Saturday, September 7, 2013

In loving memory

It's what every expat fears the most.  The call. That's how my friends Caroline and Crystal both ominously refer to that call we don't want to get.  In my case it was an email that, just like Deidre said a while back, was titled simply with the person in question.  And I knew that probably meant things hadn't gone well over the night of Sunday to Monday for my grandma.

When a loved one passes away we feel helpless as expats.  We aren't there to help friends and family, and we feel guilty that we didn't see the person as much these past years because we've been away.   In this case my mom said to wait and come back at Christmas, which will also be a tough time this year.  And I agree and understand.  My being there now wouldn't make my grandma come back and she knows I loved her.  Of course I tell myself I could have called a bit more often, or emailed more.  We saw each other on Skype and spoke on holidays and she got to see her great-granddaughter Juliette three times in these last five years (check out this video from when they were together in 2009). 

So I've been calling daily to see how my family is holding up and somehow it makes things a little better.  But being far from the events makes it harder for me to truly realize she's gone.  I don't have the same closure as the others. 

Instead I lit a candle in the church near my apartment and Juliette and I sat in a little chapel where I quietly read her a book we'd found at the library about a girl who misses her grandma.  It's been hard for a five-year old to process all this and why her mom is weepy.  She goes from asking me where grandma is and then telling me she wants to go to heaven and see her or saying she never wants to die.  It's heavy stuff at that age and I try my best to explain without scaring her.  Her little arms around my neck are a comfort.

So today I'll think about what a spunky, cute little grandma she was.  And how I hugged her tight the last time I left the US, thinking a little too pragmatically that it might well be the last time.  Unfortunately that came true but I know we made some great memories together. 

With Juliette in the summer of 2009.


Michelle said...

Very sorry to hear your news. It's hard to be far away. Luckily you can get Juliette's cuddles whenever you need them xxx

Jenenz said...


I am sorry to hear of the passing of your grandmother. Thank you for sharing with us how much she meant to you and how much you loved her. I'm glad she and Juliette had a chance to be together.

Sending you and your family lots of love.

Crystal said...

My condolences again for your Grandma. It's never easy being away from family at these times. Hang in there, xx

Emmy said...

LOts of love Mil. Loss is never easy but hold onto the good times you had and she'll be with you forever.

Emmy x x x

Den nation said...

I am sorry to hear about your loss. I'm happy that Juliette got to meet her great-grandmother. I remember meeting mine when I was a young child.

I also feel guilty about not seeing my grandmother enough, but such is the expat life.

Best wishes and warm thoughts to your family.

Lindle said...

Milam, you and Juliette made wonderful memories for your grandmother. She delighted in our Skype sessions, she boasted about Juliette endlessly, and she always wanted us to print out the latest picture to share with her friends. Through Juliette, she saw the world through the eyes of a wondering child again, and it gave her many laughs and grins and cuddly moments. That was a priceless gift. You made the effort to come and stay here and be with her and cook with her and just talk. She adored buying small toys and books (like the one JuJu was using this summer)and outfits and stickers...and bubble gave her so much happiness to do that.
So, thank you. Your presence was a glorious, bright spot in her life, and even on her last day, she was smiling at the video of Juliette dancing that you sent.
I want to believe she is going to drop in now and then and take a look our way--but I hope she is wrapped in so much joy and love that she'll wonder what all our tears are for.
Love you.