A tribute to my clients who became friends, whom I helped experience their last voyage on earth!

A special tribute to Catherine Islay Black. March 2024. My lifetime career in the travel and tourism industry has been an amazing journey. For me it was about learning, exploring, meeting people and being exposed to their culture and ways of life. I love learning. I also love sharing what I have learnt. The travel industry is much more complex than anyone can imagine. There are so many variables to assure the success of a special vacation. It’s also about having an open mind and a compassionate heart while traveling. Many of my clients become friends because we have something important in common: that insatiable want and need to learn something new, to understand how this world functions. Discovery! Being fascinated and awed! Come back home with those strong and unforgettable moments in our souls. Those moments change us, we see life and the world differently when we return to the comforts of our home. We feel blessed and privileged to have had this opportunity to travel to those faraway places. And I feel honored to have accompanied them throughout that journey, the before, the during and the after.
I could say I have a gift, a natural understanding of life and death. We are here to live our lives the fullest today, one day at a time and we will all leave this planet sooner or later. Sometimes we linger in our departure, sometimes we go quickly. At times, I would like to go see what is beyond and come back and share this knowledge with you. All I know, it’s a good place.
My two and a half years volunteering at the Maycourt Hospice confirms my gift. No words can explain my strong intuitions, why I know, what I do, to assist that dying person in his/her last days on earth. It’s an immense honour to be part of this transition.
Somewhere, I have brought this gift in my work. My clients, like myself are taking on years and know this next adventure/trip could be our last one. In the past couple of years, I helped at least four clients/friends make their last earthly voyage come true.
My last friend/client who left us is Cathy. She was supposed to join me to Antarctica but she had to cancel 6 days before departure. She was not well. My last get together with her (the Bytown cinema and dinner at Chez Lucien) just a few weeks before confirmed that she was physically a bit more fragile. We booked this trip 3 years ago. Alas I left with my group without her.
February 25th while in Antarctica, I get the bad news Cathy was hospitalized and dying from a cancer that was taking over her body quickly. A shock! It felt unreal. March 2nd, she left us.
She was with me in Antarctica, yes spiritually. I spent many long hours out on deck by myself having chats with her. On that day, I asked her to send me a sign that she was ok. I was hoping to see a whale jump out of the water, but this did not happen. When I returned inside, I detoured to the bridge. It was quiet there and there was one expedition guide there who was on whale watch. I hadn’t had a chance to chat with her yet, and asked her name, It was Aitana. A unique name which I had never heard. I asked her where she was from, she said Spain. Wow, sign no 1 from Cathy, her next trip this fall was to be Spain. I shared with her that she had just been a messenger for me and we hugged.
Then I made my way down to the lecture room where the presentations had just finished. I sat next to Alan, one of my passengers in my group. We started chatting about an Asian gentleman on board who had special wishes. Alan then mentions he was from Singapore. Wow sign no 2. Cathy’s last trip in November was to Singapore and Japan. Messenger number two confirms that Cathy is doing just fine.
Now it’s for the rest of us, who loved her and enjoyed her eclectic company to come to terms with her sudden departure without saying goodbye. Grieving is a healing and healthy journey. We all miss you Cathy, you will continue to travel with me until we meet again. Hugs my friend.

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