When then sobs got louder, I couldn’t make out the words anymore. If they’d been in front of me, I could’ve held them, maybe. Soothed them, maybe. Cried with them, probably. But all I could do was clutch my phone harder and harder and listen to their distant voices.

Death is weird. It leaves the living confused and shattered, angry and lost, wild and scared. It’s cruel, being around people that do not feel the pain that you do, who cannot give you the comfort you want. It’s cruel having to grieve first silently, because there’s no one around and then grieve loudly, because, well, there’s no one around. It’s cruel having nobody to speak fondly of her good heart. The way she’d never complain, how she had a very distinctive laugh, how she’d insist that everyone stay for dinner. It’s cruel having to pray by yourself. But most of all, it’s cruel not being there for the people that raised you and loved you unconditionally.

For all the technology in our lives, when it really comes down to it, distance is what it is. Distance. No phone call or video chat could bridge the twelve thousand kilometer gap between me and them that night. Every call I received as the hours passed only hit me with the enormity of how far, far away I was, until I could feel nothing else.

What follows after the phone call is routine. You listen to inadequate bullshit condolences over the phone. You offer your own, because you’re supposed to. You try to get the next flight out, ignoring the fact that you missed the moments that mattered. You explain what happened to people that didn’t know her, and look away when they say they’re sorry.

And you wonder how many more phone calls you will receive over the next four years. How many more you will mourn amidst people that never knew they existed. How many more tears you will shed over those that you left behind, all in the pursuit of this life.

And how long it will be before you can pick up the phone again.