Photo by Alicia Bock Photography via sfgirlbybay

I came home today feeling like I couldn't breathe, as if I needed to do something, go somewhere, or even just open the window to make myself feel that I am alive, that I am indeed here. I tried to blame it on work and the fact that I hadn't eaten much during the day because I was too busy going from one meeting to another. But I think its much deeper than that.

Two days ago, I received a phone call from my brother telling me that our cousin Neil John has died. He was only 15. He died of cancer.

I didn't know what to say. We all knew that it was coming because his cancer was already in the terminal stage, but it still came as a shock. I also felt guilty knowing that I really didn't do anything for him while he was still alive. In fact, I barely knew him. What made him smile? What did he love more than anything else in the world? Its been more than 4 years since I left our country and I only saw him briefly when I came back to visit.

Its during times like this that the physical distance between me and my family really hits me. When I left, all I could think about was my great adventure awaiting me here and eventhough I knew that I was going to miss my family, I also knew that they are always there, waiting for me. Somehow I just assumed that while I'm busy discovering places, meeting new people, taking pictures, filling journals, everyone that I left behind will remain unchanged.

Of course, it doesn't work that way. And so while I went through grad school, moved from one city to another, and begun to believe that I might have found another home here, the rest of my family also had adventures and struggles of their own. Some of them moved to another country, some met the love of their life, got married, had kids. Some battled with their own addiction, while some struggled to be accepted. And yes, it hurts when I realize that they went through all this and I wasn't a part of it.

But such is life. I can only hope that our love for each other is so much stronger than the miles between us all. The same love that gave my parents the strength to let me go, though it must have been terrifying for them to see their daughter living alone in another country when she was only 23. The same love that gave me the courage to take the leap and follow my dreams. The same love that allows us to hope and never, ever, let go.



  1. i am so sorry to read about your loss. it is very difficult to be so far away in moments like this.

    i so deeply appreciate the way you talk about how it is the love that gives us the strength. yes. i do think that when we can sit in the quiet and recognize that the love is there we can find our breath and our calm and know that we will keep going.

    sending you peace and light tonight...

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about your cousin. It is especially difficult when someone that young is taken by such a terrible disease.

    I also know that feeling of not having done something for a person when they were alive. I lost a former friend last October; you may have read about it on my blog - and I felt a lot of regret that I hadn't realized how sick she was and tried to help her or at least make up the rift that had come between us.

    I hope you and your family can still heal together from this loss even with the miles between you. At least in this day and age there are phones and e-mail rather than just letters; it does help a little I think. You are in my thoughts today...

  3. mary lynneMarch 21, 2008

    ms. odessa,
    please accept my condolences.
    -ms. mary

  4. I, too, am sorry for your loss. There's no way to prepare for it, even when you know it's coming. Sometimes all you can do is breathe--and that may be enough for right now.

  5. thank you all so very much, from the bottom of my heart.

  6. I'm sorry to read this...wishing you well.

  7. Distance is a challenge as life's changes come in waves and you aren't in the midst of it. But know your are where you need to be in this moment - and, love knows no borders or distance.

    Sending peace & love, JP/deb

  8. hi deb,
    thank you for your lovely words.