My friends know that my Grandma is very dear to me. As her eldest grand-daughter, I was raised under her care and we share a most special bond. After undergoing two major neurosurgery after a fall several years ago, it pains me to see her grown frail. Last Sunday, we celebrated her 87th. The week before her birthday, she was admitted to the A&E at NUH for acute abdominal pain and the family was wrought with worry. The prognosis was not good – we were told that one of her lungs has collapsed and the white spots on her lungs picked up on the X-ray is indicative of the dreaded big ‘C’…Faced with such news, her children and grandchildren decided we must make hay while the sun still shines – we would throw her a simple celebration to lift her spirits and let her enjoy a Happy Birthday, in the comfort of her own home.
|My beloved Grandma!|
Everyone gathered at her home at noon for few rounds of cards before the cake cutting and dinner. The mood was jovial and rambunctious. We haven’t laughed and bonded like this as an extended family for a long while. It was evident that everyone was determined to make it a truly happy birthday celebration for her, knowing full well yet refusing to acknowledge the reality that our time with her is ebbing away…I was most heartened to see Dana inherit my deep affinity with Great Grandma – despite the language differences (Great Grandma speaks only Teochew and a smattering of Chinese); despite the wide 8 decades age gap, despite the unfamiliar touch of a frail, wrinkly hand and white crown of hair…With no obvious commonalities, this respect and love for Great Grandma did not happen overnight.
Daddy and I conscientiously help Dana connect with Great Grandma through these ways:
|A kiss for their Great Grandma…|
Find their legacy: We speak fondly about Great Grandma a lot in our daily conversations. I would share with Dana stories of how Great Grandma stood up for me against bus bullies when I was in primary school; how Great Grandma brought me on overseas trips and how I would sit next to Great Grandma to observe her wrapping rice dumplings or cook her mean Chicken Curry which the extended family loves. We also intentionally create opportunities for Dana to listen to Great Grandma retell stories of how she survived World War 2 and the subsequent Japanese Occupation as a young teenaged girl in the kampong.
Allocate time for them: As working parents, our plans and priorities are constantly pushed around so much that we never end up having the free time we thought we would. Our weekends are perpetually packed. In order to help Dana build stronger relationship with Great Grandma, we try to set aside a specific time each week to visit, usually on Sunday afternoons. During the weekdays, we would occasionally ring Great Grandma just to have a chat. Dana, with her limited knowledge of Teochew, never fails to crack Great Grandma up over the phone.
Make efforts to bridge the gap: Since young, we teach Dana some basic Teochew phrases so she and Great Grandma can carry out simple conversations when they meet. Sometimes, when she’s at a loss for words, she would code switch to Mandarin or even resort to sign language! Regardless of the methods used, love is communicated and the connection is made. We also make it as point for Dana to remember Great Grandma in her bedtime prayers daily.
Involve them in our lives: Nothing makes Great Grandma happier than the company of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. On weekends or public holidays, we would drive to pick Great Grandma out for a meal and or an excursion. In fact, we love bringing Great Grandma to explore new places in Singapore. She is always very endearing towards Great Grandma; she would hold her hands to support her as she walks and she enjoys Great Grandma’s company in the car rides. Creating opportunities for kids to meet and interact with their grandparents (or great grandparents) is an ideal way to break the ice and strengthen the relationships. We also intend to invite her to Dana’s K2 Graduation ceremony end of the year so that she can share this milestone with us.
Lead by example: Kids really are sponges. They hear our words, they see the way we act, they sense who we like and who we don’t. They sponge everything up and store away for a proper time. We believe Dana is exactly like that too. She sees how Daddy and I (and our extended family) honour and respect Great Grandma through our interactions and she naturally followed suit.
Yes, we are not perfect but we are family. No one’s time on earth is infinite, even Dana can see Great Grandma’s health failing. So all the more we encourage her to hug, kiss and shower Great Grandma with affection whenever she can. Each time before we bid Great Grandma goodbye, Dana would remind Great Grandma that we love her and we would utter a word of blessing on her : 主祝福你 (The Lord bless you). We want Great Grandma to know that we may not be physically present with her daily, but she’s never far from our thoughts and prayers.
I find it hard to compose this post because it’s so very tough to see a loved one confront the fragility of life. The only prayer we have now is for Great Grandma to receive salvation in Christ and that her latter days be lived in a meaningful, joyful and pain-free manner surrounded by the love of her offsprings. Blessed 87th Birthday to my Grandma. God willing, let us celebrate your 100th with you.