Friday, November 16, 2007

love, through time and space

Gna-boo died yesterday. She went to sleep for an afternoon nap and never woke up. While the whole family struggles with grief and the inevitable confusion death brings, there are few alive today who could hope for a better life or a better death than Madeline Kwok's.

Some highlights (hopefully correct and not those fuzzy guesses that over the years become fact in grandchildren's minds):

-Madeline lived 89 years, although she has been saying she's 90 for the past 2-3 years (because age garners respect and admiration? because she was just rounding up? because in Chinese custom, age begins 9 months prior to birth?)

-She was born in Shanghai in 1918, moved to Hong Kong in 1949, and to San Francisco in 1974.

-She was the matriarch of our family: 5 children, 9 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren-- but all with personalities and partners that make the family seem so much BIGger.

-The day she got her driver's license (in HK), she got in a fender bender and was too scared to get behind the wheel ever again.

-I don't think she worked (for money outside the home) a day in her life.

-She believed in enjoying life, particularly food. She was known to say that you can't eat dollar bills, so money paid for good dining was always money well spent. Of course she loved good Chinese food, but had a special affinity for a fine slice of prime rib too.

-She was a devout Catholic, who in her later years would watch the Mass on TV on Sundays when it became difficult to get to church.

-She loved nature videos, particularly oceanographic explorations.

-She had a weekly mahjong game with other "boo-boos" in her building.

-She always wanted to please others. Even in her last days, she would mumble gratitude to those who came to visit her, eat only to make her caretakers happy, and in general try to ease the sadness and burden her deterioration was causing her children.

I asked Gna-boo about a year ago about her late husband, my namesake, Eric. With the exception of some time in the 1940s when such associations became prohibited, he worked as a distributor for American entertainment companies, such as United Artists. He was a charming, dynamic business man, at ease mingling with movie stars, a global player before the word globalization even existed. He died around 1971, almost 40 years ago. I asked my grandma if she missed him and she did not hesitate, "Yes, very much", she said.

My grandpa Eric died on November 15, 1971. His wife, my Gna-boo, died this year, 2007, also on November 15.

Funeral arrangements will be finalized today. Thank you for all of your messages of comfort and gentleness.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It is with a heavy and saddened heart to tell you all that Gna Boo/Grandma is fast declining. She has not eaten in 3-4 days with only a few drops of water as intake. She is very weak. She moans and flails her arms a lot and we are sedating her with morphine as well as atavin to sooth and ease her pain and discomfort. She hasn't spoken in days and barely nods or shakes her head. She seems to hear and understand when we speak to her but often there is no response. Once in a while, we get a faint nod. She frowns sometimes and seems to be displeased about something but we don't know what.
This morning when I sat with her, held her hand and kept talking to her, she seems to understand and hear me. When Willy came into her room and spoke to her, she opened her eys and smiled ever so faintly...what does that tell you, eh? We gave her a few drops of water and she took that.
The nurse is coming again today at 1:30pm and we will see what she has to say after she gives her another examination. When she came her yesterday, Gna Boo had a slight elevated temperature so we are giving her liquid tylenol every 4 hours. She can barely swollow but she tries.
Please continue to pray for her. She is a brave lady and despite her frailty and discomfort, she is doing her utmost to ensure we are all okay as well. When we talk to her, we keep assuring her that we are all here and okay.
Jimmy just called me and said he has been with her for the last 20 mins and she is quite out of it and really does not know that he was there.
Will keep you all updated...
Peace and Love
Auntie Judy