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It is true, the body never forgets.

And sometimes I think, the universe too. For every July seems long, hot, and oppressive. I will feel hot and bothered, tired and sticky, sad and unbelieving. But then, I guess July’s weather seldom change much.

However, this year is a bit different. Lyra has been told about Ferdinand, so we can all finally talk openly about him. Also, instead of staying home and drowning in grief, we ventured out.

We went to the Grafton Peace Pagoda. I had read about it in a magazine, and last week while we were out picking blueberries at a farm about 15 minutes away from it, we decided impromptu to drive by the pagoda to have a look. It was such a beautiful setting and I could feel peace while walking on the grounds, I decided to go back on Ferdinand’s anniversary, perhaps to sit on one of the many benches on the site and write Ferdinand a letter.

It was supposed to be a hot day so we planned to arrive early. We decided to walk to the pagoda via the “natural trail” instead of up the driveway. It was a lovely walk, full of greens, and we saw quite a number of cairns along the way.

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When we emerged from the forest, we were greeted with birds chirping, butterflies fleeting, and bees buzzing.The peace stupa stood regal against the blue sky.

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We decided to explore the grounds a bit more, using the verdant paths that some kind and wonderful volunteers must have carved out and maintained:

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After that we found the nun who takes care of the peace pagoda, Jun Yasuda. She first invited us to go to the prayer room for a simple welcome ceremony. We kneeled on mats while she chatted the peace prayer Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo three times, bowing deeply each time. Then she asked where we lived, our names, and so on. I explained to her that we were here because we visited briefly on Saturday and found it to be so peaceful we wanted to be here again on this special day, and was hoping to be able to volunteer for a couple of hours, in honor of Ferdinand. She was very compassionate about it. She showed us to the shed, where we helped to pour sand into various receptacles that will serve as luminaries for Hiroshima Day. Lyra was so happy to be the one to drop a tealight into each receptacle. Jun-san (as would be the way to respectfully address a Japanese) was surprised that we accomplished that pretty fast and asked if we could transport two buckets of gravel located on the steps of the pagoda to a commemorative peace pillar and spread the gravel around. The buckets were pretty heavy so it was team work together with the wheelbarrow. The girls saw some weeds on the ground surrounding the pillar and decided that we should weed as well, so we did just that. When we were about three-quarters way through, Jun-san told us to please stop and come to the prayer room, where she conducted a simple but beautiful flower-offering ceremony for Ferdinand’s spirit. She had cut 12 stalks of flowers growing on the grounds and put them in a bucket. Once she started beating on the drum and chanting, we took turns to pick a flower from the bucket, and then go forward to an altar table to put the flower into a vase, and then bowed three times. Jun-san told us we should bring the vase of flowers home.

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And then we were invited to the kitchen for a simple cup of cold barley tea and some cookies. There she told us about the peace cranes and the wonderful people who come to visit the peace pagoda. The stories were just amazing.

We went back out to finish spreading the gravel after tea, and then we took the vase of flowers and went home.

We were hot and tired from our work, but we all felt a sense of peace washing over us. It felt good to say his name out loud and have someone hold his name gently, and our grief so compassionately, without trying to explain it away or be told to not feel sad or to move on. During lunch we all agreed that we were glad to have gone to the peace pagoda. Val even said she feels she is not so sad anymore. Sophia and Lyra did not say anything. Val asked how I felt.

I could not really answer, because I still felt that choke in my throat and tears welling up. I felt more at peace, but I still felt sad. I think, that sadness will always be there, but it may feel less strangling. That sadness is just my body feeling love and longing for my son, the star voyager.

Still missing you deeply, Ferdinand, and hoping you are happy where you are. We all love you.

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After seven years, July still surprises me, how much it still hurts.

After seven years, we still miss you ever more.

Every July, I awaken with hopeful alertness in the middle of the night. Before I open my eyes to the dark, I will tell myself I need to look sharp, in case I see you, for I am sure you will disappear in a blink and I must imprint that image of you deeply in my heart.

But you never visited, even though I felt so intently that you are close by.

You are so far, and yet so near.

You are our star voyager. Far, far away, we cannot reach. We cannot touch. We cannot hold. We cannot kiss our little boy, and pinch his cheeks,. Yet between us we silently toss you within our hearts, cradling you ever so fiercely yet gently. When we sing, we hope the echoes of our voices reach you wherever you are. When we read, we imagine you must hear the stories too, and marvel with us.

