My grandmother passed away on 11/11/16.
She had the strongest will I’d ever encountered in a person, which perhaps was the bedrock for her ability to say ANYTHING, out of love – including the things that no other person would say.
This was often dreaded by me, and my insecure, sensitive soul. She would say all sorts of things that I didn’t want to hear – about my appearance, my life choices, my finances, my relationships. It didn’t matter if you weren’t ready to hear it and certainly mattered not if you welcome the criticism. It was coming when she wanted to tell you, whenever that may be. But I suppose when you grow more mature, you are able to see more of the love and less of the criticism. Or we just grew to understand each other better. She understood that she needed to say things in a gentle tone and to verbalize that she loved me, every single time we talked. I would visit and try to show her that I understood what she was saying in my few mandarin words, though she spoke english and cantonese. She would always pat my hand and say she was proud of me.
And even though I was always causing trouble with my selfish actions, trying to find my way through life even when it lead me away from family, there was a huge part of me that wanted to make her proud. Actually all of us grandkids had that desire. When I graduated from college, moved out and finally bought a brand new car, I felt I had finally reached the point where I could say that I did what I could to make her happy. I was taking care of myself, and would be in a position to take care of others.
While that made her so happy, to see me grown up, making the “right choices”, in my heart of hearts, I think I know now what really made her happy was the ability to love others, more than myself. But of course, you don’t understand that till you spend your last minutes with someone.
This year, I spent a little less time with her than I had the other years I had lived in Norcal. Her health had been fragile for some time, and the past couple years, every day we had with her was a gift. I was ashamed that I wasn’t working for the first part of the year, and to be honest, I wasn’t happy or proud of my life. I was lonely, unemployed, worried about finances and still single. I didn’t have happy developments to share about my life with anyone, let alone my harshest critic.
Maybe this year, I withdrew not just from her, but from people in general. I spent the last day of 2015 alone, recovering from the flu, watching TV. That carried into more days than I would have liked this year. This is not the person she wanted me to be, nor the one that I want to be resigned to.
On her last day on earth, I drove through the night from San Jose to Sacramento after a full day of work. My worries about my new job and being responsible followed me the whole way there, intermixed with tears about knowing the time to say goodbye was finally here, after all these years. The girl who I had become and wanted the approval of others was worried about missing a day of work the next day, but a voice inside of me kept saying “What is wrong with me? This isn’t as important!” I knew, this was it. There were no more days together. No more phone calls to say “Popo, I love you.”
I got to the hospital and while her heart was still beating and chest still breathing, we wouldn’t see her eyes open again. But I could touch her face, hear her snoring for a few more hours. To say to a body and soul, that I loved her and to thank her for everything she had done for me, to make me who I am today. To be brave in doing the right thing, to put others before yourself, left nothing unsaid so that others know what you feel and think, to care for family even when you don’t feel your best, to work hard so you can be a resource for others. This woman she had worked hard to invest in, allowed her self to be pulled under the tide and waves of 2016.
But on the day of her memorial, I stood before my whole family and testified to not just who she was as our family matriarch but who she was as child of God. The rest of my family who didn’t acknowledge God as the creator and sustainer of their lives, were the ones I reminded that God was the one who ultimately my grandmother desired for them to know. I also acknowledge the faults and shortcomings in me that they all know well, and showed them that those things don’t define me of who I am – Christ, my hope and savior does. I needed to come to the surface instead of choosing to drown amongst difficult circumstances in the other parts of my life.
When I said goodbye to her, I had no regrets – she and I left nothing unsaid to each other because of our common salvation in Christ. Our trust in God had gotten her through blood transfusions, canker sores, strokes, pacemakers, high blood pressure…it had gotten me through divorces, rejection from friends, crushes and potential employers, difficult confrontations, moving away from my family to a city where I’m all on my own.
Her reminders to me still pop in and out of my mind day to day. And in the wake of an incredibly difficult year, remind me of who I am. They remind me of all the love and sacrifice that have been invested in me by God and my family, to help me to face the unknown and difficult things in life that are still to come. I suppose this is the beginning of my understanding of leaving a legacy, of leaving this earth behind with marks that you were there. Because she leaves behind a strong legacy. There will never be another Doris Lau. There is sorrow about the reality that she isn’t here when life seems dark and lonely, to feed me and pat my hand as she says “I know….I know God loves you.”
She truly is in my heart, and the Lord has used her to shape my future, to make me the woman I am and am going to be. I want to remember everything she’s taught me and live that out. I remember who I am, as a child of God, and as her grandaughter. She lives in my heart and reminds me, that come what may I know the way and know how this is going to end. We’re both going to be together, in Heaven, some day.