My 92 year old grandmother recently had a fall and broke her leg. A broken leg is no fun, let alone when you’re 92. But she’s built from strong stock, my grandmother, so she pushed through the operation and is now part-terminator where the bone used to be. It’s easy to joke and look at the positives after the fact, but it was a tense few weeks for everyone as she endured through the surgery and the risks that come afterwards.
We’re through the woods and out the other side now – she’s found a permanent home in a decent care facility and is looking forward to the prospect of activities and outings.
Even from the other side of the world and feeling half-removed from it all, I still lay awake some nights, thoughts just rambling through my mind along with the angst of not being able to help. And it got me thinking. Because these are the times that it really hits home that I’m so far away. And it hits hard.
Because the unavoidable truth is, that at some point, somebody I know is going to die. And in my present state, I’m just too far away to do anything about it. I can’t turn up on someone’s doorstep with a well-timed hug, an offer to look after pets or to help with funeral organisation. I can’t be there exactly when someone needs me, because that would involve 24+ hours of travel-time, time off work, plus forking out a couple of grand.
And it scares the hell out of me. Because even if I did spur into action, throw around some cash and manage to turn up in time for a funeral, I can’t stay indefinitely. I probably can’t even stay very long. And being at a funeral is important, but being there before and after the funeral for family and friends is probably even more important.
It’s heart-breaking to have to admit to yourself that depending on the who, the what, the when or the where, being there for your friends and family might not be possible in the same way it used to be. Sometimes it might be left to a heart-felt message in a card, a skype video, a virtual hug, sharing a funny photo or video, or offering to be there if people want to chat in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep (well at least there’s one upside to the crazy time difference).
Being so far away means I just can’t be there for everything. We were lucky enough to be able to plan in my brother’s wedding in February, but the birth of his firstborn in July… well we’re just going to have to wait a while until we meet her in person.
But of course the best thing of all is being lucky enough to have such an awesome hoard of family and friends who will always there for me, and that I will always be there for, even if it’s not in the most traditional form.