Grandma's mommy died

Hey Cutie Pie, Grandma is sad now. I want you to give her a BIG hug and say, I love you.
Why is she sad?
Because her mommy died.
Your mommy?
No, Grandma’s mommy died.
Did someone kill her?
No, she died because she was old.
She die because someone kill her because she’s old?
No, she died because everything inside her body was old and not working.
Nobody kill her with a knife?
Nope. No knife, no killing, no pushing, no punching. Nobody did anything bad to Grandma’s mommy.
Oh I seeeee
So remember to give Grandma a hug when you see her later ok?
Sure I will and I will tell her I love her and not to be sad.
Thanks, you’re a good boy.
Yep sure I am!

This was how my week started. I woke up and read the text message from my mom letting me know that my (maternal) grandmother had passed away. It took a bit of time for me to process this because I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react.

I didn’t know my grandmother. She lived her whole life in Viet Nam with my uncles and cousins. I was born and raised in Canada. My parents brought me back to this birth country of theirs when I was eight years old, but since that visit I’ve never been back. So my immediate feelings were nothing more than curiosity - what? when? how? I was more concerned about how this would affect my mom and what kind of support she needed.

When the rest of the family started to wake up, I gave Mister Almost 4 an important job of hugging my mom and telling her that he loves her. I wasn’t quite sure if this was the best time to explain death to my son. He definitely had trouble understanding the family tree. Last summer, we tried to explain that his grandpa was his daddy’s daddy, but had no luck. Maybe we’ll try again when he’s five years old.

Anyway, after a while he seemed to have understood that everybody has a mommy and Grandma’s mommy died. I still don’t think he knows what death means except he seems to associate it with dramatic violence from the TV (whoops!). But I suppose this is a good start.

As the week went on, I found myself circling back to my grandmother’s death and trying to identify my feelings about it. I don’t know if this is called grieving or how I grieve but five days later, I think I got it.

Growing up, I’ve always longed to have a grandparent or two integrated into my life. Someone to tell me stories, share experiences, provide wisdom, and spoil me silly! But as I grew older, I’ve learned to accept that, for many reasons outside of my control, I did not have that luxury.

As I sort out my thoughts and feelings with the death of my only grandmother, I think I can finally say that I am, in fact, grieving. I didn’t think I would grieve over someone I never had a relationship with. But come to think of it, I guess we did have a very brief bond.

My initial impression of our sole encounter was a very positive and memorable one. When I first met my grandmother, she was full of smiles and very welcoming. She opened her arms for me immediately, hugged me and took her time to check me out from head to toe. She was also a very good chef. She cooked some delicious pho for us to eat. I believe I inherited her dog-loving, animal-caring traits too. As an only child, I know I would have valued having her in my life.

It’s a shame that we didn’t get to build a life together as grandmother-granddaughter. I’ve always wondered what my childhood would have been like if I had a grandparent in my life - hearing stories, understanding their experiences, and learning from their wisdom. Just like what my children have with my parents right now.

This also made me feel very grateful. My children are very blessed to have all four grandparents here, in the same country and city, to play with them, care for them and get to know them. They’re both still very young (a barely four- and barely two-year old) and may not remember these times when their grandparents are still relatively young and mobile, but I’m hoping that they will grow up and enjoy the luxury that I never had. The luxury of grandparents.

Our own memorable moments of precious family time captured on camera and then turned into canvasses.

Our own memorable moments of precious family time captured on camera and then turned into canvasses.