The details are scant, as I only found out second-hand through Darren. They say she was on painkillers and went peacefully in the hospital. It was her pain that scared me most; better to pass on than live with suffering through cancer and chemotherapy at her age, I always thought.
It brings me comfort to know that Mina, her trusty and loyal maid, was there with her when she died. Also, to know my aunt will be able to go back home to a normal life, instead of doting on my grandmother indefinitely after giving up her law practice and leaving her husband and daughter in Canada.
I called my dad, and he seems to be taking it as well as I am. I learned all my Chinese idioms for death by listening to what he’d say in these situations. One is something like, “She’s passed her body”, which always sounded very spiritual to me and plays on the Chinese belief that our spirits pass from this world into an ancestral realm. Another has something to do with becoming “fragrant” or the smell of incense. But when he asked if I knew, he said, “Did you hear that grandma went?”
I just hope my cousin Priscilla is alright. She’s a pint-sized woman (even by Asian standards) who more than makes up for her small stature with a razor sharp tongue and wit, but she was the most adoring grandchild I’d ever met when it came to our ma ma.
All of grandma’s kids were already in Hong Kong to be with her1 — many of them flying in from different parts of Canada — which is a testament to how important she was. She was the unifying force who tied the family together. Siblings would make peace with each other out of respect for her, and the peace has lasted.
I’m not sad. I was already sad when I was in Hong Kong last year, on the day I left her. Back then, I made my peace, never expecting to have the chance to see her again. Instead, I’m glad to have been able to let her know how much she meant to me (even though I wasn’t sure if she remembered, with the severity of her Alzheimer’s), to hear her tell her story in her own words, and to capture her voice and character on video.
When I see her smiling and hear her voice, I see an innocence about her I wasn’t used to seeing. She was always a strong, classy lady.
- The exceptions being my dad and Darren’s dad, who were flying out yesterday and next week respectively, until they heard the news. They’re changing flight plans for the funeral. [↩]