Saturday, January 15, 2005

In memory 

My wife's grandmother has passed away yesterday in Indonesia, not a victim of tsunami but of illnesses that invariably seem to accompany one's older age. I never got a chance to meet her, but from all the stories she seemed like a wonderful person. Her life was far from easy; she survived crushing poverty, privation of the Japanese occupation, and, as an ethnic Chinese, discrimination and persecution by the native Indonesians. Yet she had managed to cheerfully bring up her many children and see them get decent education and succeed in life.

Like my wife, I never had a chance to say goodbye to my grandmother, who died soon after I settled in Australia. When I last saw her, in mid-July 1987, the farewell was perfunctory and inconsequential. As far as she was concerned, my parents and I were only going on a two-week camping holiday to the then Yugoslavia and just across the border, the port of Trieste in Italy. We did not tell our family that we were not planning to return, not because we didn't trust them to inform on us to the authorities, but because such things can accidentaly slip, and sometimes the burden of certain kind of knowledge is better carried alone.

Enjoy the people you love while they're around, but when they move on to a better world, rather than mourn them, rejoice in having known them, remember them fondly, and learn the best from their lives. This is the best form of remembrance.


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