Far From Home

My heart has been heavy these last couple of weeks. A friend is remembering the loss of her father. Another friend is coming to grips with the unexpected loss of a parent. It seems that loss is everywhere. As it always seems to happen I find connection through reading and came across a beautiful post written by a favorite blogger about her loss of a grandparent while she was traveling.

That piece of connection was huge for me as I hadn’t yet written about my own experience of loss on the road. It seemed the universe was giving me ample signs to dig in and let the words flow…no matter how disjointed they may seem to me in black and white.

My grandmother became very unwell while I was in Miyajima.

In truth, she’d been unwell several times over the recent years but always managed to pull through. Even when I got a call saying she’d become septic and wouldn’t last the night – wouldn’t you know it she was better by the morning.

Grandma Lewis

Lillie Lewis was tough as nails. She’d raised 7 children on a farm in McAlester, Oklahoma. She’d buried her husband and one of her sons. She’d baled hay and driven a tractor despite never having gotten her drivers’ license.

Woman. Was. Tough.

Why would this time be any different?

And then, all of a sudden. It was.

Technology is  a wonderful thing at times. Even when far from home, you’re never that disconnected. I’ve skyped my parents from New Zealand, held up my computer screen so that they could see what I was seeing “live”. Facebook is constantly getting my updates – for better or worse. And, this time, I’m now in the know that my grandmother has passed away while I’m far from home. I’m able to call my mom and softly talk despite the vast time difference.

But then again technology also heightened the fact that I was far away in Japan. Our departure date was more than a week away.

So I sit. I think. I share with Adam what words can come to my mind.

We go soak in the Onsen.

I can’t even really cry yet. I feel so disconnected from what is happening back home.

The next day we had planned on hiking up Mt Misen to see the Reikado Hall where the “eternal flame” is housed. It is said that one of the earliest Buddhists visited Mt. Misen to meditate and lit a fire some 1200 years ago and it has been kept burning ever since.

Rekaido Hall

We went. There were scenes of such breathtaking beauty. The trees and abundance of green. Looking out over the Seto Sea where it was hard to tell where sea and sky separated.

Trees of Mt. Misen

Mt. Misen Ropeway

The Mt. Misen Ropeway

Sea and Sky

The “Inland” Sea

Of course, the many deer of Miyajima also inhabit Mt. Misen and frequently crossed our path.

We made our way to the Reikado Hall. We lit three candles. We even had a drink from the cauldron inside which holds water that is said to have healing properties.

Three Candles

I tried to say goodbye but, in my heart, I knew it wasn’t said yet. That my full goodbye was waiting until I could be around family. But, nonetheless, I tried to say goodbye then and I wished her spirit well.

It’s hard losing someone while you’re far from home.

That fellow bloggers post I mentioned earlier that told her similar experience of finding out she lost a loved one while in Greece went on. She wrote that she climbed a mountain the next day, and lit a candle. She tried to find a place for her grief without the ritualistic and healing presence of other family members.

The parallels weren’t lost on me, and I stopped to think about human interconnectedness and how, really, all of our experiences aren’t so different. That even the way we lose and grieve follows age-old patterns of grasping for something to bind us closer to those who are left behind.

While climbing a mountain and lighting a candle wasn’t the healing, release filled moment I’d hoped for, it did offer me a moment of quiet to hold my grandmother in my heart. And now, with the glory of hindsight, I can see that it was my way of trying to connect to something larger. Seeing the candle smoke rise up and eventually dissipate into the air. Becoming one, again.

I breathed in deeply and hiked back down Mt. Misen in silence and tried to let it all soak in.

Green in Miyajima


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  1. Really beautiful Mandy, the experience of distance, time and loss is one I know also—again, you put pen to ‘paper’ and really ‘got’ it

  2. Very touching and heartfelt. I know your grandma is smiling up above after reading this. 🙂

    Love and hugs,

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