Today, I was reminded again of the hidden cost of being a migrant.
One of our friends at church lost her Dad this evening – I could feel her pain as she wailed, “They bathed Dad’s body already”. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to some of us … but I understand. It’s the helplessness, of being stranded thousands of kilometres away in a place we’ve called home, far from our flesh and bones.
In 2011, I was here in Adelaide when I heard that my Dad was in a critical condition – my sister told me in the afternoon, just when I was about to lead worship at church. I did my ministry, and checked my phone after the service – Dad was gone. It was the sense of loss, that I couldn’t be there to say goodbye in person, to witness all the little steps of releasing his earthly body. I couldn’t mourn together with my siblings.
It’s expensive being a migrant. Darned expensive.
It’s something we don’t consider when we fill in the form to be a permanent resident or a citizen of a foreign nation. I don’t regret being here. Not at all. However, now I know that there were some unwritten fine prints I missed when I declared my oath to be loyal to this land: that I’d miss funerals and births, parties and dinners, hospital visits to say goodbye or to greet welcome, all the moments that are simply priceless. Nowhere on the form was written that I would be alienated from my nieces and nephews as they grow older – and that I would be an uncle who lives overseas, who comes once a year bearing gifts.
This is the price that I continue to pay. This is why I wrote a LinkedIn post in 2015: The True Costs of Migration. I want to bring those fine prints to the surface – so before students and new graduates proudly tell their folks at home that they don’t want to go home, they are fully aware of the costs they’ll continue to pay. I hope they will notice the fine prints and take heed. I hope that when you sign those forms and say your oath, you know that there is a continuous hidden price of the freedom that you have to pay.
It’s the price you pay when you miss witnessing your Dad’s last breath, or the next Chinese New Year family reunion, or the catatonic moment when you rock back and forth on the sofa, conjuring your rational mind so you can book the earliest flight and make your way home when you heard that your younger brother unexpectedly passed away the night before.
There is a price for everything, for the freedom to live in a new land.