You would have been seven. A child probably all excited about his birthday celebration, thinking balloons, cake and presents. Maybe trucks, maybe fireworks. Perhaps dinosaurs, or spiders, or a treehouse. Mud, ice cream and tadpoles. I do not know, I only imagine.

But I never really try to imagine you as how old you ought to be. You are either the baby whom I held, and did not want to give up to the unknown; or you are the grown-up boy who comes a-knocking on the door, always a dream and forever a fantasy of mine. I think, trying to imagine every year how you ought to be, is just too much for me. I just want to have you tiny to hold, or big to really bear-hug.

July is a month on the calendar, always coming after June, never out of line. Yet it always arrives with a long, hard stab. And then it never fails to be a long month, hot and slow. It is a month of memories. I treasure the time to re-visit all those lovely moments, when we anticipated you. And it is good to have the time and space to sit down and let the tears flow, because the truth is, I do not always allow myself the time or space for tears during other times of the year.

Your sisters, they miss you too. Often wondering how it would have been like to have a brother in their mix. Your littlest sister, she is unaware of you yet. Or is she? I cannot be totally certain. But I have not introduced you to her yet. I wanted to make sure she is old enough that she will not just feel sad and scared, but instead will have a sense of amazement and admiration for the brother whom she never met. Maybe next year. Sometimes I think she will just tell me, “I knew him all along. Ferdinand. Star voyager.”

I have nothing more to say. Still the same things, Ferdinand. We miss you, and we love you, forever more.

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Five years.

I have nothing fresh to say. No new insights. No fresh relevations. No wisdom to share. I have walked but have not veered onto a new path. There are no shortcuts, no new vistas, little consolation.

To be fair, time does slowly exert her effects of a slow numb. Life inevitably piles on distractions so you sometimes forget about the wound a little. At times, the memory will seem so distant you feel you are looking through a frosted glass to a movie on the other side, the story of another, but not of yours. The screams muffled, the contours blurred. Only when the movie on the other side has ended will you realize you have your hand over your heart, throbbing and aching.

I still miss him, terribly much. But I do not always find the time or space on a daily basis to remember. I still experience disbelief. I still sometimes look around and wonder, where is he? Where are you? I still have the illusion that I have somehow absent-mindedly misplaced him, somewhere.

This is the first year we spend his birthday out of the country. Here, everyone wants us to forget and forge on. They want us to be whole again and to stop hurting. I did not make a cake, it is just impossible to swallow. Instead, I made a donation in Ferdinand’s honor to the Tibet Water Project to bring clean water to one of the poorest parts of Tibet. He was born dry. I hope others get to enjoy clean fresh water in his honor.

I am seeing a delayed grief response in S. She was almost four when Ferdinand was born, and did not fully grasp what was going on. I have seen her experience very intense emotions last year and this. She even wrote a story that to me was her effort to make reason of what had happened. Needless to say, it broke my heart. But there is nothing to do but to roll with the punches. I just hope she can find closure faster than I do.

I wish I were a better shiny example of how to walk this path, but here I am, just trudging on.

How we miss and love you, Ferdinand. Happy Birthday, our brave little star voyager! I am sure you are twinkling at us right this very second. We love and miss you, forever.

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Yesterday afternoon I speeded through my blog reader while Lyra dangled off my breast, her face and body limp, her snores interspersed with the clicking sound that the mouse makes when I scroll down pages, and click on links. I think I am sort of up to speed. I made a couple of comments where I felt I could say something with an iota of meaning; some other times I still cannot find the right words, or felt too much time had passed to say anything significant. I am still subscribed to too many blogs (I don’t believe those of you who even subscribe to grammar blogs, and you know who you are!) because I still live under the illusion that I can create time and that if I read a creative blog I just may one day start knitting a kilt or something.

Another thing. I noticed many of you have slowed down writing too, especially those who do not stand too far from me on the time-line of grief. I hope this means we are spiraling out and some healing is going on. But maybe it just means we simply have to dust off the shit and get on, even if the wound is still gaping. I know in the past weeks I have experienced several times intense re-visiting of my grief, when I felt the clouds, dark and heavy, standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking out the light, and I did not feel I could breathe. I still sense deep pain in my heart, and disbelief that this is me, and this is my life. I lunge forward, my fists reaching with clenched determination to punch a hole through the dark cloud wall, and it felt soft.

