The hardest thing about living overseas is that you are far away from family in times of need. It’s obvious really, but it often doesn’t occur to people until something happens. And something always does happen at some point if you’ve lived overseas for any period of time. But then that’s the thing about life isn’t it? These things are inevitable no matter where you live and you can’t put your life on hold for fear that something might happen at some point.
It’s been a tough year between one thing and another. There seems to have been a fairly constant stream of less than pleasing news from the people closest to me. The hardest to come to terms with was when my Dad fell ill. He was ill for several months of this year, lurching at frequent intervals from a state of crisis to relative stability and back again, or at least that is how it felt. A roller coaster situation that was hard to be away from when my visits ended, waiting for news and updates, pacing across the floor with my heart leaping into my mouth whenever the phone rang. It’s hard to be away from family at times like these but at the same time, following my dreams and my own path in life is exactly what my parents have always encouraged me to do. In fact, every time I returned to the UK to visit my Dad for an extended period, it was never too long before he began to ask when I would be leaving again! Not because he wanted me to leave, but because he wanted to ensure that I wasn’t putting my own life on hold or missing out on things that I should be involving myself with back at my own home in Abu Dhabi. He felt I needed to get back – to continue on with my life and be with my husband. “That’s what it’s all about” he would simply say.
On October 11th, my life, and the lives of my family changed irrevocably. On that day, after a few short (but at the same time very long) months of illness my previously fit and well Dad passed away peacefully. So now, here I find myself – here my Mum and my brothers all find ourselves – in a position that we knew was coming, but was no less shocking when it finally did happen. So here I am, ‘adjusting’ to life without my Dad. How do you begin to adjust to life without such a significant member of your family?! An adjustment was back in the early 90s when the local bakery in our town changed its name from ‘Tooks the Bakers’ to the ‘Bakers Oven’. That was an ‘adjustment’. How do you adjust to life without a parent?! I’m not sure how anyone adjusts to this drastic change. I don’t know my life any other way – I just don’t know a life without my Dad. I can’t believe he’s not here anymore – that I will never see or speak to him again. I’m not sure how you can ever get used to that but I suppose people must do, with time. People say sorry for your loss. It’s one of those kind things that people say at times like these but it’s hard to get my head round. What have I lost? I haven’t mislaid my keys or forgotten where I left my wallet! This is my Dad we’re talking about. My Father. How could I ever lose my Dad? He may not be right here with us anymore, but the memories he gave us all will never be lost. I haven’t lost my Dad, or anything he gave me, though life will never be quite the same again.
I may live far from the country of my birth but despite everything that has happened this year, I do still consider myself to have been in a fortunate position – fortunate enough to have had the time and the opportunity to have been able to spend as much time with my family as I have this year. Fortunate enough to have been able to say my goodbyes to my Dad while he was still with us. I also believe that living further away you learn to place a greater value on the precious moments of life than you might when living much closer to friends and family – it’s much easier to take for granted what is right under your nose and is always there, close at hand. I’ve also been fortunate in the type of family that I have – a family that is always supportive and understanding, and a family that enjoys escaping the UK for foreign climes to visit us all no matter where in the world my brothers and I are scattered or choose to meet. When you have to plan your time more carefully with the people most precious to you it makes you all the more mindful to live in the moment and be present in those moments – to make every second count as you just don’t know which of those seconds might be the last chance you ever get.
For anyone considering an overseas move, I would still say as I always have done – do it. Just do it and don’t look back. You can think yourself into a frenzy about all the things that might happen, that could go wrong but don’t waste your energy. Things will go wrong from time to time. Unfortunate events will occur, just as they would if you stayed at home, but the positive experiences you open yourself up to will far outweigh the negatives. You’re only ever a flight away and the world is becoming a smaller place every day. You’ve got nothing to lose – if you move and it doesn’t work out you can return home, but at least you’ll have given it your best shot and you won’t always wonder ‘what if…?’. So go on, stop thinking and start doing. Get out there and take some chances, live your dreams. You only get one life, so grab hold of it and embrace every moment. Live deeper.
Donations in memory of my Dad have been sent to The Brain Tumour Charity.