Distance is relative. Even though the 8.798 km’s between Changshu and Utrecht never change, some days the distance feels bigger than other days.

With the passing of Hendrik Willem’s father early last week, the distance felt, and still feels, enormous. With a respectful age of 95 years, it was not unexpected. And we feel grateful for his long and healthy life, living at home till his very last breath. That’s almost an achievement to celebrate. But no matter what you call it, celebration of life or mourning of death, it does not change the distance between us and our family and loved ones.

Sure, when we choose to live in Dubai we realised that these things can happen. We knew we might not be there when a parent or loved one dies. And we knew we would not always be able to support our loved ones and be present when needed. When we signed up for a living in China, back in the fall of 2019, we realised the distance would be getting even bigger. And we accepted all this, knowing we are close to main airports and, after all, “just a flight away”.  Never in our imagination had we foreseen that the world would be hit by a pandemic, resulting in China to follow a strict zero tolerance policy against the virus, and leaving us stuck in the middle. 

And yes, it is still a choice. Our choice. A choice not to go home for a few days or weeks and allow ourselves a proper farewell. It’s also a choice not to go through the stress of trying to return to China when Covid infections are soaring in the Netherlands. It’s also a choice not to go through the 4 weeks of quarantine and isolation again, like we did 2 times before in the past 14 months. It’s a choice not to spend 4 weeks in isolation when mourning someone dear while you need to be surrounded by people and have some distraction. And it’s a choice that hurts and barely feels like a choice.

Distance is relative. Even when close, one can feel distant. Right now, I feel a distance in my heart towards the country I am living in.

But life would not be life if it would not throw in something good. Something to distract us and to celebrate. On November 26 Hendrik Willem and I have been going strong together for 25 years. Our journey together has been a great ride. We have experienced many heights and a few lows. Hand in hand we will continue our journey, knowing the person most dear to us is right there with us. And never distant.


Our early years together, Utrecht 1997