Friday, March 6, 2015

Goodbye Grandma

Just probably 2 weeks back, Mama passed away.  She was 100 years old, and died of old age. (She's lived life to the fullest, and it's a happy thing, really. Don't need to be sorry reading about it)

(Photo taken from my cousin)
Mama is Chinese Peranakan, which makes me one as well. Unfortunately, since young, my Popo looked after me. So, i picked up Cantonese and not Malay, which means Mama and I had a language barrier. Typically our conversations would be limited from whatever English/Malay words we knew. (Her English was better than my Malay though)

When Popo passed away 16 years back, I remembered thanking God for giving me two sets of grandparents. So for whatever reasons I couldn't be a good grandchild to one grandparent, there's always another to make up for it. But… it was an ideal. For 16 years, Mama remained as distant to me as she was from the beginning.
Whatever we missed out with that one person, can't be made up with another.

But i did get a chance once to do something very grandchild like. Once when she was admitted to hospital, i would visit her everyday and bring her lunch to hospital, since she didn't really like the hospital food. :) That i remember she was a very sweet lady. Despite her sickness, whenever a nurse or doctor attended to her, she always says "Thank you" and gives her toothless grin.

I remembered Mama passed away on a Sunday afternoon, and I was trying explain to Audrey (My oldest) on her death. In fact, I thought i needed to 'shelter' her and cushion the effects or at least choose my words very carefully, in case she thinks death is a horrible thing… when it's actually the next phase of life. That said, I also didn't want to make it like an everyday affair till it numbs her.
I mean, we didn't have pets at home which died (only guppies and all… and they die quite frequently… but no one really sheds a tear when they do..) and I'm not about to go to youtube and show them a dying scene… so like how?
Anyway, this was our conversation:

Me: Audrey, remember every chinese new year, we always go and visit this very old lady?
A: Yes. You mean Ah Chor (Great grandma in hokkien i think)
M: (feeling stupid) yes, her. Mummy's grandma.
A: Ya. What about her?
M: Well, she's been very sick for some time, and today she passed away.
A: Oh you mean she died?
M: (feeling very stupid now) yes she did. Can you pray for her when we go mass later?
A: Sure. But what do we pray for?
M: (Alamak! she's got me! ok… Almost.) Well, we pray that God will now take care of her since she's with Him now.
A: Oh. Ok.

So much for sheltering her. Tsk.

The kids came for the wake on and off, but because it was during the school week and they sleep really early, we normally get them to come for awhile before sending them home, while the adults stayed on.

In fact, D and I had some disagreement on the funeral.
Mama's funeral was going to be on early morning CNY eve, which means technically the children had half day school celebrations. The kids were looking forward to it and D wanted them to go for the celebrations while I didn't.
His argument was that the kids didn't know what was happening anyway and Mama is dead, it didn't matter whether they were there or not. My stand was, regardless, Mama deserved to have everyone there as a sign of last respect.
We knew we couldn't reach to an agreement because well, we were both stubborn, and I wasn't about to budge. But we did agree that we ask a third party, in this case another priest who knows us pretty well, and whatever that priest said, we would listen and call it truce.
(Fortunately for me) the priest said funerals are a family affair, and all should be there, whether they know what's happening or not. In fact, this is the time to show them the next phase of life.
D accepted that and agreed to it. At that point, I was glad D and I were matured enough to come to an agreement in a cordial manner and not begrudge each other on that.

The kids went through the whole ceremony all the way to the crematorium. Being in the choir before, I sang some of the hymns for her funeral. (A loves my singing so much that she said she wants to sing like me… I laughed.) The kids saw me cry when mama's coffin was wheeled to be cremated. It was something foreign to them. They never saw that part of me. At one point they found it funny and even awkward. D encouraged them to comfort me, but I was too taken in by that moment, i didn't even know whether they did!

After the funeral, there's normally a pail of flower water (just flowers in water) for the family members to wash their hands and/or face to ward away any bad luck or something… We told the kids to do it, A unwittingly turned it down and said she didn't need to because her hands were clean… (That's Miss Smart Alec for you) We left it alone.

We asked the kids what they thought of the whole thing. Audrey said she saw many Rudolfs (Most people cry at the crematorium, and when they do, their nose becomes red). Isaac (no 2) couldn't understand why there were flowers in the water. Julian was sick and went home to rest, so he didn't join us subsequently.
To them it seemed more like an excursion than a life's lesson. Maybe it didn't make a difference to them witnessing the whole episode, but… the whole family was there to support me when I grieved for that moment. And because of that, I'm thankful.

And to my extended family and friends who came down even though it's nearing CNY and all… Thank you. Your presence was everything. :)


  1. Replies
    1. No lah.. It's only temporary... Whether it's our lives here or our goodbyes...:) but thank you :)