This expat life is like a wheel. Some of us here more or less permanently are at the centre, but the wheel revolves through the year with people leaving, and others arriving. We always seem to be saying things like ‘ah, you’re back – good to see you again’ or ‘have a good trip, we’ll see you in a few months.’
The leavers include European expats, who tend to return to their country of origin during the northern summer, but are balanced by others arriving who take the opportunity to make the long flight south each year. US expats tend to leave every couple of years – the flight is much longer and more expensive, so the journey ‘home’ is for several months. Australians are just a hop away, especially if from the west coast, so might vanish several times a year. These are balanced by the ‘same time each year’ people who turn up like clockwork – same dates, same accommodation year after year. And why not.
People also disappear on visa runs, most often to Singapore, but maybe Thailand, Malaysia, or Brunei. As little as an overnighter, but sometimes a holiday is thrown in too. We have several friends away at the moment – in Europe, heading to Europe, off to the States, on holiday in India – it can be a transient lifestyle.
But there’s one departure we had not factored in; the one without the opportunity to make the farewell. When death comes to call.
We lost a dear friend last week. It was unexpected and all the more shocking because she died in her sleep after our usual friendly and raucous Friday-night quiz at the local expat hangout. There was no hint whatsoever that we would all be so shocked and deeply saddened just a few hours later.
There are formalities of course, and US friends have stepped in to deal with the required consular issues for a US citizen. There will be a cremation, but a farewell that will be nothing as elaborate as a Balinese event. There is just one facility on the island for Westerners and we’ve heard it’s a bit grim, but we’ll find out for ourselves soon enough. Her friends are rallying and we will face the sad task of packing her belongings later this week. They will go to the charity shop that supports children requiring cranio-facial surgery, as per her wishes. Stuff. We surround ourselves with things, but in the end they mean nothing and will only become someone else’s stuff.
So this is my goodbye to a smart, witty, straight-talking friend who sometimes called me ‘girlfriend’, and often called me ‘honey’. The first, and only, person on the planet I would ever countenance to do so. From her, it felt right.
Fly on the wings of angels to your rest. Our Bali life has been enriched by having you in it.