Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Far away from home and the hardest goodbye

I kept looking at the Christmas tree hoping that by some miracle I would feel that warm holiday feeling. It was the first week of January and I still had not given up hope. I wanted it to come. I wanted Christmas to feel as it did every year: cozy, fun, nostalgic.

But on Christmas Eve 2017 I lost my grandmother. The two weeks prior to her loss were filled with emotional ups and downs of her coming out of having a stroke. Along this ride was the struggle I faced going on inside of myself: whether or not to get on a plane and leave my children behind to tell her goodbye.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life. I didn't know what I was suppose to do or what was best for me and my family. I struggled with the fact that I would never ever be able to see her again or to hug her tight one last time. I would deny myself a sense of closure if I didn't go, but on the other hand, I would miss my son's 10th birthday and my kids Christmas. They would forever remember that Christmas as a sad one, and my heart could not take that.

And I am sure my grandmother would not have wanted that either. I told myself, maybe even convinced myself, that she would want me to stay with my kids. So that was what I did: I slowly watched my grand mother die from thousands of miles away.

The two weeks leading up to her death were difficult and I became obsessed with being online, specifically Facebook messenger. Here my mom would give us family updates on her prognosis. And she would send photos and videos that I would analyze over and over just hoping she looked more responsive. Yet, she didn't and slowly I watched her die via social media.

Sounds strange and uncaring somehow, watching my grandmother die via Facebook messenger. But for me, it was a connection, it was the next best thing to being there, virtually. It provided me with the opportunity to be in both places at once: in Amsterdam, at home with my babies and at home in America with my family.

I will never forget the moment on Facebook messenger that my mom said my grandmother was slipping away. I was desperate to FaceTime and my mom said there was no time. She did the next best thing: she sent a video of my grandmother. It might sound horrible, morbid or cruel to some people, but for me, it was my way of being there with my grandmother, and she would have wanted it that way.

She was an avid Facebook user, especially after she was bed ridden in her final years. It was her connection to the outside world and what kept her sharp. I would always get a kick out of her posts and status updates. She would wish people happy birthday in her status or ask my mom a question via her status update. And since she never really figured out how to see posts from the family, my mom would tag her.

I always thought it was so cool that she learned how to use social media, but that was my grandmother, young at heart, always reading and learning and brave.

Matter of fact, one of the things my grandmother always told me was that even though her body was old, in her mind she was still a young girl, ready to learn and eager to experience the world. And this is how I will remember her.  And I will never regret my decision.


3 comments:

  1. I'm sorry for your loss. I understand you very well, I lost my grandma last year and also had to take the difficult decision about being there for the funeral or not. I chose not to be there, and I still feel guilty about it. Unfortunately, this is how our lives are, away from the families; we will have difficult decisions to make, we will miss important moments. That's probably how life is, in general. That's why we should just enjoy every moment that we have together - when possible. And I think we should be grateful to have at lest the online connection when more is not possible. Take care and hugs!

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    1. Thanks so much Dana! Hearing that I'm not the only one really helps. You are so right, we must enjoy the moments we have here and now. I recently Facetimed with my mom and we cleaned out my grandma's closet "together". I felt a little closer to home thanks to the experience. So sorry for your loss too and hugs to you too!!

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