mendiants porcini salt strawberry vanilla shortbread cookies roasted kabocha squash


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family

They say friends are the family that you get to choose. But my family gets and gives that special unconditional love no matter what has been said or done. Throughout the week, family arrived and we crammed into Grandma’s small studio apartment to continue sorting through her belongings, making plans, and reminiscing about this kind and gentle matriarch who has touched all of our lives so dearly. Grandma’s four daughters have four distinctly different and strong personalities. The interactions among them are far more complex than magnetohydrodynamics and are not governed by the laws of Nature, but rather by the laws of the Heart.


sisters

recounting good stories about grandma



The grandchildren are another matter. We’re all pretty chill, cracking jokes, and sharing stories while the mothers fret over whether or not we’ve gotten enough to eat. In a rare moment, it was just the three cousins (the fourth was to fly in the morning of the service) at Grandma’s. Instead of the incessant chatter of the “adults”, we quietly sat on the floor making hair clips with white flowers for all of the female members of the family (to wear for 100 days) and mused over our family the way that only adult grandchildren can. We had to make vegetarian dishes for Grandma’s Buddhist service, so I chose to sauté soybean sprouts. Grandma always plucked the tails off of the sprouts, but I rarely do because it’s time-consuming. We had plenty of time. My cousin helped me trim the ends and it reminded me of all the childhood days I sat at the kitchen table helping Grandma clean the sprouts before dinner.

trimming the sprout tips

sauté

my cousins and their mom

another aunt lovingly prepares asparagus to send grandma off with good food



As more members of the family arrived in town, our meals out were less somber, more celebratory, more elaborate, and more filling. There was so much to do in preparation for Grandma’s services and there were so many loved ones around that the sadness faded and I felt as if Grandma was still there.

hand-pulled noodles (so cool to watch)

just getting started on lunch

the meal after the services (everyone was ready to pop)



My grandmother was probably the coolest member of the family. I’m serious. She had more friends than anyone. She was nice to everyone. She had her head on straight and navigated each day like a pro despite decades of hardship. The grace, dignity, and humility with which she lived her life have inspired and continue to inspire me. You just don’t find people like that anymore.

flowers for the buddhist ceremony



The day of the service was bittersweet. The finality of it all struck deep, yet the knowledge that Grandma lived such a full life brought me great comfort. In between the tears and bowing and paying of my respects, I recorded our farewell to my dearest Po-po. An act of love for the ones who miss her.

food offerings

she loved flowers

placing incense

mom delivers the eulogy

my dad and cousin carry the portrait and incense to the crematorium

my uncle and cousin arrive with the flowers

we were handed butterflies to release

they seemed to linger

you’re free now

roses and good-bye

the ritual of burning paper money

gold and silver



I can still hear her voice in my head and the way she called my name – Jennifer – but in that Chinglish way “Jia-Nee-Fur”. Rest in peace, Grops. I love you.

43 nibbles at “family”

  1. Ronine says:

    So beautiful and touching!

  2. Barbara says:

    Beautiful Jen, just beautiful. Love you. Xoxo

  3. kathy says:

    A beautiful way to say “so long for now”. I happen to think your spirits will cross again sometime.

  4. Helen says:

    So beautiful, touching, warm, real – thank you for your continued inspiration.

  5. Anne Henry says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your grandma was much loved by so many and such a beautiful way to say goodbye.

  6. farmerpam says:

    So heartfelt and touching. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Nate @ House of Annie says:

    Beautiful, Jenn.

    I think from now on you should trim the tails of your beansprouts to honor her.

  8. Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) says:

    I am so sorry, Jen, about your loss. I miss both of my grandmas dearly and this post gives me a sense of comfort that all grandmas go to heaven and are in peace. Thank you for this post despite the loss you’re feeling.

    My deepest sympathy and blessings to you and your family.

  9. Perfecting Pru says:

    This looks like the most wonderful way to have said goodbye to your grandmother. Thank you for sharing. Thinking of you and your family.

  10. Sharlene says:

    So touching. Thank you for sharing your family and grandmother’s spirit.

  11. Terry says:

    Truly lovely.

  12. Janet says:

    It sounds like a truly lovely celebration of your grandmother’s life. I am so sorry to hear of your family’s loss, and wish you all the love & comfort in the world.

  13. Donna says:

    Very touching.

  14. Piee says:

    While reading your post, I felt as if I was truly there and knew your grandma. I started tearing up.

    Thank you for sharing and I wish you all the comfort during this time.

  15. tea_austen says:

    Oh sweetie. This makes me both smile and weep. Such love, family, tradition. Sending you warm hugs, thoughts, love. xox

  16. amy says:

    what a beautiful send-off. Thank you for sharing. Sending you peace & warm thoughts.

