My brother and I deal with death and solemn situations in the weirdest way ever. If you've ever met us at a funeral, you'll notice that we like to punctuate the silence and the awkwardness with lame jokes and inappropriate comments. 😅 Not sure why but pretty sure it's our own coping mechanism when the good offering of condolences get a little too much to bear.
We also have this too logical take on death. Whereby unless it's a long life cut too short or something that came without a warning, we tend to not feel too sad because if life has been lived and is a fulfilling one, then sometimes extending it to prolong the torment and sickness might not be a good idea anyway.
I'm also a firm believer that rituals, funerals and all the rites of passages done after death are more for the living than the dead. But I pretty like my dad's take in it too. Which is that he's not sure if all these rituals work, but if they do and he didn't do it, his mum is gonna come and fuck him up real good 😅 which is why he does it.
All this points generally means that I'm quite…Unfeeling? At funerals and can come off as curt or just….Heartless?
Which is why I surprised myself when I was tossing and turning in bed last night, unable to fall asleep and thinking of my nainai.
My grandmother has had a real real real gangsta life. Whatever action she had in the first 20 years of her life is more than whatever I will accomplish in all of mine.
I once did a University photo journ project on her because she was so so so interesting and I actually passed with flying colours simply by sharing her story.
Apparently while I was nursing my fever and missing the wake, my aunt's and uncles were sharing stories of how badass she was.
Examples include…Flagging down a cab and asking them if they would take her to her destination for $10 flat. No meter. If not she'd tell them to fuck off.
Or…Chasing after my dad with a chopper when she knew he bought ripped jeans 😅😅 cos only hooligans wore ripped jeans back then 😅😅
But most of the part, all I remembered was how she would always call my name "Li Ying" with that thick Cantonese accent and such endearment that it was the only version of my name I liked being heard called. Noone else calls me Li Ying (hence Chow) and noone else calls me Li Ying the way she does.
I also remember all the Wang wang and red aluminium foiled wrapped chocolates that she would buy for us even when we turned teenagers and after that, young adults, when we met her.
It was as if to her, time never moved. And I'm not sure how, her chocolate wafer biscuits and Salty crackers made time stop for me too.
I'm happy that part of her lives in me. 10 parts stubborn, 3 parts like a boss and 1 part can't give enough fucks about what other people think.
And I'm happier to have heard more of her stories from my relatives and my brother's so it seems like I knew her better.
During the last few years of her life. She really didn't get to live the way she wanted and sometimes told us on car rides that the best thing for her now is to pass on peacefully.
I think she's really in a better place now and no matter which side she's on, I hope it's a place with great mahjong kakis, an endless supply of stout, durian and cigaretted. And a healthy, painless body and a carefree soul.
I think out of all my grandparents, I've always had this fascination with my grandmother the most because there's always been so much hush hush around all her stories, but truth to be told, it's also more of how the stories portray her to be a strong, fucking badass and fierce woman, but the nainai I know only calls me endearingly, showers me with gifts and asks me, in Cantonese, to eat more.
And I guess that will be the nai nai that I'll always remember, albeit laced with all the little stories that when put together make her so special and…cool.
See you soon granny! Thank you for everything you've taught my father (including not to wear ripped jeans or you'll rip it to shreds) and for all the knowledge that has trickled down through him to me. I hope the mahjong is good up there and that you're finally finally happier now.
I'll miss you.