In the past week I’ve been trying to keep myself together in dealing with the loss of my grandma. I’ve avoided delving too deep into the thoughts of never being able to see her kind face, or hear her comforting voice again in this life. Today, we finally got to say our final goodbyes with a funeral procession at the East Chapel of Rookwood Cemetery.
First, I want to say that I thought long and hard about whether I should publish this post on this blog or not because I thought it may be TMI for people who may stumble across this blog in search of a product review or a bitch session. But blogging has always been my own way of decluttering my mind, and although I know I shouldn’t need to justify what I decide to publish on this piece of cyberspace, I guess I felt compelled to include this paragraph anyway.
I was asked to speak at today’s procession, but I quickly declined knowing that I’m rubbish at speaking in front of a crowd and that even if I did speak, I know I would’ve prepared for it but would then forget bits and pieces of it. So I decided to keep my thoughts to myself, and express them through writing.
My cousin took the initiative and spoke on behalf of the family, and more specifically on behalf of all my cousins that grandma had spent so many years teaching and nurturing. I fondly remember the way she would recite many poems from an anthology from the Tang Dynasty (唐詩三百首) in our everyday lives, and encouraged us to recite them after her each time. I also remember in our primary school years when she’d teach us the times tables in Chinese, and when we could finally recite a set (or several sets) back to her correctly we’d be rewarded with some fruit prepared by grandpa in advance. I probably know my times tables better in Chinese than I do in English… if that makes sense!
We learned a lot about life from grandma, a lot of which we probably forgot about until very recently. She taught us about ethics, not only through stories but also through her own actions. She was such a sweet, considerate lady… she always had time, or always made time to spend with her grandchildren even after we’d grown up and started traversing different paths of life. When we visited her at the nursing home, she was always grateful for our visits and shortly after our arrivals she’d be quick to suggest that we go home and rest after a long day. Even when she was placed in palliative care in her final days, when each and every able-bodied member of our extended family in Sydney went to see her/say their goodbyes… she’d simply say thank them for their kindness and then try and send them on their way with “make sure you leave when you’re tired” and when they did leave, she’d tell them to “drive safe”.
So… yeah, she’s taught us all a great deal about compassion among many other things. A few nights before she passed on, she also gently reminded us (her grandchildren) not to lie, steal or cheat – and not to let ego dictate the way you treat others. The last few conversations we had before the morphine started taking effect on her consciousness were so simple, things we should have asked her years ago. The one that really brought me to tears was about what she thought when she first came to Australia. She said the first thing she thought when she arrived was that Australia was breathtakingly beautiful.
The morning she passed on Wednesday 2 July 2014, was the first day I saw the soft side of my father in a long time. How strange that Asian parents very rarely show affection, but you can always see their intentions through action. When they took her away, the last thing he said to her was “辛苦你啦，咁多年” which literally translates into “you’ve been through a lot all these years” but means something more like “thank you for all your hard work over the years”. Seeing this upset side of dad was nothing short of heartbreaking for me. These parents of mine are so hard to read because of their overt optimism and tendency to internalise their feelings!
Honestly, I don’t know how to wrap this post up. I hope she’s joined grandpa by now and they can be comfortable in the afterlife together. I hope she knows that the lessons she’s taught us have not been forgotten, and that we’ll try as hard as our Westernised brains can to teach the next generations to come the same values and morals that she instilled in us all these years. Again, my lack of ability to wrap up these sentimental posts means I’ll close with yet another quote:
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal