A year ago today I was living at a small lodge in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountains teaching French children at an English immersion camp. I was enjoying a momentary pause from late night lesson planning when I happened upon a Facebook post from one of my cousins stating that her “grandpa had died.” I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, she did have another living grandfather aside from the one we shared afterall, but I could feel my heart already leaping into my throat.
I frantically logged onto Skype and attempted to contact family members. In spite of the six hour time difference, I managed to reach my eldest brother. I could tell by his voice that he was about to confirm what I was hoping was not true, my grandfather had died.
It’s the kind of thing you worry about when you choose a profession that takes you far away from loved ones. I spent nearly three years considering such scenarios before I decided to pursue a career in TEFL teaching. But after weighing the “what ifs,” I realized that life happens and no amount of planning will help you to predict what will happen next. And so I boarded a plane to France and began my new life as an educator.
I was unable to attend my grandfather’s funeral, which led to plenty of mixed emotions. I worried about not being present to support my mom and family. I also felt relief in being able to process my grief via long runs in the mountains rather than black dresses and cemeteries. But mostly I took solace in my teaching and focused harder on my lessons.
My grandfather was an elementary principal and a WWII veteran. He loved teaching and he loved the outdoors. Being the hardworking man that he was, ultimately, I knew that he (maybe more than anyone) would have approved of where I was and what I was doing.
One year later, I find myself thinking of my grandfather often, especially when I’m at school. And as I prepare to finish another teaching contract and begin a masters program in education, I wish he could see what I am doing now. I bet we’d have plenty to talk about…over a cold tumbler of Bailey’s, of course.