I remember summer time the most. Being so involved in gymnastics and hula growing up, I would live with you every summer from ages 7-13 so that you could take me to my extracurricular activities. There was a big plumeria tree growing in the front yard that Kevie and I would use to build forts in using umbrellas. We'd have our own little picnics consisting only of Ani’s sweetbread and water (exclusively in our super cool color-changing water bottles we got from our YMCA swimming class). Grandpa would be near, weeding the yard and listening to a static-y radio playing KSSK and all these great oldies. You, watering your garden that surrounded the house, wearing your sun hat and sipping Pepsi out of your huge, red X-treme Gulp jug from 7-11 (if you don't know what this is, you're young and I'm jealous). I remember summer by these things. These memories flash through my mind as I drive to your house every week.
Sunday nights have always been and will forever be your nights. But no longer will it only remind me of your famous homemade potato salad, your 7:00 Korean dramas, your calling out my name to show me something you thought I’d enjoy on some random Korean show, or your knack for bringing up a topic we talked about hours ago as if the conversation never ended. I’ll be reminded of tonight. The fact that one of these designated Sunday night dinners at your house would be your time to leave us.
That as I sat in the kitchen alone, serving the fresh strawberry pie from Anna Miller’s that Uncle Michael always brought for dessert when he came, you took your last breath in the presence of your three kids. I’ll be reminded of the look both mom and Aunty Stacey gave me with tears in their eyes as they walked out of your room. How your bedroom felt so terribly different from the one I had known my entire life. How the nurse took an hour to get to you. How it took another 2 hours for them to come and get you.
How grandpa responded when he found out. The two of you bickered more than having any other form of communication. But between grandpa’s hearing loss, his childish ways and your short temper, there were glimpses of obvious love. Even in your last month, you’d worry and care for him when you didn’t even have the strength to care for yourself. In his recent months of dementia, he’d ask about you and get upset and say, “How could I not remember that my wife is sick?” But I have never witnessed his love for you on the scale that we all did tonight.
I hope you heard him when he cried for you and told you he loves you. I hope, by some miracle of God, you were with him in those moments of deep desperation. I hope you felt him hug and cling onto you, and I hope you know he never wanted to let go. And when he wrestled with us and yelled for us to let him go with you, I hope your heart felt it and beat one last time.
Grandma, you were the first person who told me that the decision I had made to leave the relationship I was in was for the better. Through my streaming tears and apologies, you comforted me with words I hadn’t heard from my most trusted friends. You told me you were proud of me and I hadn’t let you down. And I think I fully understand why now. You’ve known love and want the same for me.
I'm like you in more ways than I probably even realize, and I couldn't be any more grateful. Thank you for teaching me that family is a priority and that ice cream, whether it's hot or cold outside, is of utmost importance in a person's diet. Thank you for all of the amazing homemade meals you've cooked for us that we could never replicate because we can't stand the extreme heat of a potato right out of the pot. Thank you for driving me to and from my activities in the summer and introducing me to Celine Dion via KSSK at a young age. But most of all, thank you for your love and warmth.