First things first, this post has been weighing on my mind for a while now, and I was not sure if I should actually publish it or not, but here goes.
My mother’s side of the family is extremely close. I guess that is pretty natural when you have nine siblings – seven of them sisters – and get transplanted in your teenage years to a new country. There are several March and April birthdays in the family, and there are seven of us hitting big milestones this year, so we were planning on having a big party right around now. Planning started just after Christmas, and I was really trying to see if I could go, but it looked like things would not work out since I had not accumulated enough vacation time at the new job. Life has a way of surprising you, though. Much like finding out the real-life Batman is actually a criminal accomplice, I was shocked to my core to learn that my grandfather passed away on the last Sunday of March. Calls were made, tickets were booked, and I was back in Minnesota after all.
The grieving started as soon as it happened. Profile pictures were changed, sentimental status updates and blog posts were written. When everyone came together, we did what we always did at family gatherings – we ate, we drank, we told stories. For the large part, it was like any other family reunion, except that everyone looked drained all the time, and people would randomly burst into tears mid-conversation. As we fell into a rhythm of sorts, we noticed little things – ripples my grandfather left behind – like how no one else wanted to sit in his seat at the dinner table.
As for me, I had no poignant anecdotes or inspirational quotes to share. (I actually remember remember my grandfather pulling my mother aside when I was younger and asking her when I would open up more – I have always been laconic, though I prefer to think of myself as stoic.) I did what I usually do at family events, which is to simply be supportive and pitch in wherever I saw that I could. The funeral itself was tough – I lost both of my paternal grandparents without ever meeting them, so this was my first close, personal death. I do not think things were “real” to me until I saw my grandfather in his casket.
My family is Buddhist, so there were a lot of ceremonies involved. (I am actually in the middle of a 49-day vegetarian diet as an oblation of sorts for his soul.) To be honest, though, the rituals did not do much for me. What really impressed me was all the speakers who talked about how much my grandfather changed their lives, especially my father’s eulogy. He painted word pictures of my grandfather’s accomplishments over the many phases of his life, and then went on to encompass his hopes and dreams for his children and grandchildren.
It made me realize how myopic my view of my grandfather was. More than that, though, it made me realize how stunted my life has been in comparison. When my grandfather was my age, he was a military officer, government leader, and father to four children already. I was inspired to redouble my efforts to not only accomplish my own goals, but to also to advance my grandfather’s wishes. He was much closer to Batman status than I can hope for, but I will do my best to make him proud.