To me, death wasn't a fear. It only meant that people were gone. That was what I was told when my grandfather died.
It was August, 1994. I was still living in Quebec at that time and I was just playing on the computer on paint, because my brother and my parents were discussing something downstairs. I was drawing a card for my grandfather for his birthday, as I was told to do.
A little flowers here and there... I was only six at the time. When I was almost done my drawing, it was then that my whole family came into my brother's room, where the computer was. I remember looking at them with curiosity, wondering why their faces looked so grave. Then my father told me four words that I still remember, up to this date. The weird thing was, I still did not understand those four words back then.
Your grandfather passed away.
I remember asking my dad what dying was and I remembered him telling me that my grandfather went to a better place. Then I asked him if I were to meet my grandfather again and I began picturing the new home where my grandfather would be living in. Surprisingly, my father said no, and I began to cry. I loved my grandfather, and to this day, I still do very much.
I remember flying to Hong Kong a few days later and staying there for a week, getting back to Quebec right in time for school. I cried when I went to the funeral, but not because I knew the meaning of death, but because I knew that I was never going to see my grandfather again.
It was on June 1998 that my grandmother slipped on the floor and hit her head on the floor. Immediately, without question, we all flew to Hong Kong. We arrived at night and we went to our hotel, then took a shower and rested. The visiting hours were already over. In the morning the very next day, we took the taxi and went to her hospital.
I saw her lying weakly in her bed, her head shaved, a hole in her throat. I was told it was there so that she would have an easier time breathing. I could remember myself clearly going over to her and holding her hand, telling her that I wanted to have afternoon tea with her once she gets better. She smiled and agreed immediately. It was the first time I had felt such love from her.
Like most Chinese, their family did not show a lot of love. I knew that most of my Caucasian friends were given hugs and kisses everyday, and I was jealous of that, of course. I have never had a kiss or hug from my parents, at least not that I remember of, and I have never seen my parents kiss. My grandmother never showed me much love and rarely talked to me, unless it was to yell at me for doing something wrong. That was how my family was.
She was doing pretty well and I remember telling her every time I went to visit her that we were going to have afternoon tea together really soon, and she rarely talked. But she always smiled weakly.
I stayed in Hong Kong for two months and on August, I went to visit my grandmother one last time, and I heard her whisper my brother and my name quietly and slowly, as if she was in pain. I remember looking back and deciding whether I should say 'I love you' or not, but I decided that whatever happened, I would still see her again and that I would always get my change to say that.
Unfortunately, and unknowing to all, that was the last time I have ever seen her. Even now, I can remember her weak smiles and I can remember her whisper out my name painfully. I flew back to Vancouver with my brother and mother, my father staying in Hong Kong with my grandmother.
It was a Friday, on a rainy day in November that I came home and played with my computer, checking my email and talking to the little people I had on my ICQ list. Anyway, I was having quite a bit of fun feeding my neopets until I mother came to my door and told me four words again.
Your grandmother passed away.
I remember looking at my mother in awe and shock, until after a few minutes of staring contest, I fell off my chair and started crying. I remember crying until the night fell and I remember faintly my mother patting me on my shoulder.
I remember her telling me something that made me feel betrayal towards my parents, "Your father told me not to tell you this morning. He said it would ruin your concentration at school. Your brother knows already and we are flying back to Hong Kong on Sunday."
I felt betrayal because she told my brother when she first got the news and not me, I felt betrayal because she thought I couldn't handle it. By this time, I still didn't know what death was, not too clearly.
I cried all Saturday and early morning on Sunday, we flew to Hong Kong for the second time that year, breaking my family's unspoken rule of flying to Hong Kong only once every two years.
We went to her funeral and I cried the whole three days. It was a Chinese tradition that I did not understand. We were to burn gold and silver paper that were used for money in the after life for the first two days, and on the third day, we burn more money for them, and then we burn a paper house and two paper servants for them.
As they pushed her coffin towards us, I told myself that I would not cry, but I did. The second I saw her peaceful smiling face, I felt salty tears roll down my cheeks and I remember suddenly running out the room and into the washroom, sobbing for what seemed like an eternity before I came out.
Two weeks later, I returned back to Vancouver and continued school as if nothing much had happened. There were times when I thought about my promise to my grandmother that I would start crying myself to sleep and have puffy eyes in the morning, but other than that, everything was going back to normal.
It's been four years and five months since then. I would have dreams of visiting my grandparents when I was young, I would have myself dream of them in a house where I only had to get there by opening the ceiling to my dining room and climbing up the stairs and I would see them. As I grew and as I matured, those dreams became rarer and rarer.
It's been four years and five months since there and I can still remember my grandmother's smile and her whispers. It was after my grandmother's death that I was able to grasp the actual idea of death. My grandfather was my first relative to die and I was too young to be affected, but my grandmother's death affected me much more profoundly.
Since my grandmother's death, I've changed my outlook on a lot of things. No longer do I cross streets without looking, no longer do I do things that would cost me my life, and no longer do I think time is nothing.
My grandmother's death taught me that humans are really fragile and they can pass away any moment, whether you're expecting it or not, whether you're ready or not. Life is really short, and we should all live our lives to the fullest. Her death taught me that when I want to say something, I should say it and not wait until later so that I would lose the chance.
I love my grandfather very much, and I love my grandmother very much too, and I will forever do so. For now, I will print this out, and while I do so, I will go to my parents room, and if they are not sleeping, I will tell them that I love them a lot.
Life really is short and humans are not as strong as they seem. Live it to the fullest and don't be afraid to try out new things. You only have one life to do everything you want to. Take the chance and do whatever you want.