Whether the distance spans countries or oceans, living separated from your loved ones is always difficult — especially when the loved ones are our elders — namely, our grandparents. My Lolo and Lola (the Filipino words for grandfather and grandmother) often took care of me and my sisters from the time we were born. But they moved back to the Philippines when I was 12 years old, and I only visited them once in the decade they’ve been gone.
It’s a normal part of living on a small island to not have your entire family living nearby. Many of us can relate to having grandparents from the Philippines or other countries who either moved back there or never left, while we reside Hawai‘i. Everyone has their own way of dealing with such absence, but I think one sentiment remains true for us all: Love knows no distance and it never can be diminished.
Just last summer, my Lolo passed away. Coping with his passing has been challenging, not only because of the grief, but because of the way the distance between us altered the loss somehow. His absence existed unwavering both before and after his passing. Thus, I’ve often found myself meditating on this question: How does love triumph over distance or death?
Loss is inevitable. It is said that grief is love with no place to go. As a consolation, we sometimes turn to those around us, the internet and other distractions to find ways of coping with the anguish that ensues. It can become easy to lose ourselves in feelings of loss, to a point where love becomes overshadowed by grief and sorrow. Remembrances of the past and hope for the future exist on opposite sides of time, and yet, they are our greatest strengths in these moments. Bittersweet memories lend support to the hope for an eventual reunion and the desire to never lose the bond that transcends worldly distance. Therefore, love endures because it, like memories shared, can never be taken from us. As long as we are able to remember warm embraces and handwritten birthday cards, the love woven into the tapestry of our memories serves as an unbreakable tether.
I still feel my Lolo’s love very near to me. He planted a pomelo tree in our yard when he lived with us. Today, the tree stands stately and tall, unbending and strong — a symbol of his love, which will always be with me, though he is not.
I write this story as a means of honoring and remembering my Lolo, because my words are the only way I know how to show my love for him now. His love remains — equally abstract and tangible; the bitterness and sweetness of fresh pomelo bear the same significance as me knowing that he is always with me. No matter the distance, love brings us close.