Monday, 20th August 2018
On 20th August as I was on my way to school, I received word that my cousin had taken his own life. He had been suffering from PTSD for a while now since his time as a park ranger and first responder in Colorado. He spent around a decade there and had really seen a lot of disturbing things.
I was unaware of the severity of his situation. He had returned to Illinois during our time in Hong Kong. I did offer to fly him out here to stay for a while when he returned but hadn’t heard anything in terms of definite plans.
My brother had mentioned in passing that he was struggling a couple of weeks prior. Still, it was not something I expected to hear as I was on the MTR about to exit at Kowloon Tong to make my way to the next train to complete my journey to school/work.
That day was not one of my finest moments. Bub was surprised by my reaction as we exited the train in Kowloon Tong. Then on arrival to school, I just couldn’t hold it together. I was sent home for the day because of that. I didn’t go home right away though. I wandered for a bit around Ma On Shan. I sat in McDs drinking coffee as tears just streamed down my face. The little old Chinese ladies were not sure what to make of me. LOL.
After a bit, I returned home. I don’t know why, but I took the transit system. Closer to home, I received a call from a friend I had recently reconnected with from college. It was so wonderful to hear his voice and just talk to him about nothing for a while.
The rest of the day was a blur though. Spent with my Pupper as company.
The next day, I spoke with the head of our school. I had this intense urge to go home and see my grandmother. I knew at that point, we all wouldn’t be able to go home, but I thought it was important that I went at least. In talking with him, he told me just to book the tickets.
So that is what I did. I booked to fly to Chicago on Thursday and fly out on Monday arriving home on Tuesday.
I flew out from Hong Kong to Tokyo (Narita International Airport) where I was stuck for a bit of a layover.
Then my flight continued on to Chicago. It was crazy going through immigration. So different from when we went through at Christmas time. It took me almost 1.5 hours to get through immigration into the US as a US citizen. What the hell is that about?!?
Finally, I did get through to the other side to find my mother and brother waiting for me. I had rented a car for my time in Chicago, so Fruitbat went with me to the rental place to get the car.
It’s always interesting flying in from Hong Kong because you generally only arrive hours after you left even though you have been traveling for 16 hours. This was less the case this time because of my layover in Tokyo. Still, it was the same day and early afternoon when I arrived.
Fruitbat and I went to Love’s sister’s house to see her family.
I’m so grateful I was able to spend time with this monsters. I miss them so much. I spent a lot of time with them before we moved to Hong Kong. I would spend whole weekends with the kids whenever I could. We normally wouldn’t go a couple weeks without seeing them.
Now I feel like I have missed so much. Baby V was a baby when we left. Little E is my buddy girl. The boys are just growing so darn fast. They were the bright spot in my otherwise dark trip home.
After Fruitbat and I went to the hotel to check into the hotel that my mother had booked for us for the time we were there. That night, I ate Arby’s. Hadn’t had Arby’s in ages. It was just as terrible as I remember it being, but when you go to get food at midnight, that’s what you’re stuck with.
Day Spent With Family
In the morning, we headed over to our aunt’s house. Much of the family was there by that time. My other aunt and uncle, a few of my cousins, a few of my siblings. It was … hard. So hard. It wasn’t fair or right or okay or anything. As we talked with my uncle, we learned more and more about the condition my cousin had been in. We learned how far they had gone to try to help him. We learned more of the gruesome details of his demise.
While we were there, my brother came with his wife and little boy. He was such a wonderful distraction, and he broke the sort of oppressive atmosphere one would expect in that situation.
We spent much of the day there with family. When they wanted to go and attend to their tasks for Saturday, we quietly stepped out and returned to our hotel.
Much of the night was spent chasing around buddy boy before Mama had to put him to bed.
On Saturday was the memorial and funeral service. That is something I never want to repeat again (not that I think anyone would want to). I did get to see family and friends I had not seen in quite a while. I can’t ever get out of my mind the sight of my uncle crying. I’ve never seen him cry before in my almost 40 years of existence. To see him cry was devastating. Then there was my aunt wailing at the loss of her only son. My grandmother just looked defeated. First, grandpa last month. Then Erik. She even said grandpa was a little easier to accept because he was over 90. She couldn’t handle the loss of Erik at such a young age. He was only in his late 30s when he was gone.
I was lucky. My friend, Daisy was there. I don’t think I would have made it through any of that without her. I wanted so bad for Love to be there with me, but Daisy was a rock through it all. We made it through the funeral part. Because Erik had been into nature and spiritual stuff, there was a drum thing with sage burning at the end. They brought many of the different drums Erik had had and had the people gathered there play them.
After, Daisy and I went to visit old friends for a while. Then we had lunch with family at the place my uncle loved to hang out in. I was also able to spend time with a cousin I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was sort of a weird encounter. Our families haven’t gotten along well since the death of my grandmother almost 10 years ago. This had been my first time seeing him since I left for Hong Kong. It was such a different encounter. He was sincere and caring and supportive. He was way less egotistical that was for sure.
That day was spent with family and friends. It was spent wondering why. It was spent thinking about our lost family members.
Time with Auntie and Uncle
The next day, we went to my aunt and uncle’s house. My aunt and cousin were working on clearing out my other cousin’s room. They were finding stuff and oohing and aaahing over the many different things they found in it. My uncle remained with us. He was struggling, as was his eldest daughter, as we all stood around the kitchen talking about anything but what was going on. After a certain point, my mom, my brother, and I made our excuses to leave. It was difficult to watch.
Time Spent with My Family
The rest of the day, we went to lunch with my other aunt and her kids. We spent time at the mall. I spent it with my sisters, a couple of my brothers, my sister in law, and their freaking adorable son.
It was nice just to spend time with my little buddy boy.
On Monday, I was off again and had a direct flight back home. Thank goodness. I would arrive on Tuesday and return to school on Wednesday.
I arrived home to Hong Kong International Airport to my loving husband. We took the bus home and had some McD’s near Hang Hau before catching the minibus back to our compound.
I am grateful I was able to go home. I know it was disruptive to my children as they would have really liked to be in the US with me, but even if I felt guilty for doing it, I felt it needed to be done. I needed to be there for my parents and my grandmother. I needed to see her. It was a harsh reminder that life is short, and you don’t know when it will be the turn of your loved ones to leave. I don’t regret coming out here, but I do miss my family. I wish I could spend more time with them. Unfortunately, moving halfway across the world has its consequences. Ours is to be separated from family and friends back home. While some may not see the merit in that decision, I have to. I have to see the benefits to my children’s education, both in school and out of school, to be exposed to different cultures and see different places. To experience a place other than their own home. I wanted to share the world with them. By living here, that is what I am doing.
I will always miss my family. I will miss my cousin and my grandfather more because I didn’t get to say goodbye. They will always be important to me though.
Good bye, my dear cousin. I hope you are at peace now from the demons that chased you through this life. Know that you are loved and missed. I hope you are running with the wolves you loved so much in the wilderness you valued more than anything. So much love to you.