Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Secret Garden of losing a grandparent

The phrase "Never forget where you come from" really has a deeper meaning. When we forget where we come from we forget who we are, where our features came from and where we are most ourselves at.

Recently I flew back to my home land where I was born and raised by my grandparents until I was 7 years old, my mother and I received news that my grandmother was in the emergency room in critical condition. Until I got there it never really hit me that she was in a bad condition, the moment we got off the plane we zoomed off to the hospital. There I greeted my poor grandfather who was drowned in tears and I walked in to the room where my grandma was. Her body was covered under a thin blanket which only showed an outline of her; her stomach was extremely over sized and her body was so fragile that just by grazing her arm I felt like I was causing her enormous amount of pain. Her left hand was black and swollen, I could see the marks left over from the stabbing of needles, little drops of blood was trickling down slowly under the saran wrap like material that was holding the needle in place.

It felt different to see her that way, my grandmother was a strong person, a person who never gave in to pain and always held on for the very last fight, she was a trooper, a fighter, she was my hero.

The doctor said that she was unconscious and she showed no signs of movement but when we stood by her bedside and told her that we were here she moved her left hand and tapped mine. Just like when she tapped my mom's hand with her left foot when she told her that she was here to see her.

As I sit in my room reminiscing the memories of my time with her I have a lot of regrets, how I could have been more nice to her, spend more time with her, call her every Sundays, and involve her more in my life are all the things that I could have done. One thing I know I did correctly was telling her that I love her, every time I called her, I told her that I love her because I had a friend who always told her mom that she loved her when they hung up the phone. She wasn't a very good friend but she taught me something; tomorrow is unpredictable so express our love for the ones we secretly care for the most so that way when they leave our side they know how we felt about them.

I gained so much knowledge about myself from this experience, that being an adult is not as glamorous as it's advertised to be. Being an adult meant holding my grandfather while he shed his tears, being a shoulder to cry on for my mother, accompanying the adults as we held my grandmother's icy cold body for the last time, seeing the limp lifeless body that's supposed to be censored for the young eyes, watch helplessly as they slid my grandmother's corpse into the cremation oven, and being in front row to see her bronze skeleton row out of the chamber after the process. Being an adult meant there was no mercy for the eyes, I had to endure the raw images along with the cruel reality of death. Being an adult meant giving empty hugs and kisses to those who never cared from the start and biting my tongue when I wanted to curse them for faking their tears. For my young age at 18 I saw what most people can only see in movies, it was painful but it helped me mature.

So remembering where we came from is an important thing to remember. My hair, eyes and body structure came from my grandmother. Her silky smooth hair stood out like a sore thumb in the old pictures, the complements I get on my features are all thanks to her.

Before I left Korea I promised her that I'm not going to cry anymore, crying will just drain my energy and only bring sadness. I promised to stand tall with my chin up and keep marching forward, to live the life that was given to me by mother, and accomplish everything that I want to accomplish. I promised to make her proud and show everyone that this is who I am and that I can be even more, I am my grandmother's granddaughter and she raised me to be the best I can be. To not let my tongue spit poison but let my actions rise above those who try to bring me down.

Yes, I've learned a lot from my grandmother's passing and like I mentioned before.. time is a precious, precious thing. Time will not wait and it will not show compassion. time will ride on without accommodation. Which is why within this short period of time that we have here on Earth we must grasp the moment, live every second to our fullest and give our all at everything we do.

My grandmother's death was unavoidable, it was going to happen now or later. But I truly feel that it gave me a new perspective on life. I still have a lot more years to go and I'm going to live it well.