Honorable Mention for the Weaver’s Knot Award in Non-fiction
When we are young, life is rosy and pink and the gray clouds of doubts do not cloud our imagination. Life seems to be an endless celebration. I had always made myself believe that we will live forever, that there was nothing in this world that was going to ever separate us from one another; I always took for granted that this was true. I remember spending hours dreaming about how wonderful my life would be when I got older. One day though, when I was old enough, I realized that this fantasy wasn’t true because death will separate me from those that I love.
Thankfully, I have only experienced losing a loved one twice in my life. However, I don’t quite remember the first one because I was too young to know what was happening around me. All I remember was being at the hospital and seeing my aunt crying. It wasn’t until the beginning of my third grade year that I started to understand the reality of death. Even though I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening at the time, I did know one thing for sure: Grandma was sick and was spending a lot of time at the hospital. Mom and Dad always took us to visit Grandma. There was just something about being at the hospital that interested me. Maybe it was the thrill of seeing so many people in white coats running around the hospital or maybe it was the sight of seeing so many diverse machines, stretchers, plastic tubes, and so many bright lights. Maybe, it had something to do with the complexity of the convoluted hallways. Or maybe, I only enjoyed it because I was just, simply, too naïve to know what the reality of hospitals held. Whatever the reason may be, all I knew was that I always looked forward to going to the hospital and seeing Grandma. Plus, whenever the nurse brought in the food, Grandma always gave me the desserts, which by all means, are my favorite part of it all.
I remember that there was a waiting room across from Grandma’s room; almost each day when we visited Grandma, my siblings and I would trot over to the room and play with the toys in the room or color picture books. Sometimes, we would watch TV. The room, I remember, was a pale, champagne color. The room was relatively huge, and there was plenty of room to move about, but nowhere to get comfortable. Then, whenever it was time to go home, I would come and tell Grandma, “See you tomorrow” or “See you later” or “Good night Grandma,” knowing, without any doubt, that I would see her again the very next day.
Then one clear, warm, sunny afternoon in September, Mom and Dad left and didn’t take us with them. Me, being the naïve child that I was, I didn’t question anything. I locked the doors and took care of my sister and my two brothers. I do not remember how long they were gone, but I remember the knocking on the door. It was my neighbor’s grandma, Ka, who was also really good friends with my grandma. Grandma Ka came in and asked, “Did you know that your grandma passed away?” As soon as I heard that my grandma was no more, her wrinkled, calm, and contented countenance flashes in my mind. Her white attire that resembled the snow clad landscape all came rushing back to me. My heart thudded hard against my chest, as I ran to her room, her bed, her armchair—all still bore the scent of the incense that she used for worship. I flung myself on her bed, desperate to hug her just once more. Unexpected tears flowed, rapidly down my cheeks. My sister came into the room, tears that she was unable to hold back, cascaded silently down her rosy cheeks. I pulled her up onto grandma’s firm bed, and we cried together, letting our salty tears stain Grandma’s blanket. Where is Grandma? Where did she go? What happened to her? There were so many questions I wanted to ask, but no one was there to answer them.
Later that night, when Mom and Dad came home, I was the first one at the door, I asked Mom, “Is Grandma dead?” Mom didn’t answer. In the days that followed, there were so many people coming in and out of our house, taking things and bringing even more things in. Things that I didn’t want or care about—the only thing I wanted was Grandma, but she wasn’t coming back, that much I knew. None of us kids went to the funeral. At the time, I didn’t even know what a funeral was. All I knew was that it was a place where the adults went, while my younger cousins and I had to stay back.
Now, that I am older, I think I finally understand death. Death is unstoppable, it comes when we are least expecting it and takes us by surprise, freezing us in its presence. Some people take death as a curse, while others take it as a very long nap. It is like an invisible shadow looming large, yet, unfelt and silent. This is what makes it so powerful and frightening. As I reflect back on this particular event, I realize that even though death may separate us from the people we love; death can’t take away our memories of them. Some days, though, when I am by myself on a quiet, autumn day, when the cooler temperatures have already swept in over the summer’s waning heat and the leaves are bursting in bright hues of hot red, glowing orange, vibrant yellow, and earthy brown against a deep blue sky, I will stop and I think, for just a minute, about what might have been, if we were able to live forever.