(5 Minute Read)
My grandparents have been around for a long time. As I'm typing this, he's 91 and she's 93. Before they retired, my grandpa was a postman and my grandma was a teacher. When government workers retire in Taiwan, they get a hearty pension. As a result of this, they have a stable retirement and can afford to hire a caretaker who's lives with them full time.
I even heard my grandpa say they couldn't finish spending all their money. Good for them. I grateful that my grandparents have financial security and don't burden their kids with money problems.
The best part is that I get to visit them. Once a year for the past three years, I got to see them for a week or two, and last December was the only time I had to pay for the flight myself! My relatives are extremely generous.
One of my favorite things in the world is being a goofball and making my grandma laugh. When she realizes that I said something silly, she gently looks up at me with this adoringly slow reaction and smiles so wrinkly it warms my soul.
I love kissing her loudly on her cheeks, warming up her cold bony hands with mine, or telling her how pretty she looks with that fur coat on.
Lucky for me and my brother, we are her favorite grandkids. It wouldn't surprise me if, literally, the only time she smiles all year is when my brother and I go to visit. It's a sad thought.
My grandma cries every time we fly back to the states because she's scared that our goodbye's really mean goodbye. And the truth is, she might be right.
Thankfully, for the last three years, she's been wrong. Somehow, she's held on. It's sad to see her health decline so rapidly. In just one year, she seemed to shrink in half.
All my life I felt removed from the idea of death. I mean, I still don't know what being at a funeral is like. Growing up as a kid, I tried to wrap my head around the idea of life, death and the existential questions would shake me to the bones. I couldn't believe it. I denied the fact that one day, this would all end. How could this powerful force of life just stop in its tracks? It didn't make any sense.
But that's life.
The truth is, most of my family has a hard time dealing with my grandma. And I don't blame them. She's demanding, complains a lot, and nothing is ever good enough.
She's in physical pain, but even worse, she suffers from self-induced mental and emotional pain. But, my grandma has always suffered.
Through adulthood, she lived in a negative state most of the time. When things were wrong, and they always were, she was quick to fire off a slew of blaming and shaming. Because of this, my grandpa got depressed and had to move out for a while.
At the end of our lives, our true character shines through. It's rawest form takes place.
Who knows how we'll deal with dying? You just don't understand. You don't know what it's like to feel so weak you can't even put on your own socks. Or to struggle just to take a shit. And then need someone to wipe your ass for you. You can't really prepare yourself for that.
But if you've always suffered, you'll keep suffering. What's worse is you'll bring other people down too. What we do and who we are affects other people. A lot.
Life is not just about us.
Every choice I make affects the people around me. I hate the fact that my sloppiness irritates my brother, or how my poor spending habits worry my mom. Sometimes, pain can motivate you to change.
The Silver Lining
For the last two years, every time I said goodbye to my grandma, I rejected the thought that this could be the last time I said those words to her. Instead, I forced a smile and said, "Don't worry grandma, I'll be back next year!"
This year was different. This year, I sat with her and cried.
It was painful, and as I cried, I pushed away the fact that she's really dying. But I couldn't deny it anymore. I saw it happening right in front of me.
Then came a beautiful moment. It happened when I accepted that she was dying and for that split second, I looked into her teary eyes and felt a peace so serene you could hear a pin drop. It was as if every drop of fear left me for a single moment.
I wish I could cage that feeling for safekeeping, but I can't.
Death is really weird. We spend our whole lives embracing, magnifying, and experiencing this ever changing force of life. It’s the same force that flows through a seed and pushes it to sprout and grow. It's almost like our body is just a shell for life to borrow.
Anyway, for the last three weeks, I lived with my grandparents, and the whole experience was one big reminder. That life is too goddamn short to suffer. It sure was sobering.
I should call my mom and dad more, cause one day they'll both be grandparents too.