Being away from home this year has generally been very easy for me. Sure, I’ve missed the things that are very uniquely “home,” like the smell of my house upon opening the front door, my bedroom, and Starbucks, but looking back at these past eleven months, things have gone smoothly and I’ve not once claimed to suffer from the debilitating homesickness that I once felt when I was ten years old and far away at summer camp in Maine. No, this almost-year away from home in Brazil has been much easier.
And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. It happened tonight when my mother phoned to tell me that my cat died this weekend. My lovely, tiny, seventeen-year-old housecat named Cammy curled up in her signature ball and slipped away to that Better Place. It was then, on the phone with my mom, that I felt so far from home that half of the reason my tears wouldn’t stop was because my girl was gone, and the other half was because of how much farther home was feeling.
For those of you unfamiliar with losing a pet, or for those of you who don’t understand people who are overly emotional about animals, don’t worry; this isn’t about that. As much as I am craving an outlet for writing about this tiny cat, my thoughts about her are best left to myself and kept inside. This is not so much a post in memoriam to her as it is a reflection about living far from home, about feeling distance, and about the delivering and receiving of bad news.
When I was robbed on the street here, calling home to tell my mother was the thing I was not looking forward to. How could I deliver the news in a sensitive and calm way, so as not to make her nervous for me, so as not to make her afraid? I mustered my strength and steadiness of voice the day after it happened and made the call, against the urging of a number of people not to, and I told my mother the details. I imagine my mother waiting a day to put in the call this time, reciprocating the sensitivity I gathered to tell her my bad news. It was then a process of our voices, last time and this time, trying to stay calm, to make the listener feel good and safe. The only difference this time was the element of sadness, an enormous sadness over the passing of such a small creature, a sadness I imagined would happen someday, and a sadness felt even more profoundly because I realized that someday was today.
How strongly we hold onto the things we love. How deeply we believe they’ll be with us forever.