Thursday, August 19, 2010

saying goodbye

A few days ago, I found out that my grandfather has passed away. It is odd that I feel sad as I am not close to him. Nor am I particularly saddened by death in general. I am happy that he has gone, I believe he's in a better place. And after the story that my father told me, I believe he chose to go at this time.
My grandfather was a hard working coal miner, living a very modest life in Taiwan. His wife passed away when my father was just a boy, and he worked hard to raise 3 boys on his own. I don't know much about his life, but I know that during my grandfather's childhood, into his late teenage years, Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese. As a result of that, grandpa could read and understand Japanese. 
For the better part of the last decade, my grandfather lived with liver cancer. He used to come and stay with us for months at a time, and underwent treatment for his cancer. Although he never beat it, he still lived a very active life. His philosophy was kind of like "if I'm gonna die anyway, I might as well enjoy myself in the mean time." I saw him as a strong man, and though he was reticent to show any kind of emotional affection, he always did stuff for us, that showed he cared.
Once, when I was very young, he took me on a bike ride to go visit with someone. During the trip home, he had stopped to buy me juice because he knew that I had never tried it, and thought I would enjoy it. Then, when I was a teenager, visiting Taiwan again, he surprised me and my sisters by riding into town to pick up a case of a special Chinese soda we all enjoyed. Then, during one of his later visits to America, he also brought us some special treats that we never asked for but he noticed we had enjoyed during our stay in Taiwan.
It is odd to me that people grieve the dead. I believe that we grieve for ourselves, and not for the loss of life the other person experiences. Life on Earth sucks, and maybe we should celebrate the dead and grieve for the living.
I am not religious. I'm not Christian, nor do I believe in the Heaven/Hell concept. I believe that the soul lingers after it leaves the body, similar to a Buddhist concept of reincarnation. 
The passing of my grandfather makes me sad because I believe that he did not experience all the joys that there are to be experienced. I am sad that I got to grow up in America with all the luxuries that our country enjoys, while he lived poor and suffered much hardships in Taiwan. It makes me wonder what makes it that someone gets everything and someone gets nothing.
I'm not trying to get all philosophical or anything, it just makes me think.
His memorial is to be on September 12th. My family will all travel back to our home country and meet to do the customary things that Chinese people do when someone dies. I am not going. I don't feel the need to go.
I was never close to my grandfather. I never shared intimate laughs with him or talked of past and future. My grandfather did not play a huge role in my life growing up, but stands for the strength that my father brought to America, and the sacrifices that parents make for their kids to have a better life. I love my grandfather. I feel closer to him now than when he was alive. I am at peace, and I feel like he is happier now on the other side.

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