A Hundred Days
A hundred days ago, on 14th April 2010, Grandma’s soul finally left her body for good.
I’m not saying it like this for poetic reasons; my grandmother’s health had deteriorated so much over the past six years, her emaciated body seemed too light for the soul that had refused to leave her beloved family behind. There was that one time when she was in the ICU unit, more than a year ago, where she bid all of us farewell. She told us, rather calmly, that she was going back to her hometown with her mother. The entire family—her children, grandchildren, brothers, and godson—were there, and we were devastated. I thought she was going to go. For sure.
But she changed her mind.
She was released from ICU and went home to celebrate two more Chinese New Years with us, even though she spent it in bed, humourless and in pain. Grandma was the matriarch of the family. The family gatherings revolved around her because, more often than not, she was the life of the party. Grandma, with her witty comebacks, raunchy jokes, delicious homemade meals, and unconditional love, was the best grandmother in the world. I had never once wished I had someone else’s grandmother, and I wouldn’t even be so sure about that with my own parents. In fact, I wished everyone had my Grandma.
Because my parents worked, I spent most of my younger days with Grandma. She was the first person I see when I woke because I shared her bed. She was my lullaby. She was my hairstylist: two long braids today, beautiful French braids the next. Sometimes, she would make me sit in front of her while she brushed my long, wavy hair. She was my make-up artist whenever I had school performances. She was my personal chef because she planned our meals for the day according to my mood that day. She was my tailor too. Cloth hats, dresses, pyjamas, blouses, skirts… you name them, I had them. But then, one day, I grew up.
I wanted my own bed, in my own bedroom, and eventually, my parents and I moved out when I was 19. I kept trying to straighten my hair and cut it in layers, and dyed it blonde. I found her make-up too outlandish and insisted I do my own. I ate out with my friends after school every day. I started buying my own clothes to try to fit in. As the days grew into years, I spent less and less time with her, finding it a chore to make my own way down to visit her. I only got to see her during our family gatherings, which was actually pretty frequent. Even when she was diagnosed with COPD six years ago, I hardly made the time to spend more time with her.
I knew she was dying and I couldn’t cope with that. To me, she would never grow old. So each time I visited her and saw the disease eating away at her flesh and her soul, I tried to avoid it the best I could. I never learnt how to operate the oxygen machine that had kept her breathing properly these recent years. I never cooked a single dish for her even though I knew how to cook. I only visited her about 60% of the entire period of time that she was ill.
I wasn’t beside her when Grandma breathed her last feeble breath. I was half an hour late. At her wake, I didn’t wail in pain like the rest did. But I knew I have lost the one person who loved me the most. I teared for the childhood I’ll never experience again, for the closeness we had whenever she stroked my hair, for the evenings before the first day of the Chinese New Year when I would help her put money into the red packets, for the times she defended me when I misbehaved, for the answer I couldn’t give whenever she asked despondently if I were going to get married before she died. For the moments of hesitance whenever she asked if I were happy.
I am relieved she is no longer in pain. And I know, for every single thing that is going smoothly in my life right now, it is because she is watching over me, my very own guardian angel. She brought me up well, and I will do her proud.