Monday, August 13, 2012

Death In The Family - Dealing With Loss When You’re An Expat

When I was five, I left two important people behind in Argentina, and I spent most of my childhood imagining the day that I would see them again. I got my wish, but it wasn't what I expected. 
My uncle and I

My grandmother
Today I visited the cemetery where my grandmother and uncle were buried. My grandmother died in 2000 of natural causes, and my uncle died in 2004 in a tragic bus accident at the age of 43. But before I tell you what happened next, let me give you a little history first. 

When I was five, my mom and I went to live with my grandmother and uncle for what would have been my final year in Argentina, before moving to the United States. During that year I bonded with my grandmother and my uncle (who had been like a dad to me during that year). I had to say goodbye to my grandmother at her home in Cordoba before my mom and I traveled from Cordoba to the airport in Buenos Aires. Fortunately, my uncle accompanied us. But the last memory I have of him was a silhouette waving at me from inside the airport as I looked out of the airplane window. I promised myself that I’d find a way to see him, and my grandmother again, but that promise never came. 

I’ve encountered people in my life whom I’ve considered family back in the States, but one silly argument was all it took for them to throw it in my face how much I wasn’t a part of their family. This was different.  

These two people… these corpses lying six feet underground in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere, are my true family, but they’re gone. Somehow this made my return to Argentina a little more difficult to handle, but what’s worse, none of the living family I have seem to care. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ignorant of the fact that everyone had their time to grieve when my uncle and grandmother passed away, but these graves were poorly attended to. It’s obvious that no one has visited them in years. As my folks had put It, “Once they’re dead there’s nothing left. The dead don’t grieve, or feel sadness, or happiness, nor do they suffer. Funerals and gravestones are for the living, who out of guilt, tend to the graves to make up for the lack of attention they gave to them in life.” But I guess my American upbringing has given me a different perspective. 

I’m just a grieving grandson, and a nephew, who kept his promise to return to them, but I couldn’t beat two predators: time and death. 

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