By LaToya Rose
In our second installment of QTWoC Chronicles, Tiffany and LaToya Rose are a Black American lesbian couple based in China and attempting to conceive their first child with a known donor. The duo documents their lessons in life, love, and travel — exclusively on ELIXHER!
Living overseas, you can imagine how hard it is to be away from family and friends. Missing those milestone moments from birthdays and graduations to weddings, new babies, and even at times, death. Of course, with the development of modern technology like Skype, Facebook, Instagram, etc., even a world away, we can stay connected with the touch of our fingertips. Scrolling through timelines and newsfeeds, we feel as though we’re right there with our loved ones. Sharing each precious moment in real-time.
However, the reality is we’re not right there. To be exact, we are 8,089 miles away from our friends and family in the U.S. No amount of digital hugs, photo updates, and care packages can change that. At times, it’s laughable that we’ve been in Asia for the past seven years yet, our loved ones are still confused by the time difference. Dead smack in the middle of REM sleep, our iPhones buzz with phone calls and text messages. Only to catapult us into a world of panic, thinking the worst has happened back home. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time it’s about nothing. Absolutely nothing! They simply forgot the 13-hour time difference. Over the years, we’ve tried to teach them this simple yet effective rule: If it’s your P.M., it’s our A.M., and if it’s your A.M., it’s our P.M. Simple, right? You would think! But time and time again, we wake up to several missed calls and text messages during the week.
Everyone handles grief in their own way…I felt like I couldn’t fall apart. I couldn’t properly grieve because there were so many things to be done. My family needed me. My sister’s children needed me
But on one particular night last November, when the calls came through, it was truly an emergency. I received the devastating news that one of my sisters was terminally ill. Within two weeks of this news, she had passed. It was the first time I had lost someone close to me. Losing a loved one whether you’re prepared or not can be tough. Losing a loved one when you’re thousands of miles away can be down right unbearable. From that moment, only my physical shell remained in Shanghai. My mind and heart were 8,089 miles away. My friends and colleagues were incredibly supportive as I took a few days away from work — not to mention my wife, whom I initially pushed away because I felt as though the pain was mine alone to bear. Thankfully, she’s a persistent one and never took no for an answer. Tiffany held me into the hours of the morning letting me cry and assuring me that she was right here. The obvious decision was made and a few days later, I was on a 18-hour flight back to Florida. We agreed that Tiffany would stay behind to work. Financially, it was a smart decision but because she’s my person, I would miss her something awful.
Everyone handles grief in their own way. My oldest sister, who is the rock of the family, immediately jumped in and processed paperwork for our sister and her five children. My father was an emotional wreck and needed to be consoled on a daily basis. My mother was angry and needed someone to blame for what had happened to her child. As for me, I offered emotional support for my family. I was there to be the shoulders for people to cry on and ears for people to talk to. I felt like I couldn’t fall apart. I couldn’t properly grieve because there were so many things to be done. My family needed me. My sister’s children needed me. It wasn’t until the funeral that I allowed myself to feel the pain that I had suppressed for weeks. And in that moment, I was held and consoled by family and friends.
I’ve always believed that there are two moments that bring out the worst in people: weddings and funerals. But this time, it was different. It was amazing to see how my family pulled together. We bonded over our shared memories of our beloved sister, daughter, mother and aunt.
After two weeks in the states, the time had come for me to return to China. It was a bittersweet moment. In this last three years of being married, this was the longest Tiffany and I had spent apart. I was an 18-hour flight away from reuniting with my love. This also meant that I would be leaving my family again. Back to being thousands of miles apart. Back to Skype and text messages. When I arrived in Shanghai, I was greeted with a warm embrace and a loving smile from my wife. I was finally “home.” It was time to get back to a sense of normalcy while still grieving my sister.
Thousands of miles away and we feel closer than ever to our loved ones.
Almost four months have passed since that life-altering phone call. With time, it has gotten easier to accept that my sister is gone. There are still moments that I have flashbacks and break down. Watching Grey’s Anatomy is sometimes difficult, but Tiffany is right there to swoop in and hold me as I cry uncontrollably. I’m thankful for her, my person.
This experience has shifted both our priorities when it comes to communicating with family and friends while abroad. We make a greater effort to call frequently, send “thinking of you” text messages and honor Skype and FaceTime dates. Thousands of miles away and we feel closer than ever to our loved ones. In our world, we’ve become so detached. As expats, it’s easy to feel like we’re a part of someone’s life because we hit the “like” button on a post or a picture. Tiffany and I are working to reverse that culture. We’re slowly reconnecting with our loved ones with gestures to show we care. A simple phone call, bouquet of flowers, or a hand-written postcard goes a long way.
These moments that shake us to our core remind us that life is but a fleeting moment. When we see our loved ones, we stare at them a little longer, hold them a little tighter, and love them a little harder. No matter the distance, Tiffany and I carry them in our hearts as we live, love, and travel the world.
Live, Love, Travel,
To learn more about the Roses and their musings on motherhood, marriage, travel and more follow them on Twitter @thisisournormal, on Tumblr at thisisournormal.tumblr.com or visit their website thisisournrml.com.