It sounds like a profoundly stupid thing to say, but you know, when someone dies, you never see them again. Ever. It’s a strange feeling to be able to look back in your memory and say that is the last time I saw, and ever will see, this person.
On New Year’s Day, my grandfather, my Mom’s dad, had a stroke and fell into a coma. As the hours and days passed, the hope fell away that he would ever come out of it. My Mom and her sisters flew out to California to see him, and I visited him twice. He held on for nearly six days, but he passed away Tuesday night.
People have asked me, “Was it unexpected?” And I answer, “No, it wasn’t.” He had Parkinson’s disease for many years, and recently had moved into an assisted-living community because of his declining physical health. But truthfully, it was unexpected. It’s always unexpected. Despite the fact that he couldn’t walk anymore, that he could barely see, and even despite the fact that he had had more than one close call over the past few years, nothing really prepares you for that call from your Mom saying, “Gong Gong passed away at 10:45.”
I cried, some. I cried for my Mom, and the look she had on her face when she came downstairs on New Year’s saying, “Gong Gong is in coma.” I cried for my Aunts, and how one of them couldn’t look me in the eye when I came to see Gong Gong for the last time. I cried for my grandmother, and how she kissed Gong Gong on the forehead when she left him just hours before he passed.
I once heard a quote that went something like, “When someone dies, you cry because deep down, you’re glad it wasn’t you.” While I don’t necessarily belive this, I knew that part of the reason I cried was that no matter how many people around me have passed away, it never feels any less scary.
But when I find myself thinking this way, I realize that, for Gong Gong, I don’t think it was scary. His last words before he fell into the coma were, “Hao shu fu,” which means, “So comfortable.” He died in his sleep with his daughters at his side, after living 93 years and seeing the birth of 12 grand children and 4 great-grandchildren. And I think that perhaps he had been ready for it for a long time. So, unexpected? Yes. Scary? Maybe not. Gong Gong’s finally at peace, and he’ll be remembered with love by us all.