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.


Anna said...

My condolences and prayers. Her life certainly sounds like it was full and fascinating! I love you.

Anonymous said...

We are sorry for your lose, but
what a wonderful person she was,especially as your Gna-boo. It would be good to emulate her life, her faith, her love for the famly. We wish you peace and pay for your good health.

Kent said...

I am sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you all.

Leslie Edwards said...

Hi Sweetie...I'm so sorry to hear about your Gna-boo. What a warm and heartful eulogy you have written for her. I have met her a few times, but reading that just makes her even more wonderful than I thought she was when I met her! I hope you find some peace and solace with your family over the holiday, I'm sure it will be nice to be home with everyone. I love you.

artineh said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, Erica. It's been too long since we've spoken and I miss you and am hoping you are alright. Please extend my condolences to your family and may you all see better days.

UNDRCRWN said...

erica - your entry made me think very hard about my gramma (Nana) because so many things you said were familiar to memories of my own (from 1988). Thanks for sharing your thoughts because in a time of grief it is important to always remember.