In fact, this morning I thought: sheesh, I do not miss him less. I am missing him even more.

::

An uncle of mine, uncle A, died last Saturday. It was peaceful, he was at home, surrounded by family. It probably was a release for him, having suffered from severe dementia the last several years and being recently diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He underwent a colon surgery and then developed a lung infection and suffered several days for that. Then he was discharged. And then I think he decided enough was enough and his body began to shut down.

He had always been quiet and reserved, a rather shy man. I was never really close to him as he seldom shared much, but he would never say no if approached for help. He had always been nice to me, and he will be greatly missed.

It was hard when he had dementia. He became impossible to reason with and often he seemed to be in a world of his own, or perhaps a resilient bubble that we simply could not break through. Sometimes it was hard to be patient with him. Sometimes we forgot to be kind because we felt tested.

What I’ve been thinking is: do we treat someone nicely only if they can treat us back nicely? For some time, uncle A did not treat anyone nicely, because of his dementia, his condition. But before that, he was just this gentle-mannered man who always had a smile lurking on his face. But sometimes it was hard to remember that somewhat elusive smile, and get frustrated by his unreasonable (and baffling) behavior and… not be nice to him.

His condition was dementia. I think we all have a condition: stress, grief, insufficient support, lack of appreciation, low self-esteem, self-loathe, etc.

And it is not always easy to see that someone is experiencing a condition, and still needs to be treated as nicely as possible. We somehow become our condition in other people’s eyes.

And so, in honor of uncle A, I vow to see past your condition, acknowledge it, and still see who you are, beneath that condition.

::

It is crass, I know, to put it here, but it ties in with the theme of this post.

This year I am trying to find ways to generate an income. I have thought about what I can do, if I still wish to stay home with my children, and especially if we continue to homeschool. I have been away from the work force for ten years. Prior to that, I taught in an art college, worked in an art gallery, free-lanced as (art) translator, and was also a teaching assistant (although at that time they gave me an overblown title of “Visiting Scholar”). I have basically stepped away from the art world the past years. Some things simply did not resonate with me anymore. I don’t think I will ever step back in again. My translation assignments had slowed down (to zilch), but the children are growing and it will be good to have a secondary income.

I have looked at books for small business ideas and none appealed to me, mostly because I do not like to sell things. I have been a salesgirl before in my life and I know it is not something I will excel at.

So, I am trying to maintain a food blog that will hopefully generate income. The good thing is, I will have all my favorite recipes in one place even if the blog does not rocket to star status. (And frankly, I’m a little intimidated by what is already out there.) The bad thing is, I almost feel like I need to sell my soul. I need traffic, period. The more the better. Will you please visit my food blog, and tell people about it? Hopefully people will like it and eventually become not just regulars, but friends. I will try to be civil, but I am not sure I can promise, because I have my conditions sometimes.

Maybe I’ll see you there?–

My Sweet Life

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Last weekend Val had her first choir concert and it was full of excitement and insanity, equal parts. She fell sick the morning of the (two-day) concert and it took a grand orchestration of human will, parental intervention and heavenly grace to make her first concert come to realization. She was so excited, we knew she would be crushed if she was not able to attend, especially when she had a small solo part for one of the songs.

So it went fine and I nearly crumbled watching her stand composed and tall on stage, singing her part, adding her voice to the chorus. How she grew these past eight years I have no idea.

I thought too, of the years ahead, the many milestones yet to come. And of course I thought of Ferdinand, the the many milestones I will never get to see. I wore my special necklace to the concert, wishing to feel something against my chest. Even though I do not wear this necklace often, it has come to feel very natural on me.

On the drive home after the concert, I felt deep aching for Ferdinand’s absence, and thought to myself, Am I going to stay broken hearted for the rest of my life? Will I be like one of those old women I have read about, and exhale, upon my last breath, about being happy to finally see my son? Isn’t it futile, and contradictory, and self-defeating, to keep thinking of the could-have-been’s, when I have made peace (or so I thought), with his absence?

A day after, I decided to put an end to my internet search for a nice winter coat. It was not an urgent affair, I decided, and moreover, I need time for other things. Also, I realized, I don’t need another thing to be complete, to be happy, for life to be perfect. I have so much, truly. And I told myself, you have all you need. You are fine, you are so fine. You need to look within, not without. You do not need these external things to be perfect or happy.

