A weekend of volleyball, a plane crash, and the loss of my grandmother…


“We Won!” I excitedly yelled into the phone. The final point of the third set had just been played…our girls were jumping in each others arms and as I photographed the excitement, my phone rang.

“That’s lovely,” my Dad responded…followed by “I have some sad news.”

The fact of the matter is…I’d been waiting for this call all day. We’d been notified that Nan wasn’t well…that it was only a matter of time. When Dad phoned, he and Mom were sitting on a plane on the tarmac waiting to take off…a delayed flight…just trying to get home before the inevitable happened.

Three hours later, they were still waiting on that plane that eventually was cancelled…shortly before another flight coming in from Toronto, “hard landed” on the runway.

“The airport just went black,” my father said as he chatted with me on the phone in the lineup of Tim Hortons…6 hours after they’d first arrived at the airport that day…trying to get Mom a cup of tea after waiting in a line for a change of flights and a hotel…all hotels being sold out and no taxis to be found due to another Winter storm…their flight to Newfoundland not happening anytime over the next 24 hours but let’s be honest, the rush and panic to get there was now gone…my brother was now driving through nasty weather to gather them up and bring them home.

“What do you mean the airport’s black,” I said as he went on to tell me there was no power and that he had to find my mother. “Go find Mom and I’ll call you back” I said.

The hair…standing up on the back of my neck.

I turned to Twitter as the immediate news of the crash of flight 624 began to appear…I phoned Dad, completely in the dark in more ways than one, to fill him in on what I knew.

It’s now a full day and a half later. Mom and Dad’s re-scheduled flight arrived in St. John’s a short time ago and they’re settling in for a cup of tea and some home-made bread at my Aunt and Uncles…some much needed pampering before heading to the funeral home this evening.

Saturday night, back in the hotel room with my daughter…on an absolute high over a fabulous day of volleyball that had her playing better than I’d ever seen her play and me crying in a bathroom stall trying to keep it together until the end of the day…taking some time to phone my brothers and my two oldest to tell them the news before pulling myself together and heading back into the gym to watch the final game…I held her tight as I told of her of her great-grandmother’s passing.

Yesterday, in between more games that had us going 5 and 1 with amazing effort and even greater smiles…I read of the reports of the crash…the wing and nose gone…the power station being taken out on the way to the runway…a full on emergency that had 138 passengers terrified…23 sent to hospital with, thankfully, only minor injuries.

It all seemed surreal as I was already feeling numb at best…the amazing parents on our volleyball team keeping me together…my daughter’s teammates lifting her spirits.

As the day unfolded, I realized I had connections with FOUR different people on that flight and sent messages of love and comfort to each.

All of them saying the same thing.

Hold your loved ones tight. Live every day to the fullest. “Gotta grab happiness when you can,” my friend messaged…her husband of only one week, one of the passengers on the plane.

My Nan was 95 years old. She leaves behind a great many people who loved and adored her. She died peacefully…surrounded by people who thought the world of her whether they went to her bedside that day, waited by their phones to hear the news…or were making arrangements to try to be near her for one final good-bye.

Nan lived for the joy of watching her family grow…she sang silly made-up songs, couldn’t get enough of a baby in her arms, knit and crocheted beautiful things while whistling a happy tune, enjoyed a long drive and stopping for a bit of ice cream, and often could be found setting the table for a cup of tea…she enjoyed watching soap operas, Wheel of Fortune, and The Price is Right…she loved crossword puzzles, reading the paper or a good Harlequin Romance…she could often be found hanging out a line of laundry or puttering in the garden. In the last several years…as Nan’s memories faded…she was happy just to have a little company at her side so she could feel your love…happier yet, if you had a little one along with you.

Nan leaves behind a legacy of folks who have memories of her laughter and love of adventure…who have learned much for the way she loved and cared for her husband, her children, 18 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and everyone touched by her friendship.

She grabbed happiness…whenever she could.


6 Replies to “A weekend of volleyball, a plane crash, and the loss of my grandmother…”

  1. An emotional weekend for sure. I’m so sorry about your Nanny. She loved lots and was loved lots; that’s what it all boils down to anyway 🙂

  2. Thinking of you and realizing how the passing of an important person from childhood impacts us as individuals and families. The nostalgia of the times spent and how death of one brings the vulnerability of our parents to the forefront. Take Care

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss, Colleen. It is never easy. Your Nan sounds like a really wonderful woman.

    I am sad for your parents, too. Not exactly an ideal set of circumstances on Saturday and Sunday.

    I am glad none of your connections on the plane were hurt. It was a very stressful day.

  4. Beautiful story Colleen. Your Nanny was so proud of you and now she looks down on you from Heaven, smiling at all the nice things you said.

  5. I’m sorry for your family’s loss. Losing grandparents is a milestone that hurts the heart so much.