You truly realize how far away from home you are when a family member passes away. It is then that the miles seem endless and the desperation to get home really hits home.
My mother-in-law passed away peacefully on Monday morning after her body succumbed to aging and illness. We’ve known this was coming, but knowing doesn’t make it easier. And receiving that message still stings like it’s all a surprise.
It is a blessing that she’s no longer in pain and that her last days were with family — family who is back home, that is. Now arrangements and decisions need to be made, whether my husband is there or not, while we grieve thousands of miles away. We’ve decided that our girls will likely not take the long trip back for what would be their first real experience of losing a loved one. Their young ages and immaturity, their schooling and routines, and simple jet lag for such a short, emotional trip helped us come to this conclusion. They were only four and six years old when we moved to China, and we’d like their memories of Grandma to remain happy ones.
My husband has the troubling realization that he didn’t think would affect him so deeply, that he now has no living parent. No matter how old you are when this happens, it’s a sobering lesson in the circle of life and the order in which things ideally occur.
At times like this, you ponder the preciousness of life so much more deeply. I know I’m not the only one starting to realize that the older I get, the more common it is to hear of grave illnesses or deaths in friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. I’m sure it was just as common when I was younger; perhaps I was sheltered from it, self-absorbed or just didn’t know someone close to me affected.
In an interview I had this week on a topic completely outside of this, a teenager said, “Treat people like it’s the last day, every day.” Nothing like a 24-hour period filled completely with life and death at the same time to teach you the wisdom of that statement.
So, I hug my husband and let him cry on my shoulder if he wants to. I give my girls an extra squeeze when I check on them in their beds at night. And I pray that Pat, bless her sweet soul, is at peace.