Monday, November 1, 2010

Relative died abroad - there's an app for that!

Well okay there might not be an app to help you cope with the loss of a family member who was traveling out of the country, but apparently there is a Government of Canada document.  At least there was one for Thailand, which is where my Dad was living when he passed away.  I can only speculate that the Canadian Embassy in other nations has also produced such a document specific to which ever country your loved one is visiting or living in.

After talking to the police the very first thing I had to do (aside from calling a few other close relatives) was to contact Consular services in Ottawa.  The sent me the above mentioned document.  This document was filled with all the legal particulars which the next of kin of a deceased person would need to know with regards to what to do with the body and how to get it back home (if that is what one desired).  In some ways it helped to delay any grief by having to deal with the practical side of death.

As I went through this process I found myself going through an extreme range of emotions.  First I was angry because this was all left to me.  I'm only 33 and although I know many people have lost their parents at younger ages I certainly didn't feel as if I was old enough to be with out my father.  This was also tempered by the annoyance that I hadn't even seen my dad in 2-1/2 years.  It was his dream to go live in Thailand and in doing so he basically severed ties with his close family... well at least with me and my brother,  he was in better contact with friends of his and his sister (another notch on the bitter side of the balance scale).  After that I went through a brief period of inconsolable grief (I'm sure that there is more of that bottled up inside for a later time).  I was sad that my Dad was not invincible and did not come out the other side of his latest illness.  He had always been such a survivor of his own self inflicted illnesses, but it seems that a lifetime of being careless with his health finally caught up with him.  I was sure that he would "come to his senses" and move back to Canada where we have this wonderful thing called universal health-care and as far as I can tell it is (for the most part) staffed with brilliant Doctors who have access to top of the line equipment (oh... and who speak English)! 

As I delved deeper into the practical details I became frustrated with redundant questions that only my dad could answer.  Where is your will??  Where do you bank?  Why the HELL didn't you have travel health insurance??  WHY did you abandon us and move away??  Why did you die so far away where none of us could help you?

Fortunately I had help on the other side (not the afterlife - although my paternal grandmother predeceased her eldest son by only a few months).  My uncle was traveling in Thailand.  He is actually my mother's sister's ex-husband, but once family you're always family (unless you're a complete asshole of course).  Uncle T had been planning to visit my Dad during his two month visit to Thailand.  Unfortunately he tried to contact my Dad only hours after he died and heard of his passing from "the girlfriend".  Since him and my Dad were essentially brothers for many years and friends before that he didn't even ask if he was needed; he just knew that he was.  He did all the hard tasks that needed to be coordinated at the other end. 

If it was not for my uncle I do not think that the practical details would have been resolved so efficiently and with the due care and attention that only a family member would provide.  We elected to have a cremation performed in Thailand and to have his ashes scattered there.  It was where my Dad wanted to be and although I didn't agree with his or understand his choices I did know it was HIS choice.  He had a life there complete with new "psuedo"family.  He had a girlfriend who was a Thai-national and lived with her and her two daughters.  I have to say this is one more thing that made me bitter and that I need to work through.  Not that I begrudged him his happiness, however, I did begrudge the fact that he didn't bother to include his existing family in his new happiness.

As I move through this I am coming to realize that my father was a very secretive and compartmentalized person.  He told different people small parts of his story and I am not sure that anyone really knew the whole person.  That is what is also very frustrating to me.  I am the left behind one.  I was the one who was getting the random calls about his health from his friends and girlfriend, but never from him.  Now I am the one who is to be tasked with sorting out the mess that he has left behind.  This angers me!  However it also reminds me that I need to sort out my own "details" so that if the unthinkable were to happen nobody else would be as annoyed as I am now.

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