Worst Email Ever

Preamble: I know death is a fact of life and yes, the world isn't always fair. I'm not saying that my life is so horrible....but simply how dealing with this while I'm far away from home is a bit different than dealing with this if I lived in Canada).

Last December a fellow expatriate’s father passed away while she was here. She had to travel to the Philippians. She came into the office to say goodbye and I gave her the kindest words I could think of (and meant them). The pained expression on her face was heart breaking. I have no idea how I didn’t break down crying as well.

Two weeks ago, an fellow-Albertan expatriate’s wife passed away. He had to take the 24+ hour long journey home.

Yesterday another expatriate’s grandfather passed away. She too will have to travel a very long way (once she gets through the incredibly long process of going through our travel agency).

It was no secret that I wanted to stay in Madagascar for a longer time.

But, these kind of events make me think….is it worth it? Is it worth living so far away when my family and friends are over 15000km away? What if something would happen to them? The last memories I’d have of them would be from a few months back from my last visit to Canada. And I wouldn’t be able to get home to them for a torturous couple of days.

If I lived my life constantly thinking, “What if”, I’d never leave the house. Sometimes I can't help feeling like I’m missing out on a part of my life. I’m missing out spending time with my Canadian family and friends. I take for granted the fact that they’ll always be there. It’s moments like this that make me realize that they won’t be.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was considering cutting my rotation short to go home and see a sick family member after a surgery went wrong. I waited it out, but I fought the urge every minute not to just book a plane ticket home. Thankfully, he recovered and I saw him three weeks later.

There are times that I feel incredibly guilty for the choice that I made to come (and stay) here. I know I have to life my own life for myself, and do what makes me happy, but…it comes with consequences – one of which is that I miss time with my friends and family and another is that yes, something could happen to one of them while I’m gone.

There’s no…point or conclusion of this post.

Other than, I’m sad for my co-worker. I’m scared that this could be me one day.

I don’t always know how to balance my life with enjoying the expat world and not worrying about home. I’m getting better, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t worry quite often about home.

There is a “death of a co-worker's loved one” process that happens in Madagascar. An email is sent out to the all of the co-workers alerting them of the death. Then, everyone contributes as much money as they can afford, and then there is a presentation of condolences made. We all gathered in one room – at the office or at the person’s home - and someone speaks on behalf of the group, expressing their condolences and sadness for the employee. Then the envelope of money is presented. I've been to some pretty rough condolences. Last Christmas Eve, we had a presentation for a young man that lost his five year old daughter. He was shaking so much he couldn't hold onto the envelope.

Until now, I think I’ve handling this whole thing pretty good. I went and spoke to the employee after I found out and tried to think of anything I could do to help. And just let her know that I’ll be there – no matter what. When I first heard, I teared up a bit (but seriously – what day don’t I tear up for some reason. A cute puppy, a rough day…..I’m okay, I get it. I’m officially a crier.). But I kept trying to put it to the back of my mind.

And then an email went out today that with the subject:

It said :
A tous, Dear all,
Nous avons le regret de vous informer que le grand-père de Jane* est décédé hier. Le équipe présentera ses condoléances à Jane* cet après-midi.
We regret to inform you that Jane*’s Grandfather has died yesterday. The Team will express their condolences this afternoon.

We all contributed funds and then met in the front foyer area. Our boss presented the condolences first in English, and then read them in French (she’s English, but the rest of the team is French….everything important has to be said twice here…).

I did a good job of not crying. She was strong. I think much stronger than I would be.

I went back to my office, was thankful for my family, and teared up a bit. I don’t want to ever have an email like that sent out on my behalf.

And then, the employee sent out an email thanking everyone. There’s one phrase I can’t stop reading: It is with deep regret that I will fly back home on this instance but I know that my grandfather, who was once there with me through all my ups and downs, will be there beside me and will, as usual, guide me all the way and ensure my safety until I reunited with the family in mourning.

I never want to send out an email like that.


  1. in light of your post and your co-worker I thought I would share this;

    Life Goes On
    If I should go before the rest of you
    Break not a flower
    Nor inscribe a stone
    Nor when I am gone
    Speak in a Sunday voice
    But be the usual selves
    That I have known
    Weep if you must
    Parting is hell
    But life goes on
    So .... sing as well

    love and and a very big hug, mom


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