The subconscious as a travel agent

Well before my mother passed away after her battle with Alzheimer’s, while she still was aware of who I was and having more clarity about what was happening, we made sure to capture her living will and advance directive for medical decisions. While this is a difficult conversation to have with your loved one, it’s one you will be thankful for when you are faced with the very difficult decisions you might need to make concerning their health and treatment as they approach the end of their life. This allowed her to state her wishes: things like not wanting to be intubated or resurrected in the face of such a situation (she didn’t want to become a burden for an indefinite time), to wanting to be cremated, not buried, and rest close to my dad in Miami.

In a subsequent post, I will share more about the experience of my mother’s cremation: a tough episode, but one I’d love to share with anyone who could learn and benefit from it. Today, just over a year after she passed and was shortly after cremated, I find myself still having her ashes in the small box they put them in for me to take. A year ago, I told myself I’d be bringing the ashes to Miami “very soon”, yet here they still are… In connection with this, I found a recent experience fascinating and felt you’d appreciate the irony and the power of the subconscious.

Last year, I was invited to attend the North American HR Executive Summit in Orlando. Having registered for it back in August 2018, I forgot about it until early this year. Someone helped me get my hotel booked for it, so in January I sat to book my travel, and here’s where the interesting part begins… I convinced myself that the conference was going to be in Miami (a 4-hour drive and a 1-hour flight from Orlando), so I decisively proceeded to get all my travel set, including a stop in Denver on the way back home, to spend a day with the folks at myStrength, the company that Livongo acquired this year.

It wasn’t an easy task, I must say, because I try to fly Alaska whenever I can, and Miami is not one of the airports they fly to, so I had to go out of my way to find best fares to and from Miami. Ultimately, I aggregated all flight information and lodging information within TripIt, which has been a great tool to make sense of travel plans for many years now. I pull up the upcoming “Miami, Denver” trip, and that’s when it hit me: I didn’t need to go to Miami!! At least not for the HR Summit! Why did I do this?

Enter the subconscious… it is my belief that on the surface, I have been postponing bringing her ashes to their final resting place, as I am still working through some of the things that were left unsaid and undone. But my unconscious seems to have a different opinion: it seems to be saying “JUST DO IT! Be done with it, so you can move on.” If only it had done the full booking, and saved me a room in Miami, it would have probably tricked me into going there, with her ashes in hand.

I ended up changing all the tickets to/from the correct destination (although you could argue that I could have still stopped in Miami to drop off her ashes). I have now planned to make a dedicated trip to Miami for this, in March. And as the trip approaches, I feel some of the pain from her loss resurface, but it’s pain that I need to go through.

Breve Carta a Papá 12 años después de su partida


Hace 12 años que te fuiste, el 16 de enero del 2005… víctima de un cancer de hígado fulminante que te llevó en cuestión de días, después de descubrir que tenías cancer. Nos sentimos tan impotentes!

Siempre pienso en ti, viejo. Te recuerdo: tus chistes malos con tu incredible sentido del humor (los cuales heredé), tu amor por la humanidad que siempre empezó por casa, y tu sabiduría que me ha guiado desde que te fuiste.

Mamá sigue deteriorándose. Hace una semana la mudamos a skilled nursing porque se negaba a recibir la atención que necesitaba en assisted living. No te voy a negar: es duro ver su mente apagarse poco a poco: siempre cree que soy mi tío. Pero una constante es que aún te recuerda: la tuya es una de las fotos que tiene en su cuarto.

En fin… te queremos y te echamos de menos, papá. No dejes de echarnos un ojo desde donde estás.

Repeating herself. Repeating herself. Repeating herself.

If you read this blog (though I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t), you probably know that my mother has Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed several years ago, and I would like if I said it’s been an easy road: it hasn’t.

Along this journey, before yesterday, she has had at least three “leaps” we’ve been able to observe:

  1. That “OMG” moment, when it became obvious to me that something was off: I had dropped her off in church, to pick her up an hour later. After mass was over, I kept waiting and waiting for her, to be surprised by her phone call… from her home. She had gotten a ride back home, because she had forgotten I was outside. Soon after that day, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
  2. She had been living for nearly two years in an Independent Living facility, and some things pointed at the need for her to get more assistance in her day-to-day, things that resulted in her taking less care about herself than we were used to see her do. When I spoke with the Executive Director at her residence, she told me we needed to find my mom a place where she could get Memory Care… she was taking a “leap” into a new level of care.”
  3. For a few months now, more often than not she doesn’t remember I am her son. She still associates me with someone “familiar” (a kind gentleman, and at times, she is sure I am her younger brother). The first time that this happened, it was very hard to accept…

Yesterday, a new “leap” happened. I was used to her repeating herself: conversations with my mom have been cyclical for quite some time. The same topic comes back over and over. But yesterday, she started repeating words and short phrases, over and over. For example, she would tell me:

“Señor, señor, señor, señor, señor…” (“Sir, sir, sir, sir, sir…”)

This is all very fresh, and not easy. We will continue to be there for her. But it’s not easy… it’s not easy… it’s not easy…