Thursday, January 31, 2013

Loss: Coping With Death From Abroad

One of the hard parts of living so far from family is never knowing when will be the last time you see someone alive. Health and youth are not immune to accidents. Age and infirmity do not necessarily rush death. But what if you do have an idea that it's the last time?

We've just experienced both the expected and the unexpected within a week.

When we  visited this winter break, one of the challenges was knowing how to balance the hope for recovery from a very grave illness with the reality of what normally happens: death.We accepted reality and still held on to hope... which produces another challenge: When someone has made a monumental impact on your life, it's hard to balance wanting to squeeze all of the time with them possible and just letting things flow naturally so that the last bit of normalcy can create memories to savor.

But then, we lost another family member first, unexpectedly. And we were sad. And we were thankful we had visited just a month or so ago. And we were thankful we DID have so many great memories of both people.

Living an international life makes room for many different memories and relationships. We're glad that we have the base of strong family relationships in the States of people who genuinely want the best for us and, though they miss us, are also happy that we are able to experience so many things.  We are also glad that we are living our dreams now instead of waiting for everyone to be gone and then be left with less experience and energy to go abroad... but it is a two-edged decision. Being abroad helps you appreciate family more, which means you miss them more, pack more into the tangible moments you get and that the distance softens any would-be irritating qualities. It's not as easy to take people for granted this way. We're grateful for such a strong family bond. We're grateful for all of the new people we've been able to meet. We hate to be away when the family is coping with death. There is always this tenuous relationship between loving and letting go for both sides.

While Ben was discussing if he would go back for the funeral, he weighed the expense with the experience and ended with the thought: "what's money, anyways, if you can't use it as a tribute to the relationships in life." Because really, that's the point. The formative relationships we had with family enrich every experience we have now.

Life abroad highlights the ups and downs: You have to love hard when you get the chance and appreciate the chances you get. 

1 comment:

  1. sorry for your losses. It's so hard when you don't live near someone here, but to be on the other side of the world really makes it hard. Hope your husband has a safe trip.

    Definetly going to try your waffle recipe!