Monday, April 23, 2007

Life and death

Today (23 Apr 2007) marks the 3rd year anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death in the lunar calendar! Ya, I might ask...why must I emphasise on the lunar calendar. Well, I was equally confused when I was told that the taoists practice the ritual of counting an extra year for the person's death anniversary (in the lunar calendar) as opposed to the Roman calendar. You see, Grandpa left us suddenly on April 15, 2005. And according to the Roman calendar, it was supposed to be his 2nd year of commemoration. But no, according to my aunt, who is a strong Taoist believer, we have to have some sort of 'celebration' for him to mark his 3rd year in the 'other' world. Hence, today is supposed to be the exact day of his passing on the lunar calendar. Odd heh? Well, since Grandpa was a Taoist, I just went along with whatever needed to show my respect to him. How I miss him.........

We gathered at Grandpa's house early in the morning today to take part in the rituals in paying our respect to him. Then we adjourned to the front of the house for the incense and paraphernalia burning ceremony. You know, the ever-famous huge paper house with many 'servants' inside. And cars and clothings and hell-notes (I never liked the usage of the word 'hell'. Why cant they say paper money or something like that?) and many other 'essential' items that Grandpa needs in the 'other' world. It was indeed a culture shock for me because it was my first time in witnessing such event. (Fyi, I'm a born Christian and I've never taken part in any Taoism rituals, including this one) Anyway, I went along with whatever the Taoist master told us to do. All for my love for Grandpa. Kneel down, stand up, bow down, walk around the paper paraphernalia and eventually witnessing the burning ceremony and hoping that Grandpa would be able to receive what's been burned for him.

Picture 1. - Getting ready for the 'burning' ceremony.
Picture 2. - Grandpa's 'properties' in the other world
Picture 3. - Everything gone to Grandpa.

I was not there when he passed on. In fact, no one else was. Grandpa just collapsed in a coffeeshop one usual morning and he didnt regain any consciousness after that. Doctors confirmed that he died of a heart attack, even though he didnt have any history of heart disease. He was 77. He left without any of his loved ones beside him. We were all devastated by his passing. In fact, mom still cries every now and then whenever Grandpa was mentioned in any of our conversations.

I was not present at all during the rituals and his funeral. That's because I just gave birth to Zach exactly a week before that. Grandpa never got the chance to see his great-grandson. And I didnt get to bid him goodbye because apparently, I was forbidden to even attend his funeral, for superstitious reason. How ridiculous! But then in order not to aggravate the already-saddened atmosphere, I had to abide by the 'rules'. Hence, my absence among my family members in sending Grandpa off on his last journey. A week before that we welcomed Zach into the world. A week after that, goodbye to Grandpa! How life and death played their roles in our family that week!

So, that's 2 years ago (3 years in the lunar calendar). How time flies.
I can still remember how Grandpa used to stand behind me while I peeped through my card during our game of Blackjack during CNY. He would sometimes help me with drawing the cards, hoping to get a good return for our bet. Ya, we would place our bets together and share the rewards after that. That's how I always remember him. His ever-smiling expression whenever we made some 'profit'.

Another thing that will always remind me of Grandpa would be times when his face lit up whenever we bought him his favourite drink - Anchor Ice. He used to say that he gets the 'real' kick from it, as compared to other types of beer. How I wish to see him smile again for that.

Also, the time when he would secretly ask me to buy him his black-colored hair dye by passing me the sample box of his preferred brand. Grandpa was very vain when it comes to his appearance. He would make sure that not a single strand of white hair was visible, and so he would always sit in his room busy beautifying his crowning glory!

I can also still remember the times when he was in the hospital bed, quietly lying down, eventhough we knew that he was in deep agony after his surgery to remove the cancerous part of his stomach. He never uttered a single sigh of pain eventhough he was obviously in great agony. Grandpa was indeed a man with a few words; even when he was in excruciating pain after his surgery. Just imagine this - an old man in his 70s going through a major operation in his stomach! We cant even stand the pain of a prick on our finger, let alone a deep cut in the stomach! He went through that agonising stage of his life and continued to live on for several years after that without his cancer returning. Deep behind our minds, we all thought that cancer would take his life one day but never expected that heart attack instead was to be the culprit.

Having faced with Grandpa's sudden death has somehow thought me how to show more of my love to those around me. Mom, dad, hubby, Zach, sister, brother, extended family and friends. It hit me real hard at that time that I will never get to see Grandpa ever again. No more buying him Anchor Ice. No more giving him pocket money for his weekly 'bah kut teh' or 'roti canai' breakfast with his friends. No more smelling his breathe of Hudson Hacks. No more buying him his hair-dye tube. No more smelling his Brylcream-ed hair. No more everything of my beloved Grandpa. He's the only Grandpa I know all my life for my paternal grandfather passed away when I was only 2. The only person I affectionately call "Ah Kong". We might have lost him, but we shall never forget him inside our heart.

So, one simple yet important lesson I learned - Show my maximum love to those I adore and not hide it inside me for I will never know when will be the last time I see their smile, hear their laughter, talk to them, call them, kiss them, eat with them, etc. In short, as it might sound cliched, NEVER TAKE LIFE FOR GRANTED!

* This page is dedicated to my beloved Ah Kong - Ng Heng Chiok, whom I'll always remember and continue to miss * May his soul rest in peace and May his memories continue to live in every one of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren*

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