Last Chance For Grandma

I’m on a plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, in the middle of this 16000km journey. 18 hours of flight time, one layover in Chicago, and two meals.

My grandmother in Hong Kong is dying. She’s been diagnosed with colon cancer, and started chemotherapy last week, slipping in and out of awareness due to the cancer, the treatment, the medications, or all three. So when my dad told me a few days ago that he was booking a ticket to fly out to see her, I had to take the opportunity to go with him.

This is the woman to whom I mailed the first paycheque from my first job. The woman who gave me the jade necklace I never take off. The woman who came to Canada by herself to find an education for my dad, when the only English word she knew was “delay”. The woman who taught me how to hold chopsticks properly. The woman I’ve looked up to my entire life.

I don’t know how I’ll react when I see her, because I don’t know what condition she’s in. The details have been vague.

Awareness is a big thing. I want to be there. I want her to be aware. I want her to know how important she is to me.

The circumstances aren’t great, but I’m thankful to have this opportunity to go. I’ll be able to bond with my dad. I’ll get a chance to see my uncles and aunts and cousins. I was going to go last year, but the trip was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

In a way, the timing is right. I already have my passport. I was able to get more than three weeks off work. My colitis has been diagnosed, and I’m taking medication that will allow me to eat very well and not worry1. I have all the camera gear I need2. And I’ve been feeling so jaded with life lately, it’ll be good to get away, a little bit of much needed exile.

Before driving to Toronto, I dropped Dolly off at Joel’s house3 The fish has a delayed feeding tablet. Extra prescriptions have been filled. The plants have been watered. Projects have been put on hold, both paid and unpaid, and plans have been canceled. Even Naveed called me during the drive, and invited me to Rosella’s first birthday party, but I’ll have to miss it. I don’t like to do things so last minute, but I have no choice.

This will be the first time I’ve ever gone when it wasn’t Christmas. It’ll be warmer, that’s for sure, and I’m going from a brutal Canadian winter to relatively tropical climes.

As a woman in her 80s4 with such a diagnosis on a different continent, it’ll probably be the last chance for me to see her.

It feels like soon isn’t soon enough.

  1. I have yet to calculate the adjustment for the timing of my medications, since Hong Kong is 13 hours ahead, and the dosage for one of them is carefully tapered over several weeks. []
  2. The last time I went to Hong Kong, I wasn’t into photography yet, so I borrowed my dad’s camera and didn’t know how to use it. []
  3. He owes me a favour for taking care of Sprocket for six weeks while he was in Australia last year. It’ll be interesting to see how she handles living in someone else’s home, along with Sprocket and another dog. []
  4. No one really knows how old she is, because they didn’t keep birth records in Hong Kong for girls when she was born. I’m guessing somewhere around late 80s. She just tells everyone that her birthday is on Christmas to make it easier. []


  1. i am so sorry man my heart and thoughts are with you

  2. *wipes tears*

    I am so sorry to learn about your Grandma’s conditions, and trust me when I say I know exactly how you feel now.

    Take care, my friend.

  3. Dear Jeff,

    Be well, and I send you good vibes and prayers to you and your grandmother. Take care.


  4. I’m glad you’re going to see her. It will be good for you and for her. <3!

  5. So very sorry about the circumstances; but it’s a wonderful thing for you to go. I hope you reach her in time for it to really count.

    About her birthday…. Wow. Just plain Wow. Talk about invalidation. And we thought we had it rough.

  6. I don’t know you – I sometimes look at ur blog. I’m sorry to hear about ur grandma. My father passed away with the illness about 8 years ago and I understand where you are coming from. It was the worst moment in my life and I wish people do not go through the same thing that I did seeing someone so close suffering like that. It is nice to know that u r there for ur grandma through these difficult times as these are the memories of your grandma that will stay with you forever.

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