Barely two weeks after she turned 82, my grandmother Nana passed away last March 30. Honestly, it was not completely unexpected since she’s been in the hospital since January and 90% of such time she was in the intensive care unit. She suffered a stroke shortly after the new year and it took a toll on her heart. On all our hearts, truth be told.
I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to say this, but Nana’s death was such a beautiful and profound experience. I don’t think I can fully articulate the experience, but all I know is that I was a changed person after the death, the wake, and the burial. Of course the grief and sadness was ever-present, but it was just amazing how, even in death, Nana was able to unite us all. Each family member – Nana’s children, grandchildren, extended family members, and family friends – drew strength from each other and I think we all unanimously tried to pass on that strength to Tata because no one is more affected than him. After all, they’ve spent a total of 64 years together. I am reminded of a tidbit I wrote in January:
You know how when you look at some couples, you kind of have an idea on who loves who more? That is not the case with my grandparents, Nana and Tata. They might just be the only couple I know who seems to love each other practically equally. I remember a fleeting moment I was lucky to have witnessed some time ago: Nana and Tata were sitting on their chairs as usual and out of nowhere Tata looked at Nana and just stroked her hair and swept it out of her face. It was such a small, almost unconscious gesture, but undeniably full of affection. I realized these moments are what make up a marriage; the constant evidence and fond reminders of a life built together.
Nana’s passing away made me realize that there’s no limit to how you can touch other people’s lives. So many people turned up during her wake, each with their own story of how Nana Way, as she was fondly called, was a part of their lives. A couple, family friends who have not been in speaking terms with each other for the longest time, even got back together after finding out about Nana. Even in death, Nana still touches lives and leaves a positive impact.
A few weeks before Nana passed away, their neighbor who’s a tailor approached one of my aunts and told her about how Nana has already ordered her dress for her time comes. He said Nana chose the design herself. When we saw the dress, we were astounded; it was very Nana – beautiful and regal, yet still simple and never over-the-top. Even in death, Nana never settles for anything less.
The day Nana died and when my parents and aunts did the funeral arrangements, they were surprised when the owner said Nana already arranged for how she wants things to be for her funeral. Again, we were all blown away. Even in death, Nana still took charge.
On the day of her interment, not a single eye was dry. It was a testament to how much Nana was – and is – loved by everybody around her. It was such a pain to see Tata cry so much but I will always remember how the whole family was there to support him all the while. I guess love and pain just always go hand in hand.
I couldn’t stay every night during the wake because of my early-morning work everyday. However, during the few nights I visited, I learned so much from just observing the people, especially our family. Perhaps my biggest realization was that each person copes with death in their own way and you have to respect that. You can’t impose on people on how they should deal with loss and grief. Most importantly, you can’t judge others just because their grieving phase is not the same with yours. Each one copes differently. But the important thing is each one copes. It is probably no linguistic accident that the word “cope” is just a letter away from “hope.” Even in death, Nana teaches us life lessons.