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.
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
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.
she loved flowers
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.