Living Abroad is Hard, When Someone You Love is Dying

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Grams and her great-grandchildren

My Grandma Mehl, my mom’s mom, recently died. She was 94 and had pancreatic cancer. I live over 2000 miles away from her and my family. They are in Kentucky, USA. I am an expat living deep in South Mexico, 14 driving hours from the US border. I have four kids and a husband with a disability from a Traumatic Brain Injury. It is complicated. Living abroad is hard, when someone you love is dying.

We found out less than two weeks before she took her last breath. I talked with my parents every other day, trying to decide whether or not to make the trip home. I checked on flights from various cities in Mexico to various cities in Kentucky. Prices were high. My trip would require a five-hour bus ride to Mexico City and I would spend the night in the airport by myself. Needless to say I was hesitate to buy the ticket. The next day airfares went up by a couple hundred dollars. I decided to wait a few days till my family heard more from the doctor about Gram’s condition before I made the trip.

Grams and Alexis

They couldn’t tell us when she would pass. However they did say that pancreatic cancer is fast spreading and her age would not allow surgery. Grandma decided not to treat it. She had lived a good long life and she was tired of being old. The following weekend, after Gram’s diagnosis, her children came from Florida and Michigan to see her. The kids and I called her on Skype and gave her happy family updates. She even talked with Tristan, our two-year-old, and remarked on his light blond hair, that he inherited from her. It was a good visit. Dad said she was happy for days.

That next week Grams health worsened. She was sleeping much of the time and she stopped eating. Then late on Friday night Dad called. They put her on a ventilator because she was having trouble breathing. My parents were asked to come in because this could be the end. I fell to the floor in the kitchen crying. My boys who are only four and two, crumpled around me, wondering in their little baby minds, “What is wrong with Mommy?” I went to sleep with them in their bed, because my husband had to get up super early in the morning. Mommy cried and prayed, and my little men, especially Sawyer, learned about death. They were troopers, hugging and kissing their Momma, trying to make her feel better.

Grams and Sawyer

The boys soon fell asleep but I was wide awake. I called Dad and asked him to pray with Grams and let her know that we loved her. Later, he told me a tear dropped from her eyes after his prayer. So many elderly people are not treated with the respect and consideration they deserve. Happily, Grams wasn’t one of them. She was loved by many. For that I am very glad :-) Brad heard me stirring in the kitchen and got up from bed to see how I was doing. That’s when we decided to go ahead and leave for Texas that night. No one could sleep anyway. Perhaps Grams would last till next week and I could catch a flight when we returned home. It would only be a four-day trip to Texas.

Why Texas and not Kentucky? Texas is a 14 hour drive from Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico. Kentucky is a 36 hour drive, and that is straight through, without stops. You see, we had been preparing to drive to the Texas border to renew our visas for months. Our visas would expire in two days. The entire family needed new visas, and we needed a new car permit. It wasn’t an option. However we could not afford for the whole family to go to all the way to Kentucky. Driving 36 hours wasn’t a healthy option for Brad at this time, and paying for six plane tickets was out of the question.

Grams and Tristan

As we were walking out the door, the phone rang one last time. Grams was gone. My parents were with her when she peacefully took her last breath. It was over. No more suffering. No more pain. No more tears for my grandmother. I know that she is in a wonderful place. She is in God’s memory. It still hurts though. I cried, my girls cried, and even my husband was a little teary-eyed. I hate death. I am so happy that one day I will see my grandmother again. I have a hope. I don’t use this blog to preach but for this post, I feel like my thoughts need an explanation.

John 5:28,29 says, “…the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life…” I truly have faith in this promise and I can’t wait to see my Grams as she was at 25. Young, healthy, and strong. I don’t believe she is going to heaven. I believe she has the hope of living forever on a paradise earth. I have that same hope. Psalms 37:29 says, “The righteous will possess the earth, And they will live forever on it.” Why would God say that if he intended all of us to go to heaven? I can’t wait till that time is here. Till my family and I will be together in a New World, unified by love and peace. The first scripture we taught our children to memorize is Revelation 21:3,4. There God gives us a prophetic picture of the future, “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” How beautiful is this :-)

Grams and Me :-)

Grandma Mehl was cremated and her memorial service will be on October 10th. I am going to listen in, hopefully via Skype. Mom and Dad are going to use a photo of her in her twenties to show everyone what she will look like when she is brought back to life in perfect health. This was my idea, passed on to me by a dear friend. By seeing her as she will be, all her friends during her old age will be able to recognize her in the New World. If you want to learn more about my resurrection hope go here.

You see, living as an expat is not a glamorous life. Sometimes it is sad and makes your heart heavy. I am fortunate to have a hope for the future, for myself and the people I love. This makes being so far away much, much easier. If you are thinking of living abroad, this is something for personal consideration. Can you handle being away from your family, when they need you the most? Because living abroad is hard when someone you love is dying. Signing off in Mexico, Tina

Grams was always smiling

13 thoughts on “Living Abroad is Hard, When Someone You Love is Dying

  1. Sarah says:

    Tina this is really beautiful. So much of it reminded me of my mom’s death. It was incredibly difficult. I can only imagine the ache you must have felt being so far away. It won’t be long before you see her again. You must introduce me when you do. I can’t wait to meet her. Much love.

  2. amanda says:

    This was a beautiful post. I know you must have been hurting being so far away. Soon we will see her again with her beautiful smile and zealous personality. I can’t wait until that time! I can’t wait to hug her again! love and hugs from afar!!

  3. Seychellesmama says:

    So sorry to read this post, it’s so very hard to lose love ones and being so far away makes it all that much harder. Sounds like your little guys have done lots to support you and that’s so beautiful!!
    Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily

  4. Anja Skrba says:

    I am really sorry to hear your granny passed away…It’s always hard to deal with the loss of a loving person no matter where you are or how expecting her leaving was…

    You hold on Tina, we’ve all been there…
    Stay strong!

    Anja Skrba

  5. Keri (Baby Globetrotters) says:

    Tears in my eyes reading this. She has one of those immensely kind looking faces and I just want to hug her too! My condolences to your family with her sad passing and what a difficult decision time for you personally. #myexpatfamily

  6. Cassie M says:

    Tina I know this blog is old. But as you know I am just catching up on some of your writings. Nonetheless I cried because I could feel the hurt and pain. I too am looking forward to the time when our tears will be of happiness and not of hurt and sadness. I look forward to the time when I get to see my love ones again. But much food for thought in my endeavors to move to Mexico when a family member is sick or really need me. Thank you for sharing sis. Cassie M in GA

    • Tina Marie Ernspiker says:

      De nada! It was therapeutic to write about it and I wanted to help others with my experience. I still miss my grams and since then I have lost four other family members and a friend. It is never easy but isn’t it wonderful to have Jehovah’s hope for the future!

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