Part of my daily routine, when I wake up every morning and surf the net to see what happened overnight, is to pay a visit to the website of my hometown newspaper back in the States to keep abreast of local news and sports.

And I also read the obituary column.

I know that might sound a little morbid to see who has passed away but I think it is a part of our own mortality with growing old, or as my grandfather once told me, to see if there were any funerals they would have to attend.

The other week, when I was reading a few online stories and yes, the obituary columns, I discovered that someone who I had gone to high school with had passed away. I didn’t know him that well when I was in high school; indeed, we never even had any classes together. However, in later years when I was a university student, I met him again through a mutual acquaintance and had the chance to hang out a few times. He was only 50 years old when he passed away.

And it got me thinking again about what happens when you are thousands of miles from home and someone you know back home dies?

When you are living and working overseas, there’s probably no greater tragedy or hardship for an expat when a family member or loved one passes away back home. You might call it one of the unwritten, unspoken occupational hazards that we all know in the back of our minds can happen to any of us at any time.

Sometimes it is that phone call in the middle of the night from a family member or friend that gets your heart pounding as you nervously pick up the receiver expecting the worse on the other end. Other times it’s through more official channels like being notified by an embassy official that someone in your family has passed away. Either way, your life is turned upside down as your scramble to try and get a flight home to be with your loved ones, family, and friends.

Read the rest of the essay here.