Life Goes On

Elizabeth O'Malley - Ecuador


December 9, 2014

Recently a family member back in the US passed away. It wasn’t someone I was close with, or had even seen in years. He was old and sick; for some reason this death affected me more than I would have expected.

I got the news over a Facebook message. It didn’t hit me right away. I then got to video chat with my best friend. She told me all the updates of our friends in their college lives. She told me about my brother, who I don’t get to talk with often. She told me about our town. She told me all about a life I was so recently consumed by. But, she told me about a life where change is rare.

It’s kind of a relief to hear you’re not missing out on anything. And I felt that way the rest of our conversation. I left the store and began the ascent back to my house.

My walk home takes about half an hour and is majorly uphill. At the beginning I really wasn’t in love with having to hike home, but now it’s one of the only times where I can be completely by myself. I can blast my music and savor the endless views. I get to greet everyone I walk by and feel like a true neighbor. I get to think in peace.

Unfortunately, on this day, I could only think about home. I haven’t felt homesick while being here, because I don’t just live in a house with my host family, I live in a home with my family. But I was just overcome with this fear that maybe something would change. Like, something really significant, something I should be back home for.

That night, I was sitting in the kitchen by the fire trying to unfreeze my toes. My mom, Mamí, sat next to me like usual. She took one glance at me and asked why I was sad. Even when I swear my expression is completely normal, she always knows. And so she gives me this look that just draws the tears from my eyes and I tell her someone in my family passed away. And she tells me, don’t cry, this is just how life goes. It’s not sad because it’s just how it is. I didn’t tell her I wasn’t sad because of the death, I was sad because I couldn’t forget that there’s always a possibility of loss.

So, after a sleepless night, I took another walk. I passed blindfolded donkeys and kids excited to get out of school. I saw life continuing and realized it doesn’t matter that I’m thousands of miles away from my biological family and longest had friends. Life goes on wherever you are, it’s how it is and isn’t changed by my presence. So, I commit to being here in mind and body because that’s what I would do if I weren’t afraid.

Elizabeth O'Malley