Sunday, September 16, 2012

Taiwan Travelogue: On The Plane To Taiwan

To honor the life and the passing of my grandmother, my wife, Diana and I journeyed to my parents homeland of Taipei, Taiwan.  This post is the first part of the journey I wrote on the plane. 

"Diana, my grandmother died."

As those words left my mouth, I felt a sudden intense pain.  It felt like something crushed my heart filling me with an overwhelming feeling sadness.  As I collapsed onto my bed feeling tears blind my vision, Diana's arms surrounded me in strength and love holding me together as I felt myself falling apart.

Then it was over and the reality that my life was forever changed began to sink in. 

When I heard the news about my other grandparents dying it didn't hit my this hard.  There was more of a dull pain that lasted for a longer period of time.  I don't know why this was different with my maternal grandmother.  Maybe it was because she was my last grandparent or maybe it was because no one expected her to pass away.  

I'm writing this sitting on a plane on the way to Taiwan.  My grandmother passed away last Tuesday, eight days ago.  The funeral is this Saturday (9/15).  Thankfully the funeral was arranged for a week after her death so that we had time to to get prepared for this trip.  

There are so many different things that go through your mind when a grandparent dies. You have your own grief to work through but even more challenging is your parents grief.  When you are kid, your parents are superheroes and you think they can handle anything.  That illusion disappears in the teen years.  Even though you know your parents are human beings with flaws and imperfections, part of you holds on to the idea that they are invincible, and moments like this remind you of their humanity.

My parents never stopped being someone's children.  Even after my brother and I were born.  This isn't something I thought -bout growing up, but it's true.  We all hold different roles to people in our lives.  We are friends, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and cousins.  But now my mom has no one in this world knows her as a daughter, and now there is no one alive who calls me their grandchild.  

Yes, I'm loosing this part of identity, the part of me that is a grandchild, but last Spring, my beautiful niece entered this world who looks at me in a way no one else in the world does: as an uncle.  

No, this doesn't even things out and it doesn't bring comfort but it feels like somehow, this is what life is all about.

I believe that endings are what makes things meaningful.  That doesn't mean I don't dread them and that doesn't mean I don't fear death.  Death is the one inevitable in our lives.  It's an experience that we all share.  It touches all of our lives.  However, the universality of death doesn't make it any easier to cope with and understand.  

There's so much in this world that I don't understand.  And I try to make sense of everything that happens because it feels like if I don't try, it will all slip away.  This isn't a rational fear, it just how I deal with life.  Trying to find meaning doesn't always lead to answers but the struggle always helps us know ourselves.

Right now as this plane flys over the pacific, my mom is waiting for me in a hotel in Taipei.  I'm not sure what I'm going to say to her when I see her.  But I know there will be a hug, probably a couple tears, and the feeling of home and family being in the presences of my mother as her son.   

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