Legacy, Love & Loss of a Centenarian


Sad isn’t even a word I can use right now.

Because the gravity of what I’m feeling is much deeper and heavier than what the word “sad” could ever carry. With everything that is happening in life right now, every tear that falls from my face feels heavy. It’s as if each tear is soaked with lead, dragging heat and pain as the tears melt down my cheeks.

We lost our Grandmother yesterday.

Despite our loss, she has gained eternal peace.

Our Grandmother lived to be 100. She gave this world 10 children which then gave the world so much life and joy of togetherness. She and my grandfather managed a tea plantation in Taiwan. She had a love for gardening and gardenias were abundant in her home. Today, my parents’ home is purfumed by the scent of blooming gardenias.

She was a selfless woman. As my mother always said, she lived to give so much love and life to her children and family. She gave them so much love for a century.

This morning I sat with my mother, collecting our thoughts after wading in the sadness from the evening. I asked her “What are you feeling right now?”

My mother sat, bowed down her head and acknowledged “It’s good that she isn’t suffering. And it’s good that she was able to pass peacefully and quickly.” She bit her lip and swallowed hard. “I understand that she has to go. But the part I haven’t fully understood yet….”

We sat through a thick pause.

“I’m now realizing that I will never see my mom again.”

Tears flowed down her face and down mine. My mother was the only one who left the island of Taiwan and lived thousands of miles away from the rest of her family. Modern technology made seeing her mother much easier in the recent years, but in a way, I could feel her heartache every time she thought about the miles that her love had to bridge between them. My mother would say:

“My ears are hot. My mom must be thinking of me.”

And sure enough, she was. My mom would call back home within 24 hours and inevitably, her mother would be on the line thinking of her. I always thought it was odd whenever my mom would say that, but I guess that was her energy speaking to her and the unbreakable tie she had with her mom.

My mom would always tell me that grandma would say:

“Never worry about me. I am fine. Take care of your husband and your kids. Watch over them.”

And I knew that inside my mom felt some sort of angst for not being closer to her mom or her family. I could see the pain in her eyes sometimes when she hung up the phone. But that was love. The ability to put others’ needs and wants beyond your own is the love my mom and her mom knew. And my mom was living the life she sought to fulfill and poured her heart into our family.

Recently, in my time of struggle, my mom gave me that similar line. When you grow up in a tight knit family like mine, you feel a tie to your family that sometimes has obligation and love confusingly intertwined. The hardest part is knowing when you are allowed to break that tie and find the healthy boundary that is you, your life and the life shared with others. When my mother told me “never worry about us, take care of your needs for your family, we know you always love us” it was the most freeing act of love you could ever get from your mother. I can only imagine that is how my mom felt with her own mom. I felt a huge weight come off my shoulders and the list of dreams that only existed as a list, started to make its way slowly into my life.

My mother reiterated how selfless her mother was. She never complained about not seeing her. She only wanted for my mother’s happiness. My mom then went on to remember the most important things she learned from her mother that shaped who she is and what her family became:

1. Always be kind. To everyone and anyone – No matter who entered her home, they should be met with overwhelming hospitality as if they’ve always belonged there. If family members were arguing, my grandmother’s home became the safe haven for recovery. Generosity was the bias for living. Despite being raised in poverty, she taught her children to always give graciously. Whether you were a friend or a stranger, everyone got the benefit of the doubt.

2. Be patient – I’ve always thought that my mother was the most patient person in the world. She was the most forgiving and enduring character I knew. Apparently, she learned all of that from her mom. Patience was the expectation not the exception to life.

3. Always try to do the right thing. Be moral. – This one ties to the kindness. What we want to do and what we should do don’t always align. However, the right thing to do is what guided her moral compass. My mother told me this morning that what she admired about her mother was that above all, she treated others with respect and the respect she received was what set her character and integrity apart from others.

Perhaps it is by these rules that she was given the ability to live to be a Centenarian.

As my mother continued to speak, I could hear her heartbreak. It’s never easy to grieve or let someone go. A co-worker sent me a great quote today that I did find somewhat comforting:

“The people you laugh with, learn from, lean on, and love, leave you with the best memories”.

My grandmother blessed this world with 100 years of longevity and a legacy of selfless love for others. I now know where my mother gets her selflessness from. As I think about my obsession with giving love to the world (all six types of love), I know what legacy and purpose I need to continue to carry forward.

But before we move forward, we need a day to sit in brokenness today. I’m waiting for the moment where we will be all cried out. When there are no more tears left to shed.

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Love.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. dray0308 says:

    Those are 3 great attributes that the world needs more of!

    1. jchensquared says:

      Those are three great attributes that the world needs more of. Thank you for recognizing that and thank you for reading 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your post was very beautifully written.

    1. jchensquared says:

      Thank you for reading and the feedback – much appreciated.

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