Maddie Hise enjoys the view in Greece

Maddie Hise, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, displayed incredible courage and strength as she made the difficult decision to either return home or stay in Greece after hearing unimaginable, heartbreaking news from home. For others who may be coping with difficult times at home while abroad, I encourage you read Maddie’s blog and seek to understand why she made the decision to stay with LEAD Greece.

In and out of wifi. No cell phone service. Mixed messages: He is sick but it will be fine. He is going into hospice. The doctors say he could last another couple months. You might not make it back in time to say goodbye. His breathing is getting better. He is in a coma. He has passed.

First of all, you have to understand my relationship with my grandfather. He is my best friend. He dropped me off and picked me up from school: Kindergarten to 10th grade. I could constantly expect a deep bear hug, warm smile, and his weird little phrases: the only thing to motivate me to get up for school. I kept a huge poster he had given me outside my room that said ‘Let’s meet just inside the gate to the right.’ Every person that met my grandpa, Harlan, immediately felt connected. He gave, to his last day, he never stopped giving. I wanted him to walk me down the aisle at my wedding alongside my dad.

Leaving for Greece, I knew my grandpa was ill. I was so confident in him getting better, I didn’t nearly get to say the goodbye I would have hoped to. It was quick, he got pneumonia and that was that. He was in so much pain and not improving. He, the family, and doctors made a consensus it was time.

The time difference was the biggest thing. It was mid-afternoon here, it was the wee hours of the morning at home. It was hard to keep in contact because I could only get wifi at the hotel.

When my parents told me he was going into hospice, I was lucky enough to be given the option to come home or stay in Greece. I cannot explain the pain I felt during this decision. I knew all the facts: I might not make it in time. I might get there and he could last another couple months. Once I get there, is there really anything I can do?

When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t have made it. He died quickly after I heard. I was devastated. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t talk and all I wanted was to be alone. People kept trying to comfort me and I just wanted to lay in bed alone, an impossible task with roommates.

In all actuality, I felt a lot of different things: I felt so horribly, miserably selfish. There was no way not to. I felt a deep, gut-wrenching homesickness. All I wanted was to be with my family and hug them deeply. I felt lost. How could this happen? He was fine. It didn’t and doesn’t seem real. I am in a far away country without family, what will real life feel like at home? I felt and do feel exhausted. I am emotionally and physically exhausted. I can’t put in 100% to the school work or activities that I normally would.

The worst part is I know I will have regrets. I am going against the Go Global model. There is just so many different scenarios. I could have gone home, not have made it, and been with my family and been disappointed on missing his passing. I could have gone home afterwards and been with my family for comfort. I could have stayed here and gave it my all, and felt guilty.

But, in truth, none of these would have made me feel better. There was no right way to go about this. Any way I go about this, I would have had regrets.

The only good thing about this is how lucky I am. I am so lucky to have a family with the capabilities to fly me home if I wanted to. Lucky to be on a program that is flexible enough to let me be upset and grieve. Lucky to have people I feel close enough after three days to discuss my loss with. Lucky to have new friends who will go out and buy me dinner and a present when I don’t feel like getting up. Lucky to have staff that I can confide in no matter how busy they may be. Lucky to have Pierce Pearsons on my trip who I wouldn’t have been able to survive this grueling time without. Lucky to have the opportunity to be abroad.

Before his passing, I had my mother tell him Let’s meet just inside the gate to the right. When I meet him again in Heaven, I will know exactly where to go.

I in no way am saying this is the right option for everyone. I can give advice but everyone is different. No one grieves the same way or has the same reaction. I like to keep busy, at least while being far away, so I don’t sit and basque in my sorrow. I am lucky to be on a program that can offer me exactly what I need for now so I can grieve with my family when I get home.

But most of all, I am lucky to have a grandpa who would send me this before his passing:

When tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not there to see; If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me; I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today, while thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say. I know how much you loved me as much as I love you, and each time you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too; But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand, that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand, and said my place was ready in heaven far above, and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love. But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye, for all my life, I’d always thought I didn’t want dear Maddie to cry.

Maddie and her grandfather