Canceling trip: Need support
July 15, 2022 2:04 AM   Subscribe

Howdy, hive! I was planning to travel to the US to deal with a Covid-delayed memorial to my dad and to have his ashes interred. Now I am getting cold feet. Details below.

My dad died in early 2020, shortly before the US Covid lockdown hit. The only meaningful family to attend his memorial are myself, my sisters, and my elderly aunt. I had planned to fly to the US in September to get Dad's ashes and have a small gravesite service with my sisters to commemorate his death. That would also allow us to close up his tiny estate and make things easier for my youngest sister by paying out final expenses and closing his bank account. Only, I don't wanna.

The rise of omicron BA.5 is giving me the willies. "Findings of a pre-print study published in June suggest that people who get sick multiple times may have a higher risk of long-COVID symptoms," according to NPR. I got off pretty lightly when I caught Covid earlier this year. Taking multiple flights to multiple cities from Europe to New York to another state to California (which is necessary for various reasons, just trust me on that) seems like a guaranteed way to get infected again.

The idea of postponing this trip makes me sad. I miss seeing my family and friends. I would like to have this memorial while my aunt is still healthy enough to attend, etc. I would like to be able to wrap up the estate stuff. Still, my dad won't be more dead if the ceremony gets postponed yet again.

Please help me feel better about taking care of my own health by postponing my travel–knowing that I will be disappointing my family in the process. Thanks!
posted by Bella Donna to Human Relations (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Same or similar; and sorry for your troubles. My mother died in January 2020. I was all fired up in May 2022 to join my 2 sibs [and associates] in a different country to scatter the ashes near where my father proposed in 1950. That event had been proposed for summer 2020 but . . . events. Anyway, I bottled in May and the scattering is postponed sine die. If there was pressure from family to hold the event [all our "elderly aunts" are dead - a natural consequence of my mother surviving to 99¾] then I'd probably bite back my not-very-strong anxiety and go. Then again, some of us I could attend by screen: 2 dimensions being better than nothing. fwiw, my mother's estate is still tied up in UK probate backlog. It seems unlikely that your estate cannot be wound up by FedEx, if signatures are required. Agree that closure would good for everyone concerned.

We can't take funeral games too seriously after my father, a stickler for punctuality, was late for his own funeral in 2001. My mother assumed the vicar would manifest the ashes; he justifiably thought that was the family's job. After much church-whispering and couple of urgent phone-calls, my brother met the undertaker halfway in a pub car-park and took delivery of the urn while the organist improvised.
posted by BobTheScientist at 3:10 AM on July 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

I can't tell from your post – have you decided to postpone the trip and you want to feel better about that decision? Or are you still deciding and want to hear some advice or perspectives to help you feel better about going (or making the decision not to)?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:42 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have decided to postpone and I would like people to help me feel better about that decision.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:00 AM on July 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You said it yourself, he can't get more dead. Prioritize your life.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:37 AM on July 15, 2022 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Many people could tell this story, but I am awake with jet lag so I’ll tell it.
I just went to a conference in Europe ( I live in western US). My husband got covid the 4th day we were there. The timing makes the plane trip one of the more likely sources.

In addition to being generally uncomfortable because we both got quite sick and were stuck in a hotel room for over a week, we had to stay an extra week and change our flight because we were testing positive. All told the monetary cost involved added an extra 3k (Dollar or euro) to the trip.

On the plane flights there less than 10% of people, including several who were audibly coughing, wore a mask. We always wear N95s but had to take them off to eat during the 10 hour overseas flight.

And then on the way back, we had worse flights due to trying to save money on the replacement flight. The stress of it brought on a relapse for me; not sure yet if I am testing positive again but I could not get out of bed yesterday. I’ve now missed an extra week and half of work, in order to pay several thousand dollars to be terribly sick in a hotel room, and to come home and be sick again, this time with jet lag.

And yet my symptoms are ”mild” and so I got off easy.

At one point we were worried about needing to access health care; being in Finland would have meant emergency care access was complicated but doable (and if we had needed care that required payment would have added to the expense or complication). Does your NHS or EU health insurance interact well the shambles of our US system? Unlikely, it’s hard for anything to interact decently with it.

So I think you’ve made the right choice. If you can delay, do. If you can’t, you need to have means to stay up to an extra ten days or more (money, time off from work, prescription meds, etc).
posted by nat at 4:43 AM on July 15, 2022 [15 favorites]

Oh also, a few late nights to make overseas phone calls to close out the estate are a lot easier (and that plus a fax machine or FedEx should do) One of the reasons I went was to finally close my Danish account; I had run into trouble doing the final overseas transfer, but in the end it got taken care of by phone anyhow.
posted by nat at 4:48 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just for other American folks' reference, you can get traveler's insurance that will cover the cost of COVID-related trip issues, including covering the cost of hotels, flight changes, etc.

