Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When Life Happens

Sometimes life is hard because I live in Laos. Sometimes life is hard because well life is just hard sometimes. This week is one of those times. Monday morning (Southeast Asia time) I received a message that my great-grandmother had passed away. I knew this was coming. I was prepared for it to happen. I knew when I went to visit her before I left that it would be the last time I saw her. This doesn’t mean I’m not sad about losing her, but honestly most of my pain comes from not being able to be with my family during this time. I desperately wish I could go home and hug everyone; to be at the funeral.

My great-grandmother who I just simply called grandma (and occasionally just Fowler) was an amazing women; she was sassy and loving all in one. I consider myself lucky to not have only had two wonderful grandmothers on both sides of my family but to have also grown up with a great-grandmother. Not many people get to do that. My great-grandmother was also very fortunate to not only have watched several great-grandchildren grow up, but to also see and love a few of her great-great grandchildren. And though I will miss having her around and visits to Michigan will never be the same, I rejoice in what was my grandma’s life here on earth and celebrate that she is not dead but living in Eternity.

My visit to Michigan this past summer to see my great-grandmother

Unfortunately, the news of my great-grandmother was not the only bad news I received on Monday. A couple of weeks ago I had a student who was in a motor bike accident. While he was waiting for the police another person lost control of their motorbike and hit him. I received a call from my student while he was in the hospital letting me know what happened. The student who was the class clown, always dashing into the room at the last minute yelling “not late, teacher!”, and the one who pretended to not care about school but somehow always managed to make straight A’s, his voice was shaking as he apologized to me. He told me that he wouldn’t be coming back to school for the rest of the semester, that he was at the hospital in Vientiane. I assured him that it was okay, that there was no need to apologize for getting hurt, and I hoped he would get better soon. I thought he was going to be okay.

Then on Monday I found out that he too had passed away. My student. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I came to Laos to love my students, not to lose them. This student who was just at my house making pancakes, the same one who asked me if I had to leave Laos after this year or if I could stay; he is gone. Dealing with one death in one day was difficult enough but now trying to process two in a matter of hours was more than I could manage. It is more than I can manage. I’ve never really dealt much with death before. I’ve never had anyone I was really close with die, and now I am forced to figure out how to stand by my family’s side when I am half a world away. Meanwhile, trying to figure out how to process in a culture that approaches it all so differently.

My student, Kom, (center) and other students from my year 2 class over to learn how to cook pancakes

I desperately wish I could be home, but for this moment I am meant to be in Laos. I don’t know why, but I believe there is a reason I am here and not there. So for now I’m doing the best I can, pushing on with teaching and daily life, relying on the Father, and the support of friends and family. 


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