Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The hardest thing about living in Switzerland

I've learnt a very sobering lesson in the last week. I learnt that the hardest thing about living in Switzerland is not trying to learn a new language, or trying to meet new friends, or coming to grips with the Swissness of things, or even the Swiss themselves. The hardest thing about living in Switzerland is the family you leave behind.

Late last week, back in Australia where I'm now writing this, I attended the funeral of my father-in-law, Joe. He was one of the kindest, warmest men you could ever meet; he was also generous almost to a fault. He had been ill when I landed the job that took us to Switzerland; concerned about leaving him, we thought about not going. He wouldn't hear of it. Selfless to the last, he insisted we go, saying he was so excited for us to have such an adventure.

His health had deteriorated over the last few months, but nonetheless we weren't expecting the call we got early in the morning ten days ago telling us to come home immediately. Then, later the same day, we received the news that he'd gone. And we were still in Switzerland.

Trying to get flights home was a nightmare, with holidays starting in Europe and ending in Australia. Once we were back here though, I started to process it all. And an overwhelming sense of guilt was the prevailing feeling. Guilt that I hadn't been able to say goodbye; guilt that I had taken my husband far away from his father.

That's the risk of living so far away from home - that the farewell at the airport could turn out to be farewell forever.

But I wouldn't change moving to Switzerland; life goes on. Joe gave us his blessing, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. Thanks Joe - for everything. Riposa in pace.

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