Our Worst Nightmare

I told my friend Leah it was my worst nightmare.

“It’s everyone’s worst nightmare” she replied.

And across oceans we sat in disbelief, both horrified by the fickleness of life.

I wonder if it’s amplified when you’re an expat? Knowing that if it happened you’d be isolated, no family with you in a foreign land with foreign laws. Just you and the children in those first few hours trying to work out what has to happen next. How to get everyone home? The paperwork. Logistics. If the police come to your door with news in a foreign accent does it make it even harder to believe?

Only a couple of days ago I was in the midst of my own pathetic turmoil. Miserable about leaving. Our last few days of holiday. My goodbyes with friends and the rush of fitting everything in before we left. The packing, the washing, the cleaning. What had I missed on this visit? Should I buy a pair of converse sneakers for the boys?

Stupid. Completely irrelevant, material bullshit.

As we were rushing to load the children in the car I made my way to the front door with my phone in my hand. I scrolled down to read a message quite sure that it would say something about an impending visit to Qatar or a suggestion of a get together in Dubai. Twenty seconds later I was motionless, looking at G, bewildered.

“What’s happened?”

“It’s Louise. It’s awful. There’s been some sort of an accident. Their holiday. Her husband…”

Often when I begin to type here on this blank space, I wonder what my words mean to you. Which bits strike a chord more than others. Too much of the expat? Too much Australia? Too much mother? Too much wife? Not this time, this is universally awful. It doesn’t matter where you are. It’s unbearably sad. A wife losing her greatest love, children losing their father. Too soon, and in the middle of the story rather than the end.

A holiday that punctuated a move, before work began and new schools were started. I’d been watching with envy at updates and pictures filled with sunshine and big smiles.

I cannot begin to imagine where or how I would start the process. The continual stabbing pain of loss and grief while comforting my children. All of this combined with the job of getting everyone home and having to decide exactly where home will be. Shipments to another country stopped, school places cancelled. A family map that is usually navigated by two at helm is suddenly a solo adventure under treacherous conditions.

Louise, if I could transfer all my strength to you right now I would. Please know that we’re all here. This entire community. Thinking of you. Wishing we could help, ready to do anything.

Our worst nightmare.

*This is not my heartbreak, so please no sympathy for me – but if you’d like to leave a message of support for Louise that would be lovely.*

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