By: Revanche

Saying goodbye from afar

February 2, 2008

12 hours ago, I missed my grandma’s funeral. I couldn’t attend because it all happened so very fast — my family in Vietnam wanted to have everything taken care of before the Lunar New Year, and they’d been overrun by hundreds of people wanting to pay their respects day and night.

Grandma was an immensely practical woman, and I can’t help but think that this is probably what she wanted: efficient proceedings, and not to have her kids and grandkids in America to rush back to her funeral. She knew that everyone worked hard to make ends meet and that, many times, meant we couldn’t afford to go back as often as we liked to see her. I regret that. I regret the lost time and experiences and stories we could have shared if only we were geographically closer.

That’s not to say that many sacrifices weren’t made to see her. Over fifteen years ago, my parents charged thousands of dollars on credit cards to send us kids to meet our Grandpa before he passed, and again a couple more times to visit and get to know her before it was too late. It took them years to pay those bills off at a time when they were struggling to launch their business, and markedly affected the already numerous obstacles they faced as first generation immigrants. They never told her the dirty details, I didn’t know for years, but she probably knew and respected my parents for giving us time together at great personal cost.

In that light, I realize that the thousands of dollars of debt I paid for them during college was nothing compared to the memories I wouldn’t have if not for their willingness to take on debt for the important things in life. I didn’t resent doing it at the time, but now I better understand some of the factors that contributed to the debt and appreciate that they knew that there are times you forget the money and be with your family.

What they gave me, knowledge of and a relationship with my Grandma, is absolutely priceless. There will be nothing more important, nothing more honored, in my memory than the sight of her smile when she first saw her two stranger grandkids from America coming up the drive, bounding out of the car through the red mucky clay that serves for dirt to fold our arms and say Hi Grandma! in the traditional Vietnamese greeting. I can’t even remember if we hugged her, I just remember her enormous grin.

Knowing about the woman and her steel core from Dad’s stories simply pales next to meeting her, seeing her iron control over her farm even through her eighties and matriarchal influence over her family. She was a wonderful woman, and you never crossed her because she was invariably right, and never failed to point out right from wrong. There was never a doubt, in anyone’s mind, that she always did the right thing whether or not it was difficult, profitable, or less than advantageous. Right was right, and that’s all there was to it. How could I not hero-worship someone like that? Someone who you’d expect to be resented for being a woman from the early 1900s, completely unafraid to speak her mind, and devoted to seeing things done right, well, and up to her standards by everyone around her? She wasn’t dictatorial, but even the Americans and Viet Cong respected her during the war, and we know the old adage that war respects no one. From across the ocean, I had and have much to learn from my Grandma, and I’m so grateful that I got to know her.

I’ll miss her greatly.

5 Responses to “Saying goodbye from afar”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. sabrina says:

    Your beautiful eulogy is really touching!

    Please don’t forget that you’ve inherited that same “steel core”–that inner strength and integrity that gets you through life’s difficulties, time and time again! When the going gets tough, let your memory of your Grandma inspire you to keep going!

  3. The loss of someone as special as a Grandma is so awful. I feel for you.

    It’s been almost a year since i lost my last grandparent, and I still think of each one of them every day, and hurt for the world’s (and my family’s) loss.

    It’s tough, but you’ll make it. You have to!

  4. My thoughts are with you hon…

  5. Memories of my Grandma will definitely remind me to stay strong and keep going. I don’t think there’s ever been an instance in her life when she didn’t face the odds and walk right on.

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