Summer break is just around the corner. For the first time in eons, some of us may head to distant destinations that we call “home.” Still, as international students, most of us have been away from “home” our entire lives. With the exception of the yearly family visit, we are all technically away from home. So, when something big happens at home we aren’t able to the places and people we hold most dear.
The following story from a SAS student who chooses to remain anonymous, details stresses and heartbreak of constant separation from home.
Late January, “Jane” found out that her grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4 gallbladder cancer. Jane was extremely close to her and hasn’t seen her since summer 2016. It’s been forever since she was able to feel her grandma’s warm embrace or dine on her famous homemade meatballs.
Lots of SAS students can relate, as most of us have had to be the backseat to seeing loved ones who may be sick because of distance. You want to help out or be with them and tell them you love them, but you can’t because there are obstacles in your way.
By finding out this news it affected everything this student did. She is involved in a third season sport, does a sport outside of school, and doing SAT prep all while worrying about her grandma. Hearing this kind of news is enough to make anyone depressed and unmotivated.
The day before she was supposed to on her interim, her trip got canceled. So all of this is going on in her life and then her trip gets canceled you can only imagine how she felt. With her parents and little sister in the states and her middle sister was in Barcelona, she was forced to stay home for a week by herself. Luckily she made the best out of bad situation and stayed at a friend’s house. She called or face-timed her parents every day to get updates. On Tuesday the 13th, she called her mother to wish her a happy birthday and get her daily update on how her grandma was doing. Her mom said she wasn’t doing too well and that her mom was planning on buying plane tickets for her and her middle sister.
This student’s luck of being able to go home and see her grandma is better than many other SAS students who aren’t able to do so. Getting this kind of news while you’re trying to get good grades and help out at home while worrying about SATs and what college you want to go to is overwhelming.
They left together and arrived safely in Newark, New Jersey on this SAS students elongated birthday. She was excited to be back in the states after 2 years and to see her family especially her grandma. After all the excitement and getting the luggage in the car, it went quiet. Her mom and dad told her that her grandma had passed away on Tuesday the 13th. She was destroyed, so many emotions were going through her head, but the most important one was how she was never going to see her grandma again. She would never feel her warm bear hugs, would never hear her yelling at her grandpa, she would never have her cream puffs, she would not see her again. She and her sister cried in the car almost all the way to her grandpa’s house, but they know they have to be strong for the rest of the family.
Getting into the house almost all feelings of sadness had left her when she saw all of her family at the center table with loads of pasta. There were “hellos” and “wow you’re big” all around, overall she was happy to be back after almost 2 years.
Although her reasoning for going home is a devastating one it had its perks. Everyone can relate to some extent of joy when visiting their family after a long time whether it’s 2months or 2 years everything is familiar, you feel at home and loved.
All though all of this excitement is going around she couldn’t help but notice her grandpa. He was smiling and happy but she could tell he was completely crushed. I think that’s what broke her the most, her grandpa had just lost the love of his life. You wake up every day for about 40 years with your love and one day they aren’t there anymore.
She recalled her last moments with her grandma and grandpa; August 2016, it was a bright Saturday morning and her dad had picked up bagels for the trip. They were done packing up the car and now it was time, she hugged her grandma and grandpa, told them how much she loved them and that she would see them soon.
Back to the present, her mom told her she had to pick out funeral clothes for Tuesday. She had gotten everything she needed on Monday and then came the hard day, the funeral. Everyone had left the happiness and exchanged it for sorrow upon arriving at the funeral home. This was her first time seeing her grandma since August and she was devastated to see her look so different, so lifeless,
she looked nothing like herself. She got up to her casket, kneeled and prayed; “Grandma I’m so so sorry I couldn’t be there, I wanted to but I couldn’t. I wish I could have spent more time with you and helped you more. I want to thank you for everything you have done for me. I always thought I would see at my wedding and you would see the birth of my first child but it wasn’t in the cards. I just want to say thank you and I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner.” She got up and tried her hardest to wipe her tears but they just came crashing down she latched onto her dad for several minutes before letting go. More people showed up to pay their respects she said hello and hugged, but felt like a zombie.
Going through situations like this, it’s ok not to talk or just sit and cry. The best thing to do after all that is done is surround yourself with people who love and care about you to help you push through these negative emotions. If you don’t have someone you feel you can rely on it’s our SAS counselors jobs to help you if you feel you can’t overcome these feelings go seek them out for help.
Wednesday was the day of closing her casket, her cousins, and she had flowers to place on her casket. She picked up blue because blue was her favorite color and put it gently on the center of her casket, kissed her hand and placed it on the side before walking away. She trudged into her cousin’s arms and cried.
The next morning, her mother and aunt were handling her grandma’s jewelry and deciding which grandchildren should get what. She received her engagement ring along with four others. Most of the rings didn’t fit her because her grandma had dainty fingers, but one golden band that had ripples like the ocean fit her left middle finger. To this day she has never taken it off.
Overall, what you should take away from this story is that losing someone is hard. Being away from home is also hard, but not impossible. Good can come out of the bad, and you can move on. Surround yourself with good people you can confide in, work hard in school, find hobbies to keep yourself occupied. Always, always, always tell your loved one that you love them, you never know when you will or will not see them again.