One inescapable fact of life is that none of us is going to live forever.
When we started our nomadic, house sitting lifestyle back in 2015 my dad was 83 and Jacqueline’s parents edging close to 70. So, before embarking on our travels we had to face the reality that at some point in time one of our beloved parents could take seriously ill or pass away. Whilst not a pleasant reality it was important that we acknowledged the possibility of family loss and prepare as best we could for it.
Deciding what to do
When you choose to be nomadic and travel overseas full time you need to consider many, many things. One of these is deciding ‘what’ you’re going to do should a family member take seriously ill or pass away.
Before we set off on our travels Jacqueline and I had a number of in-depth discussions about this.
What would we do should it eventuate?
Given my father’s advancing years the most likely scenario would be me having to return to Australia at some point to assist my siblings with funeral arrangements. The likelihood that it would also occur whilst we were on a house sit was very high.
Saying Goodbye (multiple times)
We’ve had to say goodbye to the family on many occasions over the years. Anyone that’s been to the airport to farewell a loved one know’s just how emotional that can be. However, since we first left in 2015 to become nomadic with our adult gap year this has become even more difficult. We never know when we’ll be back to see family again.
We have returned to Australia to house sit a few times over the subsequent years. This gave us the opportunity to spend valued time with our loved ones. It is a wonderful time but you inevitably have to say farewell (again).
My dad chose to move into a residential aged care home in 2011 (aged 79) as the family home was getting too much for him. His health was pretty good then, however, as the years progressed, it deteriorated continuously. Sadly, in his later years he was a shell of his former self. So it was always very emotional and heart wrenching to say goodbye for what could be the very last time. I just never knew if this was going to be THE last time I’d see him.
Integrity – meeting our commitments even with family loss
When we started house sitting we determined that we would do everything in our power to see our sitting commitments through – no matter what the circumstances. To maintain our integrity and reputation this would have to extend to include illness or the death of family members.
We agreed that once notified the affected person would return to Australia as soon as was practicably possible. The other would see out the responsibilities of the sit completed. Alternatively, they could liaise with the owners to find a workable solution. For example, assisting with sourcing another acceptable sitter from within the house sitting community. The other person would hopefully also be able to return to Australia. This would depend on our future sitting commitments and agreeing arrangements with homeowners.
This seemed a workable solution – one that would enable us to get ‘home’ AND allows us to honour our house sitting commitments.
As it turned out we didn’t have to deal with this reality whilst on our overseas travels. However, the one flaw in our cunning plan (that we never considered) was “what if something happened to both of our parents at the same time?”
Little did we know that this exact scenario would unfold whilst we were back in Australia in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We would both be grieving the loss of a parent within weeks of each other.
Adding to that stress would be having to deal with travel and other restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.
That unfolding drama is described here – The phone call you never want to receive
No matter how prepared you are for the sad day it is never easy to deal with when it happens, it was good that you were both back in Australia but must have been still very difficult for you both.
All the best for a better 2021
Chris and Diane xo
the one blessing for us was that we were in Australia when it happened. I think there would have been no way for me/us to get back if we’d been overseas. Sadly, that was the case for my brother in New Zealand.
Take care and stay safe.
Glenn & Jacqueline x
I can totally relate to this. In my case, I got to spend a wonderful six-week Christmas break with my Mum before we headed off. We talked at length about it being our ‘last hoorah’. Funerals are not in the picture for our family these days and our families know we would not be heading home for that reason.
We did, however, have the conversation with regard to our son needing us in any way back in Oz and know it is one of the benefits of sitting as a couple; one partner can always hold the reins while the other flies home in an emergency.
A really good post, because it is something that all sitters should consider before taking on the care of pets.
Hi Karenlee, it was great you were able to have that wonderful 6 weeks with your Mum and openly discuss with her. I’m sure it was hugely beneficial for you both to come to terms with.
Unfortunately, my dad had a level of dementia (although thankfully he always knew who I was) so those type of conversations were not possible.
I’m the eldest of four children and executor of my father’s estate so felt I needed to be home to assist with arrangements, etc.
It’s always a difficult time but I was very glad Jacqueline and I had discussed what we’d do when faced with that eventuality.
It certainly is something that needs to be discussed between couples.