When Tragedy Occurs And You Are Far From Home

When Tragedy Occurs And You Are Far From Home

It’s just a text. A normal weekend text from your dad, who happens to double as one of your best friends. As I waved goodbye to a colleague on a Friday afternoon, leaving for a work lunch, I had decided I would walk home, even though it was a long walk and the sun was blistering. But it was the start of July Fourth weekend, and I was excited.

Except the text from my dad wasn’t the normal “what are you up to tonight?” or “have a great weekend and we will talk Sunday.”

Instead, it was a text telling me my grandpa was in the hospital. My dad didn’t know much more, but “do not panic,” he told me. I noticed I also had a missed call and texts from other family members.

Fortunately, it ended up okay. My grandpa is elderly, and he is doing the best he can be at this time.

But in that moment, I felt what many who live away from family experience when tragedy hits.

It’s a feeling of hopelessness. A feeling of being helpless, waiting—alone and far from my family—for further news. 

I didn’t do much that weekend as I waited. I slept a lot, and I thought a lot. I watched Gilmore Girls to keep my mind at ease. I booked a flight for the following weekend, though the wait to be with the people I loved felt unbearable.

There is a distinct silver lining when it comes to tragedy, and it’s never something you hope for, but something you learn to appreciate. Your loved ones comes together, and you all become a unit again. Not that your unit was ever lost, but that it becomes even more solidified as you process the tragedy together. You remember what can easily be lost, and what you can be grateful for. 

It made coming home and enjoying pasta and wine with my dad, like we always do when I’m home, that much more special. It made the car rides with my mom more meaningful. I now find that a text from my brother brings even more peace to my mind. It made learning that I was going to be an aunt even more wonderful and exciting than I could have ever imagined. 

It’s a strange feeling sometimes, finding joy in the chaos. Finding the good in the bad. Because sometimes when you find that good, you feel a bit guilty. You feel wrong. Something pleasant came out of something very unpleasant, and that can be hard to reconcile. It’s easy to feel guilty in these times, but it’s better to be feel gratitude.

When you choose to move away from home, there is always a point where you have to leave. You have to get on a plane, say goodbye to your loved ones, and return to your new home. This can be both exciting and difficult. 

After leaving my hometown that weekend, I felt both peace and sadness—peace that I had been able to see my family, but sadness in that after the joy of spending time with them despite the tragic circumstances that brought us together, I had to say goodbye and return to New York.

But then again, isn’t coming home to love and joy part of what makes the coming home so special? Isn’t the act of being away part of what makes the feelings of returning so strong? Being away gives me a stronger connection to home than I ever had before. Being away makes it that much more important to me to keep my relationships at home strong and steady and it makes it that much more important to me to find a way to show my love when tragedy strikes.

It can be painful being so far away from my family, and this almost-tragedy highlighted those difficulties in distance. But in my experience, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

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