival, Traveler’s Show & Tell. As always, if you enjoyed it, let us know in the comments section. Also, please let the author know you liked their piece by leaving a comment at their blog. See you next week! :)

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4 Responses to Traveler’s Show & Tell – Plus, an Unexpected trip to Florida

  1. Emma
    July 13, 2011 at 23:57

    Life comes with its unexpected twists and turns… it’s the positive moments you mentioned (the celebration of the woman’s life at the funeral, the wedding and your honeymoon… in Judaism we say “Mazel Tov!”) that remind us all of the turns of joys amid the twists of sadness . I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • mentalmosaic
      July 16, 2011 at 12:20

      I appreciate your perspective. I never knew what “Mazel Tov!” meant before, although I’ve always found it to be a catchy phrase. Thanks for explaining! ~Tui

  2. June 20, 2011 at 20:53

    I’m sorry about the loss in your family.

    • Mental Mosaic
      June 25, 2011 at 16:03

      Thanks, Jennifer. While it was a loss, it was also a gain, since I connected with a whole bunch of new family. ~Tui

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