With that conclusion, the heartache eased away.

And then the following day I was paying for our groceries at the oriental market when the cashier, an elderly Vietnamese lady, studied Lyra intently and then asked, “Girl?” and I nodded. She then swept her gaze over the two older girls and said, “Three girls, three girls! You need one more– a boy!”

Taking my receipt from her, I pondered for a few seconds if I should tell her this: “I do have a boy, but he’s not alive.” But I just nodded, smiled, pretended not to have heard, and left.

And then today, while preparing to exit from Trad.er Joe’s I heard someone call my name. A mutual acquaintence I have not seen for a while since the girls stopped their swimming lessons. She exclaimed over Lyra, not having seen her before, though she made the mistake that she was a boy–

“Oh, look! He is smiling! You finally get a boy!”

And again, I turned and walked away, after smiling for no good reason.

It does not matter what I think, I will forever and always hear such comments from others, who think that my life is simply not complete, and not  perfect, because I am lacking a boy. Some even go so far to comment that I do not have a boy despite having three girls already. Apparently, three of the same thing is imperfect and lacking; there is a need for an opposing gender in the mix. I do not wish to explain. I just feel I will always be this perfect imperfect. One’s got to come to acceptance to what has passed, and I think I do. But it does not mean that others will leave me alone with their unsolicited comments and judgements. And so be it.

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My relationship with my in-laws have always been polite and pleasant. They treat me well, and with respect. They are open-minded, good-hearted folks who loves to try new things and to travel. They are mostly supportive of us. But, we live on different continents and do not communicate much. I mean, me and them. (R calls them maybe once a month and they’ll talk for about an hour, catching up and all.) They do emails but not very often, and mostly they are busy with work in their own yard (keeping sheep, chickens and having lots of vegetables and fruit trees. My MIL makes fruit jams from their harvest and they are just the best stuff) so we do not talk much, especially this past year. Below is an email I sent them this morning:

Dear D, dear L,

I hope all is well with you and all in Lotte. R told me you recently went for your vacation at the castle, I hope you had a fantastic time and we look forward to hearing about it.

I am not sure if you remember… but we are fast approaching Ferdinand’s first anniversary. This month has been very hard for me, not just because of the heat and having to drive the girls some place (Chinese camp, or gym class or swim class) every day of the week; I also have a translation assignment (tough one) to work on, while grappling with memories and emotions that are just brutal to deal with. By now, most people have forgotten, expecting us to “move on”, to have forgotten the shock, the hurt, and the grieving. But, how can we ever forget?

One thing a fellow bereaved mum said struck a chord with me- she said she did not want to become a smaller person because her son died. She wants to become a bigger person.

Sometimes, it is easy to become that “smaller” person, as we feel angry, hurt and being treated unfairly. Sometimes it is not just the hurt that Ferdinand’s death occurred, but also the reactions of people around us, the things people have said, the things people have done. Yet, it will be so unfair and silly to become a smaller person because our children died.

So, there is an initiative out there to perform “acts of kindness” in memory of our lost little ones. To do kind things in honor of them, in remembering them.

I received some money from a recent translation assignment and I donated 10% of it to an education fund in Singapore, as well as an organization that is dedicated to saving wildlife. I donated these in Ferdinand’s name. I did ask R if we would make a donation to an organization here in the US but he said we do not have the budget. It is ok. I know we handle things in different ways. When I asked him if he has any ideas what to do on Ferdinand’s birthday, he was reluctant to talk about it, saying he is not sure he wants to “re-live the trauma.” I can understand. Only I feel in shying away from pain, we make it worse. Moreover, the two girls remember Ferdinand very much, misses him very much. I do not want to let July 29 pass by in silence, as if he did not exist. Indeed he still exists, only it is in our hearts.

We’ll be up at the cabin this weekend. Sunday, July 27, was the day we found out he had died in my womb. We will remember him. We will make a fire and burn the drawings that the girls have made for him. Since yesterday, I started a 40-day meditation** that is supposed to bring healing to myself, and to all those who need it. I hope in doing this meditation, I am also performing an act of kindness- to myself and to others. I also hope, in doing this meditation, I initiate healing in myself, and in others who need it. I have a large box of paper cranes that friends made for us last year, after Ferdinand died. I would like to do something with them- string them up with beads and give them to the local hospital to hang in the memorial garden. But right now, I do not have the strength and energy to do this, but I hope to complete this project by year’s end.

