Saturday, July 26, 2014

There's humour in everything... And I mean everything...

I haven't felt much like writing for a long time because I have spent a substantial part of this year learning what it's like losing a parent to cancer while living as an expat.

Sorry to those of you who I know well but haven't told, but it's not something I felt like shouting from the rooftops. Not because I'm ashamed, or anything like that, but, unusually for me, I simply didn't know what to say.

My mum died of Multiple Myeloma on May 30th. She was 65, not exactly youthful but still too young to die. She had been ill for four and a half years. Like most things in life, she handled her illness head on, determined to carry on with as close an approximation of what she always wanted to do during her retirement as possible. If anyone stuck two fingers up to cancer, it was my Mum. If there was anyone entitled to self-pity, it was her, as there is no cure for MM, your number is basically up, and from the day of your diagnosis, all you can do is get treated and try to live with as best you can. But, she very rarely felt sorry for herself, and when she did, it was not because of the illness itself, but usually because it was stopping her doing what she wanted. To put it simply, my Mum had balls. She was far braver than me or anyone else I know would have been in her circumstances.

Compared to many expats in my situation, I am pretty lucky. I was able to take six weeks off to go and be with her in her last few weeks and for her funeral. When I initially went, I expected it to be for a short visit, then to come back again and return within a month. When I arrived, I knew I would not be able to say goodbye to her knowing that it could be the last time I would see her, so I stayed. Fortunately for me, I have an employer who was understanding about that.

While I was there, I thought a lot about people who have families who depend on them for financial support in Dubai and who simply don't have the luxury of doing what I did. I know of at least one person who didn't make it home before his own mother died. And, then, of course there's the thousands of low-paid workers here who rarely get to see their families during key life events - births, marriages and deaths go on without them as they're working away to pay for the trappings.

I promised myself I would keep this post reasonably short to avoid getting maudlin, so I will. The "humour in everything" I am referring to in the title is about an email I received from a well-meaning colleague who I had to tell when Mum passed away.

"My her sole rest in peace", she wrote.

As comedy English as a second language errors go, it's not up there with "tragically located" or "comfortable and non-violent lodgings" (non-violent should have said peaceful) but it certainly lifted the corners of my mouth on what was probably the most difficult day of my life. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

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