Is Distance Really Relative?

Posted: 11th August 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

Distance, like everything else, is relative. The Earth is round after all.

“It’s just a plane ride away”, I heard my husband say when I complained about how far we would be from everyone we knew when we moved to Australia. In fact, that was also most of my friends’ sentiments; they were reacting in a bid to show some positivity about us moving miles away. 
I do have a bunch of amazing friends.
I have been feeling the distance and the isolation ever since we set foot in Perth, but I’ve never felt so far away as I have today, specially after hearing the news about the death of a dear friend’s mother.
Nienke, is one of the few amazing people in my life and someone I am so glad to call a friend. She is the kind of person who would come to London by plane to attend a business meeting for 8 strenuous hours until 6pm, and once done with her busy day, she would then walk to the underground, take the tube to the train station, get on the train from London to Guildford, at 8 months pregnant, carrying a rather heavy suitcase, just so she could spend 3 hours with me before her flight back; She’s done that a couple of times (obviously not pregnant each time!) She’s the kind of friend who would take time off to come to London from the Netherlands to run a 10k event with me for charity – a cause that concerned my father. She’s the sort of person who called frequently towards my last couple of months in the UK, when I didn’t have a chance to talk because I was so busy getting the house ready for the big move, with constant offers of “I’ll come over and help you pack” and “If you need help Alma, please let me know and I’ll come help with boxes, or look after the kids so you can pack, or whatever”. That is Nienke.
Nienke was extremely close to her mother. They would go on Mother/Daughter trips a lot, like trekking across Canada together for a month. Nienke and her mother were not just mother and daughter; they were really really close friends.
So when I received the 4-lined email of her heartbreaking news today, I really and truly felt that gargantuan gap; it was an imposing distance. And it felt so wrong to be so far away.
Frantically I dialed ‘00’ and 31 for the Netherlands, but apparently that wasn’t the international dialing code out of Australia. What the fuck was the code?! This was not the time to figure it out; I needed to call my friend, and now! I need to talk to her about her incomprehensible loss.
A quick Google search did the trick. With racing heart and fingers I dialed, she answered, I cried. I became speechless yet managed to clumsily express my sincerest emotions and tried my utmost to let her know that I was there for her… all the way from here. 
Nienke’s mother was diagnosed suddenly with cancer on Monday. The cancer was found in her liver. By Thursday it had metastasized and so Nienke flew from Dordrecht to Kroningen to be at her side. On Saturday, she passed away.
All I wanted to do was to be in back in Guildford, because from there, it’s only an hour’s plane ride to Kroningen.
“It’s just a plane ride away”, I recalled everyone saying when we left Europe.
A 23 hour plane ride!
In this moment, I feel further than I have ever felt from my friends. I want to be at Nienke’s side and help her with her grief. I want to be there to share the emotional burden – if nothing else, then to help her with her little boy so she and her husband can tend to funeral matters or anything else they need. I want to be there to hug my friend.
Today I am really feeling the distance, because my beautiful friend is going through the emotional turmoil of losing her wonderful mother… only a few months after losing her father in March.
Many said they envied us for moving to Australia – beautiful country, great weather, great lifestyle… right now I can’t see any of those things, because when the shit hits the fan, I’m not going to care about the landscape, whether or not I’m wearing a winter coat or  bikini, or whether I can be relaxed outdoors all day. 
No. When the shit hits the fan, I want to be close to the people I love, and right now they are a million miles away…
  1. So sorry to hear about your friend’s loss and wish you could be there with her too!  I lost my mom and know how devastating that can be.  She will need you more than ever, especially when the dust settles and everyone else has moved on and forgotten - that’s when she will feel the pain the most. Keep being there for her and don’t under estimate the presence felt through written words or a phone call.