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Report 926: My Dream Trip To Italy and France

By BGE from Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada, Spring 2005

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Page 36 of 38: Happy Mother's Day, 2005!

photo by BGE

Facing my fears

At 40,528 feet altitude, 472 mph over Thunder Bay, Ontario, Iím nearly home. Itís funny to be spending Motherís Day away from both of my children.

This morning, at the hotel, I watched the 60th Anniversary of the end of WWII. Broadcast from Appeldorn, Holland, on the CBC, the show highlighted the gratitude that the people from the Netherlands feel for the Canadian soldiers who liberated their country at the end of the war. Row after row of crosses in cemeteries in Holland mark the graves of all of the Canadian soldiers who died there, fighting for the freedom of the Dutch people and of their beloved country. This peace that we take for granted today was hard-won 60 years ago... family members were in the war, so I know the feeling of loss, somewhat.

Ther veterans are older now, many have passed, leaving fewer and fewer every year who remember the pain and agony of the wars. One white-haired man tells of being 17 years old and lying about his age so he could enlist with his buddies. In Holland, during the fighting, he remembers rushing a small farmhouse, breaking the door down and shooting as he entered.

After the smoke cleared, he saw a German soldier in his '40's, lying on the floor just inside the door, in agony with blood flowing from his bullet-ravaged legs. He went to the man, removed the soldier's weapons to a safe distance and bandaged his wounded legs with his Canadian Army first aid kit. Lighting a cigarette for the German soldier, he poured a glass of water for him and sat with his arm around the man's shoulders, while they shared the cigarette. Then the tears come to his clear blue eyes and he stops talking.

After a moment, he wipes his eyes, looks at the interviewer and says, "It's a funny thing, those memories never go away. I still wake in the night with the same nightmares that I had during the war. Some nights, I don't want to go to sleep."

He also tells of readying a grenade to toss into the house next door, when he heard a baby crying in the house. Carefully creeping to the window, he looked in and saw a little girl about 5 or 6, holding her baby sister wrapped in a shawl. He rescued the children, gave them his food rations for the day and finally reunited them with their frantic parents.

The shuttle from the hotel to the airport is ready for me, and after a short wait at Pearson International, I'm boarding my Westjet flight for home! I am so happy to be going home... so excited to see my daughter and son-in-law, my 5 gorgeous grandchildren, my friends and all that is familiar to me.

I am thinking of a dear friend who lives close to Edmonton International airport, where we will land, and I know that she'd meet me at Earl's on the south side in a heartbeat. I haven't talked with her for over a month and I realize that I miss her a lot right now.

I ask the flight attendant about calling my friend from the plane, and she asks me to wait a minute. She leaves and returns immediately with a Blackberry in her hand. Giving it to me, she tells me, "You can call her on this, if you like!" I ask her where this came from and she smiles and then tells me, "One of the owners of this airline is sitting farther back and he told me to give it to you, so you can call your friend."

My friend agrees to meet me at Earl's, and I ask the flight attendant to thank the owner of the phone and of the airline for his kindness. This is one more reason that I love flying this airline. Westjet simply rocks!

As the flight nears home, I find myself going over this past month in my mind and I realize that Iíve learned so much in such a short time. I made this trip on the wings of so many kind and generous people holding me up and urging me on. From my doctor to my friends and family, from the darling people on Slowtrav to the warm-hearted people I met in Italy and France along the way, I've been so deeply blessed this past month.

I also realize that I have way more courage than I ever thought possible. I am stronger than I believed myself to be and I found out how incredibly flexible and adaptable I really am. I learned that I donít have to speak their language to communicate with those amazing people who crossed my path in Italy and France. A few poorly-spoken words and a huge number of very creative hand signals communicated the most basic of needs.

Landing in Edmonton and walking towards the luggage carousel, I am smiling. How good it feels to be back home! This has been a dream of a trip for me, and I will be making it again and againÖ that I can promise myself.

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