So this week my niece turned 2 years old. During this assignment, I also missed my dad’s 70th birthday, although he states he still feels like he’s in his early 60s (70 is the new 55!). I’ll also be missing my oldest friend giving birth to twins. I send voice messages and emails and receive pictures and get to coordinate the occasional video call but it is not the same as actually being present. Its at times like these that I feel away, removed from my “other” reality and life at home.
I’ve always made a huge effort to be there for the BIG occasions. Leaving my first assignment to land 16 hours before my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary party. Finishing my second assignment I landed back in Montreal 36 hours before departing with my best friends on our 30th birthday trip to Mexico and I’ve actively arranged my field assignments around being home for weddings and certain holidays.
When I was in the DRC I used a week of my vacation time and 1.5 months of salary to buy a last minute flight from Rwanda to Montreal to be there for my ill grandfather. The trip was priceless, but feeling far, away and helpless is a reality in this work. And it’s all the little events I haven’t been there for. I can no longer count the occasions I have missed; helping someone move, a friend’s child’s baptism, a family BBQ, going to a nephew’s football game, supporting a friend through a rough time in a relationship, funerals of loved ones. Even simpler everyday occurrences like watching my garden bloom, going on a boat ride with my cousin or tea with my grandmother. All the everyday occurrences add up to feeling, for lack of a better word, absent.
Don’t get me wrong I love what I do. I feel like this is where I belong and this work makes me genuinely happy. Right now, I would not have it any other way. I get the privilege to work alongside amazing people and save lives. It sounds cliché, but we really do save lives each minute of every day. Daily I go to bed knowing that I had an impact on someone else’s life. Just the other day a man stopped me in the hallway of the hospital with a huge smile on his face to thank me. He held out his hand for a handshake and said “You saved the lives of my wife and newborn twins! May God bless you! Thank you!” It’s a wonderful feeling to hear the recognition, and it does make me feel like the daily sacrifices from my “other” life are not for nothing.