But to your point, Bella Donna, it's ok to make the choice to not fly to the USA for this memorial service if that's what you want to do. We're still in a global pandemic that shows no sign of slowing down, even if lots of other people are acting as if it is over. Is there another way you could commemorate your dad's memory and help your sisters/aunt? The loss of a parent or close loved one is no small thing, and even though it's been a few years since he passed away, you're maybe still grieving. I understand the importance of wanting to "show up" for you family in this moment... I just wonder if there are other ways you could do this that don't include traveling to the USA?
posted by erattacorrige at 4:50 AM on July 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry, this sounds so hard. It sounds like, ultimately, the purpose of this trip is for it to be a positive (if sad) experience, where you can all focus on your memories of your dad and really open up to the support you'd receive from one another by being together.

But if you spend the whole trip anxious about Covid, it'll be difficult and stressful and there'll always be Something Else in your mind other than just your dad and your family (and that's not even contemplating what happens if you catch it while travelling). So it's OK not to go, because even if you do go, it quite likely won't give you all the experience you're yearning for. And it'll put you and others at risk from Covid.

In this moment, I think you should feel more than OK - proud of yourself in fact - for taking the hard path, honouring your dad and your family's love or one another by protecting them (and especially your aunt) from catching Covid.

One of my best pals just flew around the world (masked) for a family reunion she'd waited 2.5 years for, suffering a bereavement in the meantime. She caught Covid and it really bombed out a big part of her trip. It so happened that her family are all v. blasé about Covid and they didn't really care, but she gave it to one elderly friend which she felt awful about, and spending chunks of time lying in bed when she should have been reconnecting with loved ones was very tough. By that point she'd already spent lots of time and money on the trip, so it's not like she can just up and come again in 6 months (or whatever).
posted by penguin pie at 5:35 AM on July 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding this: "Is there another way you could commemorate your dad's memory and help your sisters/aunt?"

Maybe that means reaching out to your younger sister and finding out exactly what you need to sign off on for the estate to be closed, and then going to your local equivalent of a notary public to get all the papers signed and stamped correctly. Maybe it means encouraging your family to hold the memorial service with you attending remotely (it's true your dad's not going to get any more dead, but, like, your aunt might).

I would focus on what you *can* do rather than what you can't, and I'd also focus on actually resolving things rather than postponing them (for me, at least, postponing something usually ends up way more anxiety-provoking than canceling something - and sometimes sadder as well). Realistically, if you can't make the trip now, it may be years before you're able to find a better/safer time (on the one hand, hopefully we get Omicron-specific boosters soon; on the other hand, who knows what BA.6 or BA.10 are going to be like, or when a new Sigma/Tau/Omega variant will take over). I think it will be easier if you accept that and just go ahead and grieve your inability to grieve with your family.

(And I know you aren't going in September but if/when you do go you should of course get travel health insurance at a minimum!)
posted by mskyle at 5:37 AM on July 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: As someone who seems to be suffering from long corona, I strongly support your decision to remain in place. Right now, I am so worried that this will ruin the last years I have back of my working life, since I am permanently fatigued and in pain. It hurts my cognitive abilities and means I can only manage to see my loved ones and friends when I have several days off from work. I'm about to be a grandmother for the second time, and my daughter has made it very clear today that she needs me. But I struggle.
It seems that some people in the US are being very irresponsible, and you have written here about your family and I know they need you, too. If you can't give yourself the permission to postpone for your own sake, then do it for your family's sake, they need you.
posted by mumimor at 6:26 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry you're dealing with this logistic and emotional stress on top of everthing else you must be experiencing.

To help you feel better about this decision, I'd recommend taking a minute to write out why this is the best course of action for you. Try to write this in the most empowering, affirming way that makes sense for you (not what other people might think or what all the 'shoulds' would say, etc).

Then spend a few moments writing out what it might look like if this went really well — that is, your decision to not travel turns out to not only be the best thing for you and your wellbeing right now, but actually makes closing out the estate easier and processing everything more aligned with your values / what's important. How might that be true?

When we can develop a picture of the best possible scenario, given the current circumstances, we can aim for those outcomes and become more empowered to make them our reality.

('Best possible scenario' in this case likely means something very different than most other situations and that's ok — it's whatever it means for you, not somebody else's playbook of How Things Should Be Done.)
posted by iamkimiam at 6:57 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Avoiding getting sick in the United States is an incredibly good decision. Getting sick here is ridiculously expensive and getting competent medical care is very hard right now because the system is so stressed. You are making a very good choice not to risk it. There should be a travel advisory telling people that it’s dangerous to travel here right now! Choosing to not put yourself on a plane is just good sense right now. I’m sorry for the delay and the disappointment this must bring, but I really do think you are thinking clearly about this and making a sound choice.
posted by Bottlecap at 6:59 AM on July 15, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: There seems to be more covid-19 infection in the US now than at any time previous. Or at least, we seem to be matching our previous highs. There's no way to know for sure because we no longer have anything remotely resembling a reliable testing and reporting system, as the authorities really are just focused on keeping as many people as possible at work without crashing the hospital system, and since cases are more mild now (as far as the initial infection goes), the hospitals in general are doing okay. Our government and most of our citizens are not giving Long Covid, or long term organ damage, the respect it appears to deserve, so it's really not a main point of discussion here.

