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This past Christmas brought quite a different feeling to me. It was about this time last year when I received news about my aunt‚ who had had a stroke during her vacation in the north of Thailand. The bad news arrived via social networking. I saw family members sharing their feelings‚ hopes‚ and sympathy through Facebook. When I woke up early that December morning‚ I was shocked by the news‚ and disappointed that I discovered the news on Facebook and not directly from family.

When I called my cousin‚ she was calm enough to tell me that her mother was in good care in the ICU in the best hospital in Chiangmai. “Not to worry‚” she said. I could sense her sympathy for me that I was not able to be part of the circle of support. It was the worst moment for me. I felt hopeless that I couldn’t be there for my family during this difficulty. I felt so far away from them and could feel an emptiness in my soul.

My aunt was lying unconscious in the ICU‚ waiting for the family’s decision on an operation. What it would be like after her operation was the topic of discussion among family members. What was it like for the family to make these decisions? Every minute of waiting seemed to be unusually long. “What can I do?” I asked myself. Nothing but read the updates about her health condition on Facebook.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be okay. It’s too much for you to book a flight‚ especially this time of year to be here for just two weeks‚” my dad told me over the phone. My husband and I had a flight booked to Thailand for the upcoming summer. I had to think hard about booking a flight to be with the family during this time as it would be financially difficult to make two trips within six months. What about Christmas? Was I about to leave my children to have them celebrate Christmas without me? How was I going to afford the last-minute flight to Thailand during the Christmas holidays? Decision‚ doubt‚ and guilt haunted me for several days. My aunt passed away on Boxing Day. The feelings of loss and hopeless were indescribable.

“The scariest part of our lives as we move away from home is to receive bad news about our loved ones from back where we come from‚” my friend who moved from Thailand to Idaho once told me. I now fully understand how she feels.

The more I talked to people who have moved from elsewhere‚ the more experiences we shared. A friend of mine who owns a Thai restaurant in Sidney‚ travels to Thailand at least three times a year to visit his mother. As an only son‚ he feels obligated by a duty of caring for his ageing and ill mother‚ who lives on her own in Thailand.

When in Thailand‚ I try to see as many friends and family as possible. I wonder if I could do less visiting for more quality time. But what if I miss seeing someone I should have. I still blame myself for not spending enough time with my aunt during my last visit when she was alive. I also felt for my girls and husband‚ who would rather spend time on the beach than several stops at my relatives’ places. My husband was looking forward to a nice relaxing vacation. “What would be a win-win solution?” I asked myself.

Perhaps I just need to accept that I chose to live far away from my family. And the choice comes with the hurtful fact that I will miss being there for and with them. The lesson for me is to take one thing at a time‚ enjoy it while it lasts‚ plan for future‚ and embrace the fact that sadness is like happiness: it comes and it goes. Departure brings the chance for another reunion.