Saying Goodbye to Evan

Holly Toner
Major: Japanese
Rikkyo University, Japan

I’ve asked myself a lot the past two weeks; do I write about this? Can I write about this?

After trying to make a video discussing the topic, writing countless failed attempts, maybe it’s possible right now.

A huge fear of mine going abroad wasn’t really anything to do with myself as far as challenges I’d face here in Japan. Suffering from anxiety keeps my head ticking for the very worst case scenarios, and I wondered a lot, what if someone back home dies?

We shrug off thoughts like that. “It’ll never happen.”

I made certain to see my elderly loved ones before I left knowing that the possibility might not be there again. I was grateful I did because shortly after arriving in Japan I lost my aunt. It affected me as loss does, but because I was prepared, it didn’t crumble my world.

Last Monday however, I lost a good friend to a car accident. Out of the blue. Not expected. They’re just gone. I will never see them again.

I know this topic is grim, but my mission abroad is mainly to discuss these things that people simply don’t think or talk about.

For me, I found out an hour before class. In Japan your teachers are strict and you can’t really miss class for any excuse. This day in particular, I braced myself for class, sat at my seat, opened my vocabulary text, and… is this the proper way to use the word irony… the lesson’s vocabulary was all about car accidents and how to announce death. Lucky me.

Death is hard for me to deal with in general, but being abroad I’ve never felt so confused by it. No one around you will know this friend. It feels incredibly lonely to have no one to remember him with.  And your friends back home, you can’t be there to support them. You can’t be there for the lost one’s family. And you can’t even really be there for yourself.

But every day on your study abroad life you just try to smile. I don’t want to affect the others around me. I don’t want to dwell. But knowing how to grieve on your own isn’t an easy thing to learn. And by chance anyone experiences this as well, I want you to know that it hurts. It hurts a lot. But, you can’t blame yourself for not being there. And you can’t blame the world for being so unfair. I’m still struggling. After a roller coaster evening, I couldn’t hold my emotions in anymore and now here I am. But maybe it’s the first step to healing.

I discussed with a friend today this topic as she wasn’t able to be home either. She told me “I don’t think we will ever get real closure from it.” And I now understand why there are such things as funerals. To say goodbye.

I’ll never get to say goodbye in that way to my friend. When I return, everyone will have had a year to heal together, and I wonder, when I see them, when I see his family, will I have been able to heal too?

This is what I’m learning right now on my journey. Going abroad for me was never to be a tourist. I wanted a crazy life experience to learn and grow from, and even though it’s in the worst way, I have to look at this as something that will make me stronger.

For Evan. Rest easy my friend.

Photo Credit: Holly Toner
Photo Credit: Holly Toner

One Comment Add yours

  1. catchingupwithliam says:

    Love this! 🙌🏼


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