My grandmother died on Tuesday morning. She was 98 and had been declining for the last three or so years. In the last few months, she had become bedridden and unable to speak. When I saw her three months ago, I was shocked at how much she had deteriorated. She no longer seemed to be there anymore. I knew it was just a matter of time. I hoped for her sake that it would be sooner rather than later. Still, when my father called with the news, I was surprised by how sad I felt.
The last time I saw her properly was three years ago just after I’d finished up in Darwin. I’d given her a pack of dominoes as the colours had worn off her old pack. We played a couple of games to break the pack in. She won one. She was very frail then but she was still very much my grandmother.
No one spoke at her funeral today. I guess it is not the Chinese way. She lay in her coffin for two nights and a day in her living room during which friends of the family came to sit with my aunts and uncles and pay their respects. I spent a couple of hours there last night. I didn’t speak about my grandmother. As far as I could tell no one did either.
This morning after a short final viewing we drove to the crematorium and my father being the oldest son there pressed the button that lowered her casket. We then all went for lunch during which we did not talk about her. Throughout this time, people were sad and openly grieving but no one really spoke.
My father did recall some stories as we drove around.
“She was a very practical person.” he said.
My grandmother was born in a village outside of Shanghai in 1912. She was brought out as a young wife by my grandfather and eventually bore him 8 children. She lived through the Japanese occupation of Malaya, the communist emergency, independence from the British and the anti-Chinese race riots in 1969. She outlived my grandfather by over 30 years.
I don’t know the names of most of her great-grandchildren.
My visits to KL over the last few years has been as much about her as it has been about my family here. I didn’t see much of her or anyone else in my late twenties and early thirties. To be honest those times I made the journey I could never stay long before getting restless. Cultural and language barriers had always been a factor. But I knew she enjoyed my visits and I regret not having done a little more a little earlier when she was able to appreciate them more.

One thought on “Grandmother

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s