when you're far away, people dying is different, somehow unreal. you hear about it over the telephone, and it hits you, yes, the way bad news hits you before you know what it really is. you know it's sad. you may even cry. you try to think about the person, remember them, delve into the pasts that swirl at the back of your mind and pull something out of your head to hold on to. but this person isn't dead to you. this person is away in that world where all the rest are, your family, your people, your past. that parallel world that runs alongside your own, informs it, is part of it in its own fantastical way. but you can't see, you can't really feel that in that parallel universe, things are changing, people are leaving and it will never be the same. you know that he is gone, that person who was once in some way part of your life. but it's not until you return that you really know this. it's not until you're back in the old world, maybe just passing through, maybe years later, when everybody else has filled up the absence and moved on, it's not until you step back there that you really know the loss. and then it's late. you cannot share the grief with all the others who have lived through their long goodbyes and beyond. you can only bring your own, imported sadnesses, out of synch with time, and mourn, alone. and until then, until you do go back to walk into the place he no longer inhabits, you live out your sadnesses in a foreign country, far from a home that is disappearing, slowly dissolving, leaving you eternally adrift.