Friday, January 16, 2009


my grandfather was a pretty tough man. he was born during the first world war, was raised an adopted child, studied japanese during the occupation, suffered the loss of a spouse (the most stressful event of life), brought up 6 children, survived a heart attack, quit smoking cold turkey, was a fan of oprah, and lived to the ripe old age of 80.

he suffered for a good couple of years before he died of hepatocellular carcinoma. at one point, he couldn't speak. so he asked for a pen and paper and wrote all his thoughts down. he was his usual, humourous self right up to the day he left us and never failed to make his children laugh every time they visited him in the hospital.

a month or two before he died, when he was at his most critical and in the most pain, he wrote that he wanted to see my cousin get married, my sister become a good lawyer, me go on to achieve fame. i was 14 at the time, a long way off from even considering a future career as a doctor, but he was still convinced that he'd live to see me do great things.

he eventually died peacefully in his sleep, alone because he insisted that no one stay behind with him that night.

it was only during his wake that i knew what his baptism name was, and that it meant "the one who holds everything". for the first time, i met the people who brought him to sunday mass every week. we sang his favourite hymns and every person who came had tears in their eyes and a fond story to tell.

even now, 10 years on, my heart aches because i miss him so.

what amazes me still is his fighting will to live, even while battling a terminal illness that diseased his entire body. i was too young and too selfish to remember much about the circumstances in which he died but now that i am surrounded by old, suffering people every day, i can pretty much guess how much pain he must have been in during those last days.

and yet he never mentioned anything about dying. he spoke only about living.

lishun at 5:39 PM