Saturday, 12 January 2013

When being an expat stinks

I’ve talked about the stupid things that really were not easy for us when moving overseas… all the really trivial stuff that just takes time to get over and adjust to.  Up until now the only really crap stuff we have dealt with was missing out on life event such as weddings and births back home.  This has been hard, but really nothing compared to what we had to cope with before Christmas. 

Before the move to Sydney, we both were aware (maybe more so me) there would likely be a time while away we need to deal with more serious stuff. 

The week before Christmas and us leaving for holiday, I got an early morning message from my sister saying my grandfather wasn’t doing well.  Not a good way to start my Monday morning.  I did my usual run to get to the train station on my way to my nanny job… sobbing most of the way.  A few difficult days later, he passed away. 

Like I said before, I knew there was a good chance something like this would happen while away.  Being “aware” did not make it any easier at all.  There is no way to explain these types of situations except that they suck.  Being away from family, feeling helpless, being on the otherside of the world and the sense that you are not “there” even though everyone knows you are going through the same emotions is a terrible situation for anyone to be in. 

We talked a lot about going back for the funeral, but after discussions with family were encouraged to stay in Sydney. I still feel slightly torn about the decision- even through I know Grampa would have not wanted me to fly back for it (I can hear his voice yelling at the hubby and I for spending money on such things), and the last time I saw him I think I knew it was a last goodbye.  My parents in particular have the thought that life is about the time we spend and memories we make together, not about what happens after that matter most.  We were very fortunate to have him in our lives for the time we did and for him to be involved in so many of our major life events is priceless.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our wedding day with Grampa…

I wrote a short reading for the funeral.  Not an easy thing for me, as I am terrible with putting feelings down on paper.  Also not very easy to share with people, but I figure if I am going to be open about the happy things in life and living an expat life, I should also be open to sharing the tough times as well.  Here it is...

Grampa was a great man and a wonderful grandfather.  He was quick to joke, always had a comment about Boston sport teams, supportive of all we did and loved us unconditionally.

I grew up very close to my Grampa, due in part to spending many long summer days at his house during my childhood.  I have memories of him at every major event in my life, be it dance recitals, graduations and my wedding day.  I am not very good at putting my feelings down on paper, but I have tried my best to put together my thoughts on what I will remember about Grampa and those memories I am thankful for.

Thank you for the support you offered throughout my life: whether it was encouraging my early baking skills and always saying it was delicious, providing me with confidence to get through my many years of nursing school, or cheering Rikhav and I on when we decided on one of our big life moves to Australia.  Of course being sure to warn us of the dangers of sharks, crocs and poisonous snakes.  Thank you for teaching me to be a compassionate, self-aware and caring person by living your own life in this way.  Thank you for always being there during the good times and supporting me through the bad.  Thank you for sharing your amazing life stories with us.  I will cherish all the tales you told us about growing up, experiences during the war, and all the life and travels tales with Nana.  Rikhav and I promise to make our way over to all those islands you were always telling us about. Thank you for the support you have always given to all of us over the years.  Thank you for helping to shape our lives down the many different paths we have chosen.

I also thought this reading puts it into words much better than I ever could, how I feel Grampa encouraged us to live our lives.

Live a Life that Matters by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear. So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories that live in those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

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