A Moment of Silence

I am rarely at a loss for words. Now, the words are refusing to come out–choking me–as I try to cope. I am sick of gasping for air. I have to let my fingers do the talking.

My maternal grandfather — 公 公 (gung gung) as I knew him–was a man of few words so when he spoke, I hung onto every syllable. I hope I never forget those commands he gave, the comments he made and the conversations we shared.

公 公 passed away last evening mere minutes before I reached the nursing home to visit him. As my heartbroken aunt and strong big brother held his hands and comforted him in his last moments, my mother and I made a last ditch effort to increase his comfort by hunting a special medicated patch in all the closest pharmacies.

When I walked into the room, a wave of pain washed over me. Oh, how I cried out! The grief that coursed through my veins manifested itself in guttural sounds and tearful exclamations, “NOOOOO! WHY?!?! 公 公! I COULD’VE BEEN HERE!”

I wanted so very badly to rip my heart out of my chest so as to not feel all the emotions that possessed me.

God, I may have known about this eventuality for a while but I was not ready for him to go. How can one be expected to prepare for something like this? There is so much more to say and do. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. If only. If only.

I have come to understand–or at least rationalise–that in some warped way, everything was meant to unfold in this way. If I had not been sick this past weekend, I would have seen my dear 公 公 at his very worst. His state of suffering would have scared me. If I had left work earlier or even not made that extra pharmacy run, I would have been there when he took his last breath; but is that what I really want? To witness the very thing that torments me so?

This incredible man–this quiet, compassionate, hardworking, clever, funny, humble, wonderful man–will forever be glorified by our tight family. We wanted him to be here so that we could honour and celebrate him on Father’s Day. We wanted to show him all the wellwishes he and my grandmother had received in advance for their upcoming 60th wedding anniversary.

The circle of life is so bittersweet. 公 公 once cared for all of us–his loving wife, seven children and sixteen grandchildren. When we were eventually forced to swap roles, we were all distraught but heartened by real evidence of our unbreakable family bond and deep love for one another. We are your legacy, 公 公. Your family is hurting, but we are as strong as ever.

You did everything you could to make our privileged, happy lives possible: you ran and hid from Japanese soldiers during the War; you fled your small Teochew village to Hong Kong to pursue a better life; you endured and fought bitter poverty without ever being bitter about it; you worked hard at several jobs; you pushed your children in all the right ways; you followed your eldest children to a cold, foreign place; you took away the need for paid daycare by turning your suburban semi-detached into a place for goofy grandchildren; you loved us all in your quiet way right till the end.

I miss you so much already. May you rest in peace.

9 Responses:

  1. Leslie Says:

    Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandfather’s passing. It seems like he has left behind a wonderful legacy.

    Take care of yourself, stay strong, and continue to find comfort in the love/support of your family.

  2. gino Says:

    Easy for me to say don’t grieve, but, remember what we have been taught: the Ancestors are all around us, with us all the time, we ask for their intercession on our behalf, we remember them and keep their presence close to us . . . . He lived a good life in this world, and now looks upon us from the realm of those who have gone before us. It’s up to us to keep that connection alive.

  3. reesie Says:

    The way it happened is the way it happened. Don’t agonize over would’ve, should’ve, could’ve. That’s not what your gunggung would have wanted. I think he looked back on his life and the decisions he made and did not regret anything. He saw his family loving him and supporting him and felt at peace. I send you much love in your time of pain and grief. Know that he smiles on you.

  4. Surabhi Says:

    My thoughts are with you dear. Let it all out.

  5. gnome G Says:

    Oh Adrienne! I am so very sorry to hear of your grandfather’s passing. This post spoke to me on a very real level…I remember going through a similar time with my paternal grandfather. I’m tearing up for you and your family’s loss. Your post was a wonderful tribute to the wonderful man you were lucky to have for your Gung Gung.

    Hugs to you. I’m sorry.

  6. kooletz Says:

    oh no ..i’m so sorry. 🙁 i remember feeling the exact same way when my grandmother passed away. i wish you comfort, stength and peace in this trying time. take care

  7. red wings Says:

    i’m so sorry… you know he’s in a better place now, but at the same time you just wish he was here anyway…

    my condolences…

    as for your trip to nyc next week, i only feel comfrotable recommending three things: shopping, food and gay bars. The last i’m not sure how interested you’ll be in. hahaha. Foodwise, standouts in my head include: Tia Pol, D’or Ahn, Asia de Cuba, Joe’s Shanghai, Hasaki, takahachi, green boa, momofuku, samalitas, trader joe’s and a bunch of other places depending on how much i willing to spend. Shopping wise lower east side and meat packing for relatively expensive high design items. well hopefully you’ll let me know when you do get here, even meet me for drinks if you would like. hope that helps!

  8. Mariko Says:

    ohh girly, this entry got me teary-eyed, it reminded me a lot of when I lost my grandfather. I know its hard and its never easy! When I was 17 and in japan my grandfather was in the hospital and the by the time I went to see him it was at a point where he could barely speak. They gave him a sign with faces on it he could point to, like… hungry, happy, sad, bathroom… it was really hard for me to see him, someone I looked up to all my life. Someone that nurtured my artistic side since he was an artist. I was really upset about it for a long time, I still am…but I find that now he is alive even though he is not here. I am living life and taking on some of his artistic qualities, I can see parts of him throughout my whole family…and I think from what you have written you have realized that already ^_^. Sometimes memories are the sweetest gift!

  9. tim Says:

    My condolences. I went through a similar situation with my grandmother a few years ago. These things, they sting. Good luck with your last bit of law school.