Grandma


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Kids, sometime between 4 am to 6 am this morning, your great grandma, who would have turned 104 years-old  in a few days, slip off to an eternal sleep. You would recall me getting a phone call from your grandpa at 7.00 am this morning who stoically held back his tears (I could hear his trembling voice and the sniffs over the phone), broke the news of your great grandma’s demise.

The last time we saw great granny was during the last Chinese New Year in 2013. On that day, surprisingly her mind was lucid! For once, she did not mistake me for my brother, something she has done for many years and I didn’t correct her because I didn’t want to embarrass her. That day, she asked about you kids, she asked about how I was doing, how your mummy was doing and why your grandma looked so frail (your granny was going through a rough patch, health wise, at the time).

Your great granny has always been healthy. At the age of 90 she could still walk all the way out to the pray to the deity under a tree located 2 or 3 kilometers away from her home; something she has done all her life. We used to laugh that she could probably outrun a dog (and she did, once).  Your great granny has lived for more than a century! Lived through 2 World Wars and survived. Married a soldier man and had nearly a dozen children! Her firstborn was a son, my dad, your grandpa. Longevity obviously runs in the family gene – your grandpa is 84 this year!

Your great granny lived life to the fullest, at least I like to think she did.. She drank Guinness Stout all her life, like it was the elixir of life! She got drunk plenty of times (even at my wedding!) and made a fool of herself once too many times. She ate heartily, even when all the teeth have fallen off, she could still wallop a plate of KFC with no problems at all! And mah jong! How she loved to play mah jong! She could play into the wee hours of the morning. 

Your great granny only spoke to me in Hakka – a dialect which, sadly, I have not been able to pass down to you kids. As a result, communication between you and your great granny was limited to mere sign language or a simple ‘hello’. She told me jokes in Hakka which I could barely understand but laughed along just the same because it made her feel good. Truth be told, I don’t know your great granny very well, having spent a large part of my life away from home and out of the country, but she was the force that held the entire clan together. 

Your great granny fell down in the toilet last week. She knocked her head against the floor and sustained a deep cut which needed 8 stitches to close. She lost a lot of blood. She also dislocated her right shoulder. In the days that followed, she must have been in much pain and I was told, quite miserable. I imagined it was hard for a woman who has been independent all her life to suddenly need assistance for doing just about everything. 

Elderly people who fall (and break something) are at very high risk of dying soon after. I was told 2 days ago she started requesting to see all her children. She said she didn’t have long to live. Some how she knew. 

Your grandpa, her first-born and favorite son, couldn’t make it in time to see her one last time. It probably broke your heart. I know it broke your grandpa’s heart. I have never seen my dad cry. And today he did. It broke my heart. 

I’m writing this to you, kids, so that you know that you had a great granny you can be proud of. She was an amazingly strong woman. There aren’t many like her nowadays. I would like you to grow up to be amazing adults, strong people who live life the fullest and have no regrets…

Just like your great granny. 

 

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