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
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,