Living in a new country offers many things. New experiences, new challenges, and lots and lots of lessons. But something I was not, and I'm sure few are, prepared for, is when something happens back home that you cannot participate in, especially in tragic circumstances.
Twice since I moved to France, a woman who helped shape my ideas about motherhood, womanhood, and feminism passed away from illness. Far too young and far too good to leave when they did. And while these women may not have been close enough to me to warrant a return to Saskatoon, they were still deeply important to me and after hearing of their deaths I had to have a grieving process. I may still be in them, even. But it was very strange to be going through these things with no one on the same continent as me grieving for them as well.
As with most of the news I get, I saw the announcements online. Both times, the news had been expected for some time and was not a shock. I still shook though as this information washed over me. Both of these women were mothers of men that I have known for many years, who have meant a great deal to me in different ways. Because I was alone, away from those able to attend funerals, wakes, or celebrations of life, I did my favourite solitary activity. I wrote. I wrote poem after poem for these women.
"Bright star beams from morning until night, putting others before herself"
I don't want to share too much of this work with the world, as I found my grieving process to be very private, and I wouldn't want these mothers' sons to read too much of it either. I can't imagine what a loss this must be for them and I certainly do not mean to take away from what they must be going through.
I was lucky to have a Canadian friend in Paris recently. Someone who I could talk to about home. Even just simple things like cell phone providers. Having someone who could understand my perspective without explanation was something I had not realized it has been hard to be without. Getting postcards from home was helpful too- holding on to something connected to there meant I was holding on to something connected to them.
It also happened that this week, and the day of the second memorial, was my birthday. I was able to celebrate fantastically. But I experienced some very similar struggles to what I had previously. It was very difficult to be away from home for these important moments. Some things you just want to share with your friends and family. Birth and death are the biggest ones, I think.
I am very lucky, and very privileged. Very lucky to have people who love me here as well as in Canada. Very lucky to have new friends and old coming together. Very lucky to have a supportive partner. But this week I have mostly felt lucky to have known two women who I know loved me, and supported me, and who worked incredibly hard to leave me and all my generation of women a better world. These women continue to inspire me, and I continue to miss them very much, and to write about them when they cross my mind.
There is no shame in missing someone. There is no shame in feeling separate and far away. And there is no shame in celebrating yourself and your life. Birth and death, sadness and joy, celebration and mourning. Life will be full of these things. We can embrace them all, no matter where we are.