You have made the right choice. I assume your dad would be devastated to know you got Long Covid or kidney disease or something down the road because you made this trip. If that assumption is correct then you're honoring him by staying away and trying to protect your health.

Also... Flying right now, especially internationally, is insane, not just regarding masking, but regarding flight cancellations and the Kafkaesque hell that follows. If you haven't brushed up on this recently, check out what's been going on this past month. There's no reason to think it will be better in a couple of months.

You need to take care of your own health and you've made a good choice, and I 100% support this decision.
posted by happy_cat at 7:03 AM on July 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You made the right decision. My coworker's international family is visiting this week and tested positive Monday. It's wrecking the whole trip and giving my coworker extreme anxiety as they wait for symptoms to appear.
posted by rawralphadawg at 7:07 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a judgment call, but if you catch it and are sick as a foreigner in the U.S., you could have a truly miserable time, and certainly won't be focused on honoring your dad. I agree with the suggestions above to try to figure out if there are other ways you can support your sister. I don't know what your financial situation is, but if the closing out of the estate depends only on covering the last expenses of the memorial (? not sure, but it sounds like that might be the case?), and you can afford it, I'd suggest volunteering to cover the tab for a later gathering.
posted by praemunire at 7:26 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know you, and I didn't know your father. But I'm a father, with two daughters, one who lives in Europe.

And I just emailed her: If I die any time soon, you had better goddamn not get on a plane just to put me in the ground.
posted by Etrigan at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2022 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I've been in New York City, hometown of this outrageous pandemic, the whole time.

I will tell you that BA4 or BA5 is getting ALL of my friends who take mitigating steps and have avoided getting Covid so far - like all of them. (And of course everyone else, too). Comparatively, its not like any other surge, its just incredibly widespread, and from my perspective, far less rhyme or reason to who is catching it.

So yeah if you want to avoid getting Covid, makes total sense to not come to the US right now. Its super contagious.
posted by RajahKing at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Canceling/postponing is a wise choice given the COVID risks here. One thing you could consider would be to give your family the option to hold the service without you, but ask them to reserve some of his ashes for you so you can have a memorial when you’re able to visit.
posted by theotherdurassister at 9:27 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My sister just flew from California to Australia and picked up COVID along the way. I'm due to see family in Seattle, which would involve a 4 hour layover in Mexico City. They can wait.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:47 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: give your family the option to hold the service without you, but ask them to reserve some of his ashes for you so you can have a memorial when you’re able to visit

This is my vote. You can feel bad about not being there but not causing a full cancellation. Leave them free to decide for themselves if they want to have this event, which is a bad idea even if you are not there fresh off an international superspreader machine.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hey I literally just attended one of these, a 3-years-delayed interment / graveside service combined with family reunion.

Everybody gave each other covid from separate sources. I mean not every single person but there was a lot of spread. So people couldn’t really socialize, they were confined to hotel rooms or kicked out of their hotels and there was like a giant airbnb musical chairs as they had to swap with other folks. Or... they showed up for stuff anyway. Some people were miserably sick, others had no symptoms. And every single large family event had at least one or two known-positive people hanging out at it which, tbh, was not great for my nerves.

Also do you remember the earlier AskMe about the morality of flying with covid? Well some elderly people did that because when they phoned their own doctors, the doctors said “normally i would phone in a prescription but there are literally no test-and-tret places within hundreds of miles of this benighted rural area, so you can’t get the drugs”. And also because no hotels would have them anyway.
posted by Hypatia at 10:26 AM on July 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think you're absolutely making the right decision. You're not only saving yourself a great deal of anxiety and a possible--or even likely--Covid infection, you're also saving you and your family from having to deal with the fallout from getting sick. This is hard but necessary.

I also like the advice above to see what could be done to make things easier for your family at the other end in other ways, like signing documents or even encouraging them to go ahead without you. Maybe there is some way somebody could livestream the event for you?
posted by rpfields at 10:31 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am pretty sure that we will see a massive cultural shift about death and burial practices within the next generation or so. The value placed on being at someone’s bedside as they passed, and the value placed on a traditional funeral (in whatever tradition the deceased may have followed) is being quickly and steadily eroded, one complicated personal situation at a time.

We already have a couple decades of online mourning traditions, and genetic families are more geographically spread out than ever before because of moving for work and relationships and whatever else. These things combined with the pandemic and the wildly high cost of almost everything to do with the death of a loved one is going to force a shift to a new normal. So, give it a few more years and your decision will be seen as conscientious and thoughtful, caring and practical.

If a part of you has held off some grieving because you haven’t been able to be close to your dad’s physical remains, think about ways to engage with those emotions where you are. Asynchronous memorializing of a loved one is possible, and becomes more common by the day.
posted by Mizu at 11:21 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: All the answers were helpful and gave me permission to stay home, which is what I needed. Thank you! Also, much appreciate the suggestions about an online memorial or tribute or finding some way to mark our collective family loss. Somehow that had not occurred to me. Turns out that is a thing, which y'all knew, and I am working on one of those. I appreciate each response more than I can say.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

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