If you like, please think about this idea of “acts of kindness” in the coming days, and remember Ferdinand with us. It need not involve money. Even just being kind to yourself, and to people around you, is good enough, if you are thinking of Ferdinand.

Regards to everyone in Germany, especially to Horst, please send our warmest wishes of recovery to him.

Janis”

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I can tell you one thing for now: peace attracts demons, of all sorts.

** This meditation I am doing is known as the Ra Ma Da Sa meditation. I have done it several times before but never truly realized its significance. Right now I do it following the CD by Snatam Kaur. I knew about her when I accidentally heard a song sung by her. It brought tears to my eyes, the purity of her voice and how she interpreted the song. I really like the power of her voice in this meditation. If you go to her website you can hear the meditation being sung as well. More about the meditation here.

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popo

Popo means “grandmother” in the Hainanese dialect.

When I say grandmother, I am talking about my maternal grandmother, for I have no connections whatsoever with the paternal side of my family.

This letter I write, for my two girls:

My dear girls,

I love talking about popo. I think it is important that you know more about her. Without popo, there is no mama. Without mama, there is no you. One day, you may sit in a circle with other women, as I once did, and introduce yourself as such: “My name is ________. I am the daughter of blah-blah-yada-yada and I am the grand-daughter of popo.”

What I think you ought to know about my popo, whom you call po-dou :

~ She is Love. When my mother handed me to her, a tiny one-month-old baby, she had to be prepared to nurture a small baby by bottle, through the night. It has been seven years since her last child was born. There was no guarantee that money will be sent every month to buy the milk powder. And at that time, the family was not exactly in great financial shape. Not bad. Not starving. But still, it was one more mouth to feed. And this mouth also later needed clothes, time, and attention too. (And later, she developed a huge appetite for paper, and lots of books.) She took me in, her heart bursting with love and compassion, and, sorrow for my plight. She let me sleep in bed with her until I was ten. I moved a lot in my sleep, often kicking her in the process, but she never complained about that. The first night after I slept with my mother when we lived in the same flat, she called popo and asked her, “How could you sleep with all that kicking?” and popo replied, “You just get used to it.”

Afraid of the dark as a young child (and now I need to sleep in total darkness, how things change), I would always wake her up in the dark of the night, to accompany me to the toilet. She never mumbled a word of complaint, or uttered a sigh under her breath. She just responded to what I needed. Took me there, waited outside for me, always with a cup of water in hand to re-hydrate me.

Not only was mama a scaredy cat as a young child, she was sickly too. So many doctor visits. And popo took me every time. I threw up in bed and she cleaned it up. No raising of voice, no frowning. She just did what needed to be done.

She would finish up dinner earlier so she can bring me to the nearby playground. So I too can swing on the swings and feel the breeze in my little pigtails. Yes, she was Love. She still is.

I was a slow-eater as a child. Very slow eater, indeed. Every morning she would make me a soft-boiled egg and even that took me a long time to get into my belly. As the clock ticked close to the time we needed to go down to wait for the school-bus, I will try with all my might to swallow and she’ll squat down by my feet and pull on fresh white socks for me. Once, we were late (because I was a slow-poke) and the school bus had went off already. I was struck with fear- what was going to happen then? Popo looked at me, then she said, “Let’s go back upstairs so I can get my purse. Then we can take the public bus to school.” No anger. No scolding. No chiding, no blaming. Just solve the problem.

Popo had never attempted to train me so her life can be more convenient. She did not need me to be anything else than who, or what I was, in that moment. She did not need me to learn to get up to pee by myself, to sleep on my own in isolation, to eat faster, to write neater. And, in all honesty, I do not think I am spoiled in any ways because of that unconditional acceptance of who I was. In fact, I toed the line so often (in school), because I had that self-respect in myself; because I knew I was loved. I need not act out of the line, as I saw some school-mates did, so I could get some attention from authority. I think she was very wise, to not believe in manipulation. Or should I say, she did not believe in forcing a child into a mold, just to fit an adult’s purpose?

Mama aspired to be like popo, but as you can see, I am a far way off.

