My grandfather—mother’s side—died Wednesday morning.
I got the news from my cousin, who sent me an urgent Facebook message, who said my relatives couldn’t reach my parents. It was 3 a.m. Pacific Time, which meant it was 6 a.m. over at my parents’.
I called them several times, biting my nails. I had never broken news of death to anyone before. But I didn’t need to, because they didn’t pick up; they were probably sound asleep. I texted my dad and my brother: “grandpa passed away.”
When I got the message I wasn’t exactly sure how to react. I had had a long day and I just wanted to crawl into bed. I woke up to a voice message from my dad informing that he and my mother were about to board a flight back to Korea. I never got to speak directly to them before they flew back, so I’m not sure how they reacted, and what my mom is feeling now.
I’m not super close to my grandfather. Because I left Korea when I was four, I didn’t get the opportunity to develop a deep relationship with my grandparents, and I was lucky if I got to see them once every three years. My paternal grandmother died before I was born, my paternal grandfather died a few years ago, and now my maternal grandfather has returned to heaven as well.
Sometimes I wonder if I would understand my parents even more if I knew more about my grandparents. I only have glimpses of knowledge about them from what my parents tell me, and the rare moments I get to meet them in Korea.
I’m not devastated about my grandfather’s death. I know he’s in a better place right now, and I’m glad he’s no longer suffering (his health was deteriorating; he had an artificial lung and was in great discomfort).
But I’ll always have the wish that I got to know him better. I would have liked to take him out for a walk, arm in arm, asking him questions about his younger life, and of course begging for gossip about my mom when she was a little girl.
I’ve been even more curious about the details of my parents’ background since I introduced them to two of my friends, Jordan and Ellie.
We met at Hwa Sun Ji, which turned out to be the most perfect place.
It was tranquil, quiet and sunlit, the perfect setting for a predominantly faith-based conversation.
Ellie understands Korean and Jordan understands Mandarin, so we had the most curious assortment of Korean, English and Mandarin in our discussion. And because both Ellie and Jordan are Christians, that meant they had a lot of questions for them, and my dad got into full preacher mode.
He even got a piece of paper to sketch out a sermon.
He tried to speak in English for awhile, but then his passion took over and he had to speak in Korean with an occasional smattering of Chinese, while I translated into English for Jordan.
It was such a blessed meeting. I was bursting with pride. I was so proud of my parents, and I was also proud of my friends. You should have seen me. I was sitting between the two couples, beaming like a fool. I was just so happy to be my parents’ daughter, and so happy to be Jordan and Ellie’s friend.
We did order something to eat and drink, but they mostly got ignored until the end of the meeting.
We sat and chatted for hours. I was surprised how comfortable and relaxed and engaged everyone was, considering that it was the first time my friends met my parents.
We had to say our goodbyes though, because I had to drag my parents for a last meal of zha jiang mian. That night I got texts from both Ellie and Jordan exclaiming, “Oh my God! I love your parents!! They are so adorable!”
Hee. It’s always such a heart-warming feeling to see that your parents are loved by others, too.
A couple days later I picked up Jordan for a study date at Hwa Sun Ji, and she said something that stayed on my mind: “I understand you so much more now that I met your parents. I can totally see where you come from now, from how your parents raised you.”
It’s true, isn’t it? You are a product of your parents, not just biologically but holistically as well. Or if you don’t have parents, you’re still the byproduct of the people closest to you. I definitely wouldn’t be who I am without my parents.
So what about my parents’ parents? I know they weren’t Christians until they accepted Christ years after my parents’ prayers. My grandfather (mom’s side) even became a deacon in church, and that title will be engraved into his tombstone.
From the little I know of my maternal grandfather, I know him as a pure and gentle soul. He was also weak-willed, which cost him all his property and health. But he had a kind and giving heart; he was always the mediator between family feuds. He cried easily for other people (he did for me), he doted on his kids, and he also worried a lot for others.
Just a tidbit of the many things about him, but from just this short description, I can see where my mother comes from, too. She’s got the same tender heart, and the same tendency to worry.
Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit one drop of her sweetness. Ha—don’t you wish you could pick and choose?
But you can’t pick your parents, and neither could your parents pick theirs. We’re born and influenced by these people, absorbing both their strengths and their weaknesses.
So I thank my grandfather, who is in heaven right now. Thank you for my wonderful mother. And I thank God, who made this happen. Thank you for my parents, their moles, beauty marks, weird traits and all.
Question of the Day: What are your grandparents like? Are they and your parents alike? What about you and your grandparents?