Last week, both of my mom’s parents passed away. It’s a confusing thing, losing grandparents. If they lived long full lives, we are taught not to feel too sad or shocked when their time comes. We are taught to say that they are better off, unburdened by the ailments of sickness and an aging body. But there is still that abrupt sting and the ensuing ache that something important is now absent from the world.
It’s a strange feeling, putting your love into people, illuminating them in your mind and heart in this way, and then seeing more and more of these lights extinguish as life rushes forward. I’m still close to the beginning of this journey, but already see my world dimming from the loss of these lights. I can only imagine what the world looked like to my grandparents after losing so many.
Ah-Da was 98 and Ching-Ma was 103. Long and full lives for sure. I couldn’t have asked for more inspiring grandparents. Ching-Ma was the boldest and freest spirit. When only boys in her village were allowed to go to school, cute little Ching-Ma cut her hair, wore her brother’s clothes and found her way to class. When she was caught, instead of apologizing, she convinced her father to change things and make education available to her and the other girls of the village. When a marriage was arranged for her, she ran away, walking miles and passing inches from the giant carcass of a tiger. She was the stuff of myths.
And thank God she wanted to seek love, because she found it in Ah-Da, who shone with a light as bright as hers. A journalist, he held our family together for years by writing a weekly newsletter about every branch of our family tree. He’d call to gather information, tap it all up on his typewriter, and send copies to each of us. As a little girl I adored these smudgy letters, where I could see pictures and read stories of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and could see how my own story was a part of my extended family’s.
I’m so grateful to my grandparents for sharing their stories with me, and I want my life to be a continuation of theirs and my parents’. Ching-Ma lived bleeding bravery and Ah-Da recorded all he saw. My mom was full of feeling and my dad is full of thought. I want to nurture these things in my own soul. I want my nephew, future kids (if I’m ever woman enough to push some out) and everyone thereafter to have insight into where they came from. That’s a big part of why I write. My [potential] kids will never meet my mom, but I have journal upon journal from her that I plan to share with them. Through her words, they’ll be able to experience firsthand how funny, how sparkling, and how special she was.
I too want to share what I go through and learn with whoever cares to know. And I’d love others to do the same. Only you know your personal history. Tell it to someone. Write it down. That's why I write: because I think life is for recording and processing, not for rushing through. Author Natalie Goldberg said that writers live twice. And what a gift that is! Whenever I lose someone, I’m reminded that life is by definition temporary. And guys honestly, I'm so in love with life. It’s hard, and it hurts, and it’s risky and uncertain, but it’s all we have and it’s the most precious thing. It’s everything. That’s why I’ll always give it my all, even if I have no idea what I’m doing. I don't totally know what I'm doing. But that's okay. Let’s not waste this. Let's light up the lives of those around us while we're here, and let's leave something beautiful behind so the world isn’t too dark in our absence.