Recently, there was a death in my family. It wasn’t the first time; my grandpa had passed away last July and I would say that that was the first-death shock factor. I was stunned. I remember going to work and not being able to talk much to anyone and not being to stomach much. As the coffin lowered into the ground, I remember silently weeping among the sobbing relatives I had. I remember looking to my father, the stoic, strong, and unbreakable man, and saw wet eyes. He was too strong to cry, but I could tell that he could feel it too.
For my grandpa, the last two years of his life were spent inside a hospital room. His children would come visit and my dad would insist that we should go spend time with him. He wasn’t alert usually. In fact, I spent most of that time sitting by his sleeping body, reading through emails and texting Vincent. I remember spending weekdays, weekends, in that hospital by the mall.
For my grandma, the past two years have been as they were prior. Granted, things were getting more difficult and there was a lot more pain in the form of surgeries and treatments, but she was able to be apart of the family. Just this past December, she participated in our family gettogether and even last month I remember sitting next to her on the couch as she asked me about work and living in the city. Perhaps I’m still not able to fully grasp that she’s no longer with us, but I remember her sitting up — alert — and writing to us that she wanted to have ice cream the day before she passed.
There I stood in the hospital room, watching her weakening body and I was speechless. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak. I watched her take her last two breaths, yet I still feel like it hasn’t quite happened yet. There I stood in the empty chapel, looking at the casket and wishing that she could ask me one more time how I was able to speak Vietnamese so well to communicate to her. And still, I did not move; I did not speak.
This time, when I watched the coffin being lowered into the ground. I cried, but not as hard. It wasn’t because I didn’t love grandma as much as I loved grandpa. I loved them both and grandma was even closer to me because we shared multiple conversations together. She was the one who would hug me as I would leave and say in English, ‘I love you very much’ as my brother, dad, and I would leave the house. Maybe because I felt so connected to her I don’t feel bad. I know she was a good person who lived a good life and I have to fear of what’s next. I thought I might be a little soul-less when I didn’t feel my body heaving from crying so hard. But maybe the natural thing is to come to terms with a beautiful soul departing this world and to set them free.
As I get older, I’m starting to realize that love takes the form in many different ways, at many different times. There’s no singular way to honor a love but in the only way you know how to do it best.