I've been asked many times what are the greatest issues about living overseas. Well, the worst one by far is one that you don't really think about (or just try not to), until it becomes an issue you have to deal with right now.
That issue is health emergencies in your family back home. My mother had been suffering from COPD for years, with gradually declining health and mobility, most of which I hadn't even seen. My sister had to deal with the everyday emergencies and issues, while I only saw part of what was going on when I visited the home country every 2 to 3 years. And to be honest, I didn't really see it even then; Mom would put her best face on when I brought my family back, and try her hardest to be upbeat and energetic.
Then you get the call: Mom is in bad shape, you need to come back as quickly as possible. The first such call was luckily last June. Why luckily? Because not so many Japanese are traveling at that time. I could get a ticket, didn't have to go to the airport and sit on standby and hope some other poor sap would get sick so I could take their seat. And not to be tacky, but there is also the expense: buy a ticket at less than 5 days notice, and you will pay at least 50% more than when you reserve in advance. (I know, you're thinking "What a whining douche-bag!" - we'll get back to that later).
Luckily, my mom stabilized at that time. After a 5-day turnaround, I was able to Skype her several times a week.
Then I heard from my sister that she was deteriorating more quickly, culminating in another call in early January that mom was in hospice. Now the expense raises its ugly head. You see, I had used all my cash, and half my credit, getting back the last time (the douche-bag was broke). Luckily, I had a fair amount of mileage racked up (13,000 round-trip), so I could get tickets, and just had to pay the reservation and short notice fees. So I headed back for 3 days this time, arriving late Monday night and leaving very early on Friday. Not much time to say goodbye, but at least I got the chance to say goodbye.
Then Mom passed away 3 weeks ago. I didn't go back for the funeral, it just wasn't possible. My family has been wonderful, supportive, telling me that it was more important that I came home when she was alive; and I do believe that. But they had to make all the arrangements, I couldn't help. My brother stepped up to the plate and did a lot of that. And it is just surreal to get pictures of her grave, to get video of the memorial service by email, and to know that I won't even be able to say goodbye until my next trip home in a few years.