On Saturday, September 24th, 2016, I went skydiving for the first time in Maceió, Brazil. On Sunday, September 25th, my grandfather died in New Jersey. On Monday, September 26th, I got my third tattoo this month in Maceió.
This weekend has been the epitome of juxtaposition. Living and dying. Being ‘there’ and being disconnected. Home and abroad.
It feels contrary; for every emotion I have an equal and opposite emotion. I’ve spent a lot time feeling grief, but I’ve also spent a lot of time feeling grateful. As hard as it has been to be away from my family right now, I think it’s been a true testament for me to be alone and feel lonely. That sh*t is hard (read: crying alone on busses, in public, and in private). On the way home from the university, I ended up hopping off the bus on a whim near my favorite ice cream place. I was fighting back tears on the bus ride home and I thought ice cream would make me feel better. I ended up crying while eating ice cream, which I guess is better than just crying while not eating ice cream.
Being so far away, you don’t truly feel the lack of someone’s presence, but it lingers in your mind. Flashes of memories with my grandpa are ever-present, just as they are with my dad. There’s no telling when or where they can be triggered, or what they can be triggered by, but it happens often.
It’s tough enough to express these emotions in your own in country, and in your own language. In a foreign country and language, there’s a disconnection. Talking about the death of my dad and my grandpa feel different in Portuguese, though there’s also this distancing from it because of the fact that it isn’t my language. In English, I struggle to find words for explaining and just talking about death at times. I can separate myself from the Portuguese words, thus creating a much needed emotional space between myself and what I’m saying.
It’s definitely been about balance. With the timing of everything, it’s hard to get sucked into how I’m supposed to feel as my Fulbright grant is winding down. Staying positive about aproveitando de the last few months in Brazil while feeling the loss of my grandpa despite the distance is like switching between two TV channels. You stay on one channel just until you remember to switch back to what you were meant to watch. I’ve realized how important it is to be graceful with myself, giving myself the time and space necessary to feel—whether it’s my grandfather’s death or the end of my time in Maceió.
“Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.” —John Koenig, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows