When I was a kid, I remember my dad used to sing an old, WWI song, “Pack up your Troubles,” while he was getting dressed for work in the morning. The lyrics from the chorus of the song play in my head often when I’m packing for a trip—“Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.”
Lately, with TSA regulations seemingly changing daily, packing my kit bag with clothes, toothbrush and Ziploc-baggie of three-ounce bottles seems more like trouble than fun, fun, fun.
For my friend, Vikki, though, what to pack isn't as important as whom to pack. She takes her family and friends everywhere. Vikki took her mother skiing in Mammoth last November and she took my mother-in-law to the ruins of Machu Picchu and Rome. Vikki has taken numerous people to exotic places like the outback in Australia, and the GREek Islands—all posthumously and in her bag.
You see, Vikki collects prayer cards from funerals and memorials of her loved ones and takes them with her wherever she goes. The cards, some with watercolor images of Jesus and others with pictures of a deceased friend and “in loving memory” printed beneath, are bound together with a rubber band and stashed somewhere in Vikki’s carry-on.
I'm fascinated by this practice and ask her about it often. I like to keep tabs on the number of cards she carries as it increases. At last count Vikki was toting around forty people. I’ve often thought that when the tally reached fifty-two, I’d propose some kind of card game we could play. My husband, Larry and I sometimes travel with Vikki and her husband, Bill, so we could while away the hours on trains and boats by playing some modified version of war, poker, or go-fish.
Obviously, I’m not as sentimental about Vikki’s collection as she is, but on a trip two years ago, I witnessed the power of those prayer cards.
Larry and I were in Peru with Vikki and Bill. We had just finished dinner at a restaurant in Aguas Calientes, when Vikki slid a small card across the table to Larry and asked, “Would you like to have your mom with you tomorrow when you climb Machu Picchu?” Larry was visibly moved by the gesture and slipped the prayer card from his mother’s funeral into his shirt pocket. When we walked the ancient, Incan ruins the next day, Larry had his mom with him and I could sense the joy he felt in her presence.
It was then I realized the enormous happiness Vikki must feel, having some forty loved ones near her at all times.
With all the rules today about what travelers can’t bring on a flight, maybe we’d all be a little more pleasant if we focused on the things we can bring and make sure they are what make us happy or at least smile, smile, smile.