Saturday, January 24, 2009

Loss and heartbreak

It's been a long 2 weeks. Felt it'd be inappropriate to be writing here, given the circumstances. But my grandfather was always a practical man. He'd be upset with me if he knew I was losing focus, if I was just giving up on something. So I'd like to honour and acknowledge him here - once - and then back to normal, just like what grandfather would want.

My grandfather was a simple, unassuming man. Small in stature, but what he lacked in physical proportions, he more than made up with his intellect, and moral rigidness. He instilled in me, from an early age, the values of education, as well as the importance of defending your values. These are the lessons I'll never forget.

Books and calligraphy were two of my grandfather's life-long scholarly pursuits. He had a fine writing hand, and his pedigree in Chinese calligraphy was apparent, even when his hand became unsteady in his latter years. And he loved to learn. Always reading something. I'd like to think that I inherited that trait from him.

I definitely inherited his high sense of taste, in many things. He was always dressed in appropriately cut and fitted clothing. My grandfather was by no means interested in the frivolity and folly of fashion - he dressed to fit the occasion, always. He placed an importance in grooming. Having clean hair, fingernails, well-polished shoes. Always presenting an image of care and attention to detail.

My grandfather loved savoury foods, served piping hot. Especially soups and broths. If it wasn't served to the correct temperature, it wasn't worth eating. He loved seafood of all kind, but above all, he adored his shrimps and prawns, crabs, and other shellfish. He had an outstanding palate, and never looked down on simple, rustic, country dishes. Just never serve him anything of inferior quality, or something out of season. I've heard stories - he could pick the shell off of a prawn in his mouth, depositing the remains still in its original shape.

I'll always treasure the time we spent together, in Toronto, Tokyo, and of course, my numerous trips to Shanghai. The 6 weeks or so we spent in Tokyo, back in 2000, gave us a wonderful appreciation and understanding of one another. I was glad I could go back fairly often to Shanghai. I'm still regretting not going back this final time to say goodbye.

The funeral was held on Sunday. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Mild for a Shanghai winter. And then, he was gone.

I'll always have my grandfather in my thoughts. The heart hurts, but that is life. My grandfather was a practical, pragmatic man. He knew his own mortality. I remember one conversation we had. He stated quite bluntly that he had lived a good life, and now was waiting, patiently, for death.

I learned so much from him, and I'll always miss him. So much of what I am has been because of this grand old man.


  1. I'm really sorry to hear this - my grandmother passed away 6 months ago as well and I can feel your pain. I can tell how much you appreciated your grandfather from your post, and it's really touching.

    It is also these times that teach us to appreciate the ones we love, the ones we have, and to never take your friends and family for granted - they can go as quick as they came.

    Condolences to your entire family David.

  2. Thank you, Adam. Really appreciate the kind words and wishes.