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Leaving on a jet plane . . .

Leavin' on a jet plane: An emotional journey home to Ireland

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Leaving on a jet plane . . .

JFK AIRPORT, Saturday, October 24 -- It may be my heavy heart responsible for the tears silently slipping down my face. It may also be a reaction to the emotions I see before me.

A grown man holding on for dear life to his mother as they face the inevitable -- a 3,000-mile distance and months before a reunion can occur again.

A small girl, frilled out in pink and gold, waving goodbye with sadness in her face to a grown woman, possibly her aunt, a woman in her early thirties, traveling solo but shedding tears for someone special. A young couple about to be separated by an ocean.

The departure terminal at JFK is a sad place for all, including the Irish.

I sit here on Saturday feeling blue.  My experience at the departure terminal was supposed to be one of joy and happiness.

It was to take place on Friday, November 20. My fiancé and I were scheduled to bid adieu to New York for a few weeks. We are to be wed on Saturday, December 5 in Ireland.

Unfortunately, a late night call on Friday last landed me here four weeks prior to schedule, this time with a heavy heart and a sadness that no one can shake.

My grandmother, Diana Drew, passed away in Ireland. The funeral took place on Sunday and early Monday morning.

While my friends turn over for their second sleep in New York Diana will be laid to rest beside the love her life, my grandfather. The love of my life and soon to be husband, John, has to stay behind to tie up loose ends. I will miss him!

As I sit here and run my fingers over the keyboard, I look around. John has gone to get me some dinner before I go through the grueling ordeal of check-in and security (with two overweight bags and a wedding dress).

I spot a man, a speckle of grey hair running through his locks, holding what appears to be his wife, an attractive brunette. They sit in the corner, not wanting to be disturbed.

She leans her head into his chest and whispers something in his ear. He unlocks his hand from his soda cup and brings it to her face. There he pulls her head up towards him and plants a gentle kiss.

Somewhat comforted, she smiles but I still see pain. Maybe she too has to leave suddenly because someone has left this earth before their time.

Later on I see her sitting alone at the Aer Lingus departure gate staring into space. She was all alone except for an iPod and a small suitcase. I momentarily considered approaching her but thought my misery and her misery would not make for light conversation.

I decided to sit alone and think about what lay ahead. The inevitable heartbreak of seeing my grandmother in a coffin. They tell me back home she looks peaceful. They all say that though!

I’m unsure how I will feel when I land on Irish soil (to torrential rain they say), but whatever emotions it’s all part of life.

While my stomach does a rumble, alerting me to my hunger and my anxiousness, I notice a family of five. They appear to be a mother, a father and three kids.

After sharing a McDonald’s meal together, the father, sporting a Munster rugby jacket, bids farewell to his young children. One by one he embraces them, and although he doesn’t shed a tear the sadness on his face says it all. He tries to be the grownup.

The children already look lonely. They hug him tightly and for a moment he squeezes his eyes shut and mumbles something into each of their ears. Although only a fleeting moment, it was sad but beautiful.

As he ushers them to the security gate, he rubs his wife’s back affectionately. She is the one holding it all together. They share a moment together as a cute dog passing by distracts the children. He kisses her on the cheek and he is gone.

As he walks by me I could swear he was crying; at least he was inside. It may be that his family is going back to Ireland on a vacation without him for a while; he may be busy with work, he may be undocumented or he simply may be following them later in the week. Whatever the reason, it still had emotional consequences.

An older Irish woman took a seat at a nearby table. She appeared to be alone also until an older gentleman appeared at her side with a phone.

She rang whomever she needed to remind them not to forget the time change in Ireland. One would assume it was her drive home from the airport.

The woman and man, both dressed in their finest attire, small chatted about what I gathered was a relation, the scandalous price of a drink at the airport, the weather, the death of a neighbor, a car accident on a Mayo road and a looming family divorce.

Finally the time had come for goodbye. The man, whom I later discovered was the lady’s brother (he has been living in New York for 46 years), walked his sister to the security gate. Gave her a kiss on the cheek, a brief hug and went on his way.

She watched him leave. She looked sad. She later told me while we waited to board our plane that her brother, young Jimmy she called him, was the youngest of 12 children. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last month and she fears she will never see him again.

This time she cried, and so did I. It was justified. It was sad, heartbreaking, in fact.

There is a lot of sadness all around me today. But with the dark clouds comes a light.

A young couple, with strong Dublin accents, is slouched across a table. Together they laugh. It was clear from their luggage and their Abercrombie shirts that they just had a successful shopping trip in the Big Apple.

It was nice to see laughter. It was nice to see smiling faces, and when it was time to go through security it was nice to see them not have to say goodbye to anyone.

After a few quick bites of a sandwich, it was my turn to say goodbye, albeit for only a month. It was still hard. John accompanied me to the security gate. He could go no further.

With my wedding dress strewn across my arm, and two further bags on my wrists, I said my teary goodbyes. I would, after all, see him in four weeks, and then we will be two weeks away from the happiest day of our lives.

We tried to be brief with our embraces. It was difficult. We kept it short, shed a few tears and said our goodbyes. We will be in touch and the time will go by quickly.

Now I go it alone. I will board the Aer Lingus–Shannon bound plane and in a few hours I will be in the country I love so much, a country I haven’t seen in four and a half years and that I look forward to getting to know again.

Despite the sad situation I am facing into, it will be with joy and hope that I look to the future and you know what, Nana Drew will now have the best seat in the house on my wedding day. 

Goodbye New York, for now. Hello Ireland. 

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