Monday, January 23, 2012


My dad asked me if I wanted to say a couple of words about my grandma during the reception portion of the funeral.  I said I had nothing to say.  My memories of her were few even though she took care of me when I was first born.

Moments before the reception I stood next to my parents as we watched them roll her cold coffin into the... furnace?  to be cremated.  I rubbed their shoulders as they cried and cried and cried.  Coldly I thought - this is uncomfortably too familiar.  The same funeral home, the same group of people, the same suit that I wore for a wedding, an interview and another funeral. No one volunteered to "press the button." The door shut anticlimactically and we eventually walked away from the steal walls awkwardly.. but with a sigh of relief.

My Aunt who passed away from breast cancer was carelessly shoved-in with brute force hitting the back wall... this was followed by a shriek that could be heard miles away from one of my relatives.. people fell to the ground, the earth shook, the sea level increased by three feet.  My grandma had a less dramatic exit.

I thought I did my part being a pallbearer and enduring a terrible Vietnamese mass where people thought it was okay to answer their cell phones sitting in the 3rd row.

in the 60s
Logic must have escape them.  Ironically the women screaming her hallelujahs also left her porn jingle running for 2 minutes before she could find her phone in her purse to shut it off... wait no.. to ANSWER IT.  "Excuse me, this is my grandma's funeral"  She put her index finger up to indicate "just one moment" despite the fact that my cousin was doing a reading.  The bitch hid behind the pew giving directions in a loud whisper. I was two seconds from grabbing her phone and tossing it across the room. "So rude." I said in Vietnamese 3 times as if I was casting a spell.  Sometimes I wonder.

A couple of nights before I helped my dad put together a collage of my grandma.  He printed out far too many, but we had to consolidate between two boards: classic and current photos.

The ones in black and white were romantic.  The photo on the right was originally a wallet that my dad had blown up.

In between the viewings and prayers I discovered that a random guy that was instant messaging me on downelink years ago was actually related to me... well our great grandparents are siblings or something.  It was amusing.  Anyway.

At the reception there were some heartbreaking moments.

  • My uncle sang "what a wonderful world" and broke down.  
  • My cousin talked about how Grandma caught her with a boy in her room, but never told her parents.  She said that Grandma's silence was powerful.  
  • My aunt who is now divorced from my family genuinely apologized for her wrongs and thanked my grandma for never treating her less than a person.  Her sincerity was astonishing.
  • My dad talked about how he would prepare for spankings by wearing layers of shorts or cardboard to protect his ass.
  • My other cousin told a story of when he talked to her for about 5 minutes before she asked another cousin who he was because she didn't recognize him

I really had nothing to say, nothing to contribute aside from repeating that she lived a complete life and passed at 85 with 8 children and many grandchildren.  I wrote a quick speech in my head, but didn't present it:
Every year for Tet before receiving the red envelope I would wish grandma "live long to be 100 years old" but what I should have said was "live until you've done everything that makes you happy."  
I would then elaborate on my cliche and scan the crowd for nods of approval.  But decided to let others speak more genuinely.

My mom told me that we weren't celebrating Vietnamese New Years so I didn't make plans to return, but then I was tagged in the photo above - "last minute" decision to celebrate and an assumption that I wouldn't want to return home because I was just there for my grandma.  I was very upset.  Look at that food.  It's like not being invited to Christmas.  Traditionally, we are not supposed to celebrate because of the death.  But it would have been nice to partake in one more celebration that is usually at my Grandma's even in her absence.

I was removed from New Years like I how I was removed from my Grandma's death.  It has been such a reality for me that when I heard that she passed away I only needed about an hour before I was able to continue with work distraction at my cubicle.  I guess I protected myself from grief.

Below is a picture I found of my mom with my Grandma when I was putting together the collage (what a hottie.)  It just dawned on me that I also put together photo collages for people at work who leave the company for better opportunities. Every time I put together these displays of memories I always wonder - who's next to leave the company... who's next to be removed, but hopefully only when it's their time.


Will said...

Sorry to hear about it. Thank you for sharing something so personal and relatable.

Happy New Year.

Luuworld said...

sad to hear your grandma passed away- but thanks for sharing. i liked this post- and the pic of her from the 60s is wonderful- she was stunning!

oh and this post also got me thinking how fascinating it is how much i can recognize from your life - even though you are american and i'm norwegian.

it's fun that we have the vietnamese bit in common :)

oh yeah - chúc mừng năm mới!