On 6th January, when I was working in school in the morning, I saw a whatsapp message on the family chat that my maternal grandfather passed away. According to the doctor, his breathing slowed down gradually and he passed on peacefully. The hospital put pneumonia as the cause of death. He was in the hospital for about three weeks. During that period, it was very painful to look at him suffer, trying very hard to take every breath, dried up blood in his mouth because they extracted the blood in his lungs/he was coughing blood and swollen limbs. It was not the first time that he was admitted into the hospital, but during the previous times, he managed to pull through after his stay in the hospital. On this third time, he didn't.
My maternal grandfather has been staying in an old folk's home for the last ten years. He went in March 2006, when he was diagnosed with dementia, and could no longer control his bowels. Before he went into the old folk's home, a maid was hired to look after him. But he is not an easy man to take care of. My grandfather was a traditional man. He smoked, he cussed and he drank stout. He preferred boys over girls. As the oldest grandchild, he has never showed me any signs of concern. I was mostly ignored. I guess it was good that all my other cousins were male. It is very painful to think about why he didn't like me at all, and why he has never showed me any sign of affection. I used to get quite upset when I see im showing my brother signs of affection. In particular, he liked to rub the earlobes of my brother and my other cousins. I often wonder what he has gone through in life to result in such prejudice over females. I also wondered how did he managed to get a wife if he didn't like females. I guess all these doesn't matter anymore. He had a tough life, losing his wife to cancer, having to support four young children by himself. He lived as a widow for about 30 years. That's a long time for someone to be alone. Maybe that made him bitter.
Maybe it was because of this, I had very mixed feelings about my grandfather's passing. I am glad that his suffering has ended and he is in a better place now. He had not been able to eat anything, and he was put on enteral feeding. He could no longer enjoy his food, and he was on the bed the entire day. His leg has lost its muscles and it was stiff. He was having having an infection on his toe for the longest time. In fact, that was the the reason he was admitted into the hospital for the previous two times. He was itchy all the time and scratched himself till he bled. Every time I went to the home, I felt a pang of sadness. At the same time, it was very difficult for me to feel affection for a man who has always ignored me. I hate that I don't feel a sense of kinship with a family member.
What was interesting to me, was the wake. I previously took a module on Religion and Society and I am taking another module on Chinese Religions this semester. It was very interesting to me the kind of rituals that happened in the wake, be it religious or not. My grandfather had a Taoist wake, and everything was very systematic. You just had to choose what religion you would like the wake to follow, then everything is settled for you. The main thing was the payment. In this case, I felt that there is a certain alienation in the process. We were purchasing the products for the wake like a normal commodity, and it was a strange feeling. I had always thought that it would be a very emotional process, but the most emotional period for me was when the vehicle bringing the coffin to the nunnery to be cremated played a sad Buddhist song. I believe that at this period of time, people would be thinking of all the things that has happened between you and the person who has passed on. Although I felt very very sad, I didn't have much memories. This made me even sadder. :( I was thinking about the meaning of such rituals. In a way, my grandfather's passing has brought the maternal side of my family closer, especially when you are stuck with each other in the funeral parlor for that few days for the wake. It is interesting how a family members leaving and result in a closer bond in the other family members. That made me feel a sense of awe, and I hope that the family will develop stronger feelings of kinship through this.
My grandfather and I were never close, but today, I would like to dedicate this post to him. I hope you are in a better place, gong gong, and thank you for bringing the family closer.