My grandmother passed away this weekend. The three times that I’ve visited China (once when I was three, another time when I was 10, and just recently this past March) were the few times in my life that I had the privileged to see her and her adorable, sweet self. I wasn’t very close to her because of the physical distance between us, and I truly wish I could have gotten to know her better.
When I visited in March, she had aged significantly since I saw her over a decade ago – her cheeks had gotten droopy, she had little white tufts of hair remaining, she had no teeth whatsoever – and yet, she had the brightest smile in the room. She was also wheelchair-bound, and had lost her hearing and sight – and yet, she had the happiest eyes in the room. She could only eat sesame paste, which apparently was what kept her alive for so long – supposedly it has plenty of health benefits. (And rumor has it that it gives you shiny hair – crazy Asians and their sesame concoctions.)
Even though she had lost most of her senses, she was still somehow able to recognize me as her youngest daughter’s youngest daughter (haha). She would always stroke my cheek, giggle the cutest giggle, and tell me how lovely I was, even though I knew she couldn’t see me. Still effervescent at that age!
Finally, at 96 years young, she passed away in her sleep, in her own home – it couldn’t have happened a better way. I’m thankful that she wasn’t suffering from any severe ailments and had to be hooked up to tubes in the hospital. My mother had the pleasure of giving my grandma her last bath – she said my grandmother was all smiles and giggles during it.
I know this is the hardest on my mom and my sister, and it makes me sad because I can’t relate – I was never as close to my grandma as they were. When Michelle lived in China without our mother, she was essentially raised by my grandma. Whenever my strict and disciplinary aunt was after Michelle with bamboo sticks (Chinese people didn’t send their kids to their rooms – no such thing), my grandma would play the good cop and defend her. From the stories I’ve heard, she was the most loving grandmother and mother – my mom and my sister are lucky to have been close to her.
When the weekend started, I felt her passing was imminent. I wanted to get Michelle’s mind off of it, so Joseph and I went over her and Mike’s apartment to cook dinner. I took care of the corn salad, Michelle made her famously soft and chewy rice krispies (much better than any pre-packaged rice krispies I’ve never had), and the boys took care of the seafood pasta – very amusing watching them cook J We were about halfway through dinner when we got a call about my grandmother – my intuition never fails me.
Michelle was strong – she held it together okay because she knew it was her time. We ended the evening with Captain America – hopefully it was a good distraction. I’m unusually overzealous about superhero movies so of course I loved it! I can’t even express how excited I am for the Avengers movie to come out, I am a self-proclaimed and self-publicized dork. Okay. Enough about superheroes!
Grandma, I love you. May you rest in peace. Your exuberance, sweetness, and adoration for your family will never be forgotten.