Losing my Grandma in China
I somehow gravely knew that I would lose a relative while I was in China.
A week or so before my flight, the thought crept up on me in the late morning hours. I let it impact me for a little while, and then I just shook it off, telling myself that I am no psychic and that it was probably just nerves trying to deter me from my drive for adventure. When I heard the news three weeks ago that my grandma was dying, all the same thoughts and their accompanying emotions crawled back into me.
Being the only family member away from my Grandma during her final countdown was difficult. I felt selfish, like I had abandoned her when she needed me most. I felt distant, as far as the physical miles keeping us apart. I felt helpless, because I knew that I was stuck here with no money for a flight and a contract binding me to stay.
So many people asked me if I would break my contract and fly home to see her. Honestly, the thought did tempt me for a while. But I felt the right answer come to me on Christmas Eve, when I ate Christmas dinner with three Chinese teachers from my school.
At dinner, I told them that my Grandma was dying and that we were all hoping she would at least make it past Christmas. One of the teachers then asked me, "How old is your Grandma?"
"90 years old," I replied.
The three of them were in awe. They smiled at the thought of someone living that long. And then, they gave me a new perspective.
They said that in China, if someone lives to be 80 years old or older, people will greatly admire and respect them. This is especially true because of China's history, across which many people passed away considerably earlier.
They then said that, being that my grandma is 90 years old, no one would shed any tears at her funeral. When I asked why, they said that because to them, the death of someone that old means th end of bodily suffering. They are happy to know that their relative no longer has to live in pain and can essentially be set free.
My grandma endured nothing but pain for the three weeks leading up to her death.
I cherished their perspective so much that it became my own. And now that I have officially received the news of my grandmother's passing, I both stand by it and cling to it. And in her memory and honor, I have composed the following letter. May she feel every word as she shines magnificently in the light of another realm, one so much bigger than I will ever understand.
1:50 am on January 11th, 2016: China Time
At 10:00 am Florida time, you passed away. I only heard the news tonight, and it is making me feel so hollow.
I knew that this was coming for three weeks, but there is no way of preparing to lose someone who has always been such a source of light and happiness in your life. I so wish I could have seen you in person one last time and held your hand like the rest of our family, but I thought of you every single day and sent you my love in every way I could. I drank your favorite drink and thought of you. I looked at your picture and smiled like you. I dove into my memories and held on to you.
On New Years Eve, I promised that I would live out 2016 with your immense love as the driving force behind everything I do. And when I leave to explore beautiful lands in China this weekend, I know I will find you everywhere I look.
Grandma, I have always wanted to live by your example; no matter where I end up next in the world, your way will merge with the one I am currently defining to influence the person I become.
Thank you for everything you ever did and everything you ever were. You will always be here with me and I will always find you in all of your favorite things.
I love you across every ocean and every continent, in every culture and language.