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Laugh With Me

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What I've Been Up To, Part III

The pointless food pictures beat goes on and on and on...

Just kidding, I have somewhat valuable things to say every once in a while. Especially in this post.

A couple of days after my birthday, my parents called me at seven in the morning, which is a warning sign in itself because they know I can't physically wake up until it's past the AM. They told me that my grandfather was in critical condition, in the ICU, the whole family was summoned in the middle of the night, and that they were booking plane tickets for the next day.


That's literally what it felt like. After the emotional roller coaster of my birthday, this was just one more slap in the face. I was mindlessly running around all morning doing who-knows-what. Sobbed to my RA, tried to figure out my passport/visa/ride situations/e-mailing professors/trying not to go insane. The whole day was a blur-- lots of hugs and words of condolence, shocked looks when I casually said "I'm going to China tomorrow!"

And the next day, I met my sister at the SFO airport and flew to Hong Kong. We met our parents there, went through the sketchiest process getting to the mainland and to my uncle's house.

{ dimsum in the Canton region - nothing better. }

There was an exaggerated attempt at normalcy - going to the restaurants that we normally go to, shopping and doing the things that we usually would. We visited my grandma everyday, as we always do. But there was something missing. Something big. My grandfather's armchair was always empty, he was never there to welcome us, smiling and clapping. I never heard him tell me that I gained weight [lovingly, of course], never heard him ask about school. I never felt him squeeze my hand when I reached for his, never got to write a message to him in my chicken-scratch Chinese handwriting on his white board. And it was intensely painful.

{ Peking duck, "mouth-numbingly hot fish," beef noodle soup, egg tarts }

We could only enter the ICU for an hour every day, and only two people were allowed in at once. Seeing him was hard. Connected to a million machines, bloated from fluids, obviously in discomfort, his skin parched, so immobile unlike his usual active self. He just wasn't the grandpa that I knew. But it was also seeing him like that that eventually helped me prepare for the inevitable. I didn't want him to be in pain, didn't want him to be in that state. 

That one week in China held innumerable profound moments for me. I learned so much, hurt so much, accepted so much. I had so many realizations about life. Cried so many times, dealt with more than I ever had to, matured emotionally. It was one of the biggest life lessons that I wish I didn't have to have.

{ fancy dinner with my mom's childhood best friend }

I had to leave a week after I arrived because of school. My grandpa passed away two days after I came home. I was fortunate enough to say goodbye. It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. The only hope that I held onto was that he would know that we were there, that we love him, missed him. I held onto the knowledge that he was someplace much, much better and that he finally wasn't burdened by his paralyzed leg. I imagined him playing sports and being active as he always wanted to be. When I received the horrible news, I went outside by myself after receiving many hugs, and stared at the stars, which were especially bright that night.

{ yummy meals }

I was thankful. For the time I had with him, for the chance to say goodbye, for having such an amazing man as a grandfather, for having such a figure as a role model. It was a reminder to live life to the fullest as he did-- to love with all your heart, to make the best of every situation as he did, to be silly when you want to and serious when you need to, to be kind to everybody, to take risks, to love noodles. 

{ a sister date at Hui Lau San - my favorite dessert place in China! }

And frankly, it's still weird that he's not here. It is strange to think that he is a lot farther than a phone call away now. I was thrown a completely new perspective in life. We had dinner with two of my parents' childhood friends and to hear them reminiscing about the time of their lives growing up, to hear them talking about situations that sound so weirdly familiar to my life now... To hear them say all of that, but to also see how different their lives are now-- it's insane. Life is insane. It moves forward so quickly and you try to hold on to what you can, but it just slips away from you too easily.

{ going to the HK airport on a ferry by myself }

Time's a fickle thing. Life's interesting. And fate-- fate is the most complicated of them all. I honestly believe that my grandfather and I were fated to have had the experiences that we had together. It was fate that threw us together as a family. I was so lucky to have had him in my life and will honor his memory for as long as I live.

{ the sky clearing after a stormy morning at sea - profound. }

Rest in peace, Grandpa. I miss you. I love you. 

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xx Caroline