~ She is a true learner. Popo does not know it, but she is a life learner by heart. She thinks you both should be sent to school, but she has never stepped into a school all her life. Yet, she can read and she is a fabulous cook (the best in the world) and she sews beautifully, and she makes wonderful intricate Chinese knots; and plants just thrive under her care.

Once, I asked, while watching her magic with awe in the kitchen, “Who taught you how to cook, popo?”

And she smiled a wistful smile and told me, “You know, my mother died when I was very young. I learned everything all by myself. I watched, I learn, and then I try it out myself. Learn from mistakes.”

That’s what a true learner does, my girls. Learn from mistakes. Observe. Watch. Try it. Fail. Try again.

That was also how she learned to sew, and everything else.

When popo got married to my grandfather, he taught her how to write three words: Yun Chun Lian. Popo’s Chinese name. She did not know how to write, having never received an education. But she needed to sign the marriage certificate.

Then it was a life of bearing children, tending the hearth, growing old with her husband.

When grandfather died, she was fifty-one. Grandfather was a devout Buddhist, and we had an altar table, with statues and pictures of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. After his death, the family had to decide what to do with all those statues and my grandfather’s Buddhist implements. You cannot just leave them there on display. If you have a Buddha statue, you are expected to chant and say prayers.

So, popo decided that she will learn how to say Buddhist prayers. She took out my grandfather’s favorite sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and began on the first character. What did it mean? How do you say it? Only my two uncles could help her. During that time, children either go to an English school, or a Chinese school. My aunts all went to English school; my grandfather sent the boys to Chinese school.

And so, word by word she learned, devising symbols of her own to help her remember the sounds, and/or meanings. She went to the temples, and listened and learned, and came back with fascinating tales and teachings.

Today, not only can popo say prayers, she can read the newspapers, and forms her own political opinions.

I am so proud of her. Literally bursting with pride.

~ She is very soft on the inside. Popo likes to say, “Oh, I am old and my heart has hardened. I think my tears dried up too.” But I know she cries. She just does not like to admit it. A sign of weakness for her, I do not know why. I think she does not like people to worry about her. Your aunts may send me an email telling me her leg is bothering her and she is great pain, but when I call her, the very same evening, she will tell me, “Oh, it hurts, but just a little bit. Tiny little, you know? Not bad at all. I can still walk, of course.” She does not want me to worry. Every time I call her, she will always beat me to it and asks me first, “How are you? Are you good?” It makes mama cry, every time.

~ She ages gracefully. Popo is a beauty, and I love her smile. So beautiful. She never wears any make-up. Not even lip-balm. She does not need it. In my teenage years, I accrued a barrage of skin-care complete with scrubs and facial masks and she wondered if I was insane? What made me think I needed those things? As I sauntered in and out of the bathroom, first scrubbing, and then layering on various types of masks, she shook her head, “I just wash with water.” Look at her face, she has few age spots, and they are barely visible. Her face is smooth, and her smile is still dazzling. Sure, you can tell, she has been through life. Hardships. Tears. Heartaches. Disappointments. But still, she is beautiful. Because she did not believe in superficial beauty. In fact, I think she seldom thinks about such things, nor does she allow the concept of “beauty “hinder her life in any way.

When I co-slept with popo, I loved to stroke her arm to fall asleep. That part of her underarm, where muscles had softened. But her skin was still soft and smooth. “This is the best part. So soft, and smooth.” I told her. And she laughed!

“It is soft because I am old, silly girl.”

Who cares? It comforted me.

And when I asked her about the stretch marks on her belly? — “It is because I gave birth to many children.”

She was never a nutrition fanatic. Balance was the key. Eat a bit of everything, she said. Always leave some for others, she taught. Always have a good conscience.

So, share, do good, be kind. You will be beautiful, my girls.

Remember that this is your legacy, and I believe you will feel so proud.

:::::::::::::

Try hard as I might, I don’t think I will even be near to what popo is. Oh sure, there are many wise, beautiful, and wonderful grandmothers in this world. But she is special to me; she is my light, my goddess. She took me in her care and loved me whole-heartedly, expecting nothing in return. Nothing I do will hold even a small spark to what she did, what she is.

Because she follows the Chinese lunar calendar to celebrate her birthday, it falls on a different day every year on the calendar we now widely use. This year, her birthday will fall on July26. Happy Birthday in advance, popo. I can never tell you this in person, but I love you so very much.

With tears, with deep gratitude, I write this. For you, popo.

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