Goodbye Nagymama

say goodbye
how to say goodbye from a distance

“Earth’s crammed with heaven… but only he who sees, takes off his shoes” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Saying goodbye… It is always hard to say goodbye from a distance.

These are those moments that being an expat can be brutally hard. The births, the big milestones, the marriages and yes the funerals.

I was pleased to have been able to go home to Canada in March to see my Grandmother one last time before she passed away. For this I am truly grateful.

She was surrounded by family. I was with her in my thoughts right to the end, and I hoped she found peace going into the light… whatever that means.

I guess we all get to find out eventually.

Death for me is partly the reason why we left Canada.

After a string of deaths starting with my uncle, then my step father and ending with my father-in-law, launched me into action. Something about all three of them never reaching retirement, all of them died just before their last year of work. It really got to me and I decided it was time to start chasing my dreams.

It felt like I was running out of time, and that if not now, then when would we live our life to the fullest? We decided to change our lives, and put our deepest desires and wishes on our to do list, and we sold off our life and moved to Europe.

It was a big step and we changed our priorities drastically. It wasn’t about what we looked like to others, but what we felt like inside. Were we truly happy? If not, then why? What would make us happy? And we decided to start answering these questions.

That was five years ago.

They were promised rest at the end of a busy life. It was unjust, and it got me thinking about why we set up our lives to work our asses off while we are young, to rest when we are old. Surely there must be a better way. Some kind of pre retirement plan, a gap year to figure it all out, or some kind of balance to make money and feel content at once.

They were from the ‘work hard’ generation, taught to save until you have finished paying into your well deserved freedom plan; a theory that makes sense until you do the math.

But this system was designed by someone, thought up by a ruler so that their idle people were not lingering around doing nothing or worse up to no good.

Make them work, make them pay tax to support the rest, and in the end, if they made it to retirement, they get a reward. No more work…

Most people die within 18 months of retirement; myth or fact matters not, the real truth is that we don’t know when our time will be up. None of us do…

Somewhat like Russian roulette, you can step off the curb and get hit by a passing train, or after many near misses, die at 100 in an old age home hooked up to a feeding tube.

How are we to mentally prepare for our own deaths?

By giving up the control and saying that it could be at any moment, and knowing this should catapult us into action, to live for the now! Right now! IT IS TIME TO START LIVING!

My Nagypapa, and my Nagymama both died in their mid nineties, lucky to have retired at 60. They worked hard and enjoyed the remainder of a long life among family. I loved my Nagypapa very much, his sensitive manner, his slant on the world. My Nagymama was a tough lady made of thick stalk, who could cook and bake like no other. If I live half as well as they did, I will be a happy lady when it all ends.

What I have learned during my five year quest pursuing happiness is that you can’t outrun death, you can’t escape it, and eventually you must deal with the pain of saying goodbye to those you love… I may have slightly delayed it, but it comes upon us eventually in some form or another. 

Death is a huge part of life which nobody likes to talk about.

It makes us all feel very uncomfortable, as if we even whispered the words, our inevitable fate would come upon us sooner.

I was never good at understanding why taboo topics are off limits, wouldn’t it be easier to talk about everything openly?

I haven’t got that filtering system to know the difference, so I apologize in advance if this makes you squeamish. I can be crass at the idiosyncrasies of some human behaviors.

My life has been so fulfilling that if I die tomorrow, I want you to know that I loved every moment. My great loves: my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my travels, my love of food and wine, the festivals, the knowledge, the learning and the adventure. I have no intentions of dying young or sick in bed. I want to run until I cannot run no more, to reach the end suddenly and full of love and happiness.

Will I die peacefully somewhere? Hell no! I will be kicking and screaming trying to stay alive to enjoy it all some more…

I will not go out with grace, all smiles wishing everyone well. I will be crying tears of sadness at knowing I will never see you again. In fact I will be scratching the soil trying to stay here on my way into the grave!

I wish I had some sort of belief system in place it would make it so much easier. I wish I believed in a happy kingdom waiting for me upon my death; golden gates, spirits coming to get me, billowing white clouds and a feeling of freedom. All lovely images and I can conjure up many versions of heaven if I want to, but do I believe? No. I believe heaven is on Earth, in the moments between the striving, in the moments between the moving. Here we can find peace, and love, and unity, and strength.

I guess we all must say goodbye to the people we love in our own way, and carry their memories forward.

I struggle with the unknown factor. This feeling of not knowing catapults me into action frantically making lists and fulfilling dreams. Because the alternative terrifies me; to think I squandered it all away, and my life was all for nothing.

Does everyone have a desire to leave a little knife mark on the tree of life, or is that just our egos talking?

I don’t want to leave anything unsaid, undone, stone unturned, food untouched, or wine undrank…

I don’t want to feel as though I missed the experience by being too busy to see what life was meant for.

In the end I want my family and friends around me to say I didn’t ponder it away, that I was grateful for and savoured every moment.

96 years old, my Nagymama outlived every friend and is the last of her generation in our family. She has said goodbye so many times in her own life, and to think one day we will be in her shoes finishing our own journey.

I have a friend who is a doctor who is so used to death and birth, sickness and health that I thought to ask her how she copes.

She said that you can get used to anything. Her example is to have a full life, lots of pleasurable activities that keep you happy and busy, always growing in one direction or another. She travels, and although she may not adventure through the world fearlessly like Alfonz and I do, I see a resolve and peace in her I hope to find in my own life one day.


Goodbye Nagymama. I hope I made you proud, I hope you see me now, and I will carry you forward.


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