My Grandfather’s Death

My Grandfather passed away at the start of this week, on 25 June 17. The funeral was completed today. My Grandfather’s death taught me two things, (1) Regret and (2) Appreciation.

When I was young, my parents brought me to my grandparent’s house weekly. My grandfather would never fail to buy my cousins and I a tube of mentos sweets each and we would happily finish the entire tube in the day. As I grew older, we grew more and more distant.  Weekends became precious time to do what I want to do, to go on dates and hangouts with friends. Eventually, I only saw my grandparents during Chinese New Year and special family occasions like weddings or first month of new born babies.

When my grandfather was in ICU, I was very sad and I felt like I should have visited him more. Especially after having a baby and seeing how my parents and my wife’s parents, who are my baby’s grandparents, dote on him. I begin to realise how excited my grandparents were at my birth, and that they probably loved me as much as my parents loved my baby. I told my grandfather that once he has recovered and got back home, I would bring my son to visit him. Sadly, he didn’t make it. My grandfather’s death made me realise the amount of regret I have within me for not spending more time with him and not bringing my son to visit him more.

When my parents told me that the doctor asked for a meeting between my grandfather’s children, and that my grandfather might not make it, I felt terrible. It was unexpected. The first day when I visited him in the ICU, he was all smiles to see me. He raised his hand up and I took it. He spoke a lot, but I didn’t understand anything as he has difficulty articulating his words from the radiation therapy for cancer sometime back. But he was happy to see me. The second time I went, he was in a foul mood as the doctors had tied him up as he was trying to remove the breathing apparatus. He was delirious and probably didn’t know I was there. The third time I went, it was after we knew he might not make it after all. He had been given painkillers and he was sleeping peacefully with his mouth wide open to breathe. He didn’t wake up enough to know who was around. We spent the whole afternoon with him.

That evening, I went to see my son, who was with my in-laws in this difficult period. After dinner, I got a text that my grandfather might not make it. I rushed down in my car, praying and tearing. I wished I can make it in time. When I reached, my parents asked me to hold his hand and tell him I was here. His eyes were closed, seemingly not conscious. Yet after hearing that I was there, he grabbed my hand. That was the last piece of love that he gave me, and I would remember it for the rest of my life. It was fortunate that almost the whole family came. His daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren. We all came to see him one last time. After some time, he seemed to be sleeping peacefully, and his children went to the lounge to rest. My eldest cousin noticed that his breathing was more than ten seconds apart. The nurses came to take his heartbeat, nothing. They brought the ECG machine in and it was recording 40+ beats per minute. Then 0, and we were bracing for the worse, and then it went back to 40. But it was not to be. Everyone rushed back to his bedside as the number dropped to the 30s, 20s and finally 0. The doctor came and pronounced him dead.

It was a peaceful death, and he passed away with most of his family beside him. I begin to appreciate the importance of family, and felt comforted that we all were there with him till the end. In some sense, it was his good fortune to have a huge family of people who all care for him and would drop what they were doing just to return to his deathbed.

For the past five days, the family united together. My grandfather had opted for a simple funeral ceremony based on his religion. While not everyone in the family belonged to the religion, most of us came together to conduct the daily prayers from 8 to 9pm. We chanted to give him the blessings and good karma, in the hope that he would be re-born into a good family. It was then I started to pay more attention to his religion, which my parents also were in due to my grandfather. But the main thing was that everyone came together, united in the belief that our prayers would bring him towards a good rebirth. The one hour prayer session wasn’t easy. It was long, but no one complained.

In the middle of the five day funeral, we also decided to reminisce the past. We got mentos for each of his grandchildren. Mine still sits next to me untouched, keeping it as a way to remember my grandfather a little more before I start to eat it.

The funeral had been completed and my grandfather cremated. We will not be able to see him anymore, but I took heart that he has taught me more in his death. I will spend more time with my grandmother and bring my son to see her more. I will also appreciate the family moments that I have, knowing that we cannot anticipate when the shared memory will be the last. I will also teach my son about his great grandfather and hope that he will value family and his own grandparents more than I had, so that he will not have any regrets.

Gong gong, thanks for the love. I love you, and I will always remember you.

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