  17. diane and todd says:

    Sending you all our love as we weep Jen. Thank you for sharing your amazing story, words and pictures. We all become better people because of you. xoxoo

  18. Collette says:

    How lovely. Thank you for sharing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  19. Janet says:

    May her memory be eternal. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  20. Paulette says:

    What a lovely ceremony Jen. Thank you for letting us be a part of it. Paulette

  21. Mrs Ergül says:

    It seemed like I have known your grandma too because she had been mentioned so often on your blog. It is sad to see her go. You and your family are in my thoughts. Take care. I am sure she is happy wherever she may be.

  22. Margie says:

    Such a beautiful tribute. Thanks for allowing us in.

  23. Susan says:

    Beautiful.

  24. Marilyn Smith says:

    What a lovely tribute to your grandma and family, Jennifer! It was so nice to see the ceremony. Felt like I was there! Love, Marilyn

  25. Bridget says:

    Thank you so much for the gift of a view into your family. What a beautiful ritual, and what an amazing woman it was that was at the center.

  26. Yvonne Liu says:

    Thanks for sharing. I lost my grandmother last year, know how you feel.

  27. Dana says:

    Oh man. If I get to be that age and have my grandchildren think about me in this way, I will have lived a joyful and lucky life.

  28. Colleen says:

    Thank you. That was beautiful. Blessings to you and your family.

  29. Johanna says:

    What a beautiful way to say goodbye… May she rest in peace!

  30. TheKitchenWitch says:

    The letting go of the butterflies…so beautiful. And all of that food, so lovingly prepared, certainly brings home the meaning of family.

  31. Kristin says:

    What a lovely send off. I agree with Dana…if my kids & someday grandchildren feel this way about me, it will have been a very good life.

  32. Jill says:

    I am glad you have beautiful memories. Embrace those. xo

  33. debbie says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful service and the pictures with us. I have to say of all your grandmothers daughters your mom resembles her the most. Both are beautiful ladies.

  34. jacquie says:

    thank you for sharing the lovely service and your beautiful, graceful grandmother. my sympathies to you and your family.

  35. zingara says:

    your grandma is gone from this life, but you have her w/ you forever in your heart. thank god for your beautiful memories of this sweet faced, loving woman. did she come alone from china? or was she w/ her husband & children when she arrived? my parents came to this country as immigrants from italy & i often wonder how different i would have been if they stayed in italy. i would not have been the same person as i am today. do you wonder, too, how different your own life might have been if your ancestors had not made the momentous decision to leave china & come to this strange, bewildering, beautiful land of opportunity? we, all of your cyber friends, share your grief, jen. we all have lost a loved one along the way. keep her memory alive for the succeding generations of the family. blessings on you & those whom you love, marianne

  36. Pauline says:

    Very beautiful and touching. Thank you for sharing with us.

  37. Ruth Ann says:

    So bittersweet and touching.

  38. Elana says:

    Jen,

    What a moving post; it brought me to tears.

    Much love,
    Elana

  39. Amy says:

    I love to read about the Chinese culture and your words and photos make it all the better. Bless you and your family at this time and always. I love your website. Thank you for sharing your life.

  40. Jamie Parker says:

    What an amazing and uplifting tribute. So touching.

  41. Melissa says:

    “Jennifer’s Jeremy” That made me smile. Thanks for sharing your love for her throughout all your time in this space. I feel like I understand more why she made such an impact on you and why you will miss her. Lots of love. ♥

  42. jenny says:

    Again, I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m sure your grandmother would have been so happy to see the family all get together to celebrate her life and spend time together to celebrate what seems like such a wonderful and full life.

  43. jenyu says:

    Really appreciate all of the kind comments, everyone. Thank you so much. I’m glad to have shared with others how special this woman was to those of us who love her. xo

    Barbara – thank you, dear friend. love to you too.

    tea – thank you for the love, sweetie.

    diane & todd – can’t tell you how much it means to me to have such good friends in you both. *hugs*

    Mrs. Ergul – xxoo :) she was the type to make the best out of any situation.

    Marilyn – thank you!

    Bridget – glad to share it and thanks for your sweet comment.

    Dana – they will and you will :)

    TheKitchenWitch – thanks, love.

    Jill – indeed, I will always cherish those memories.

    debbie – yes, they always say that my mom looks like grandma the most, two beautiful women who are a big part of my life.

    Elana – xxoo

    Melissa – oops, that’s supposed to be Jennifer and Jeremy, but my & looks like an ‘s sometimes :) love you, hon.

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