Sunday, August 31, 2014

Forever My Por Por

Besides December, August have always been one of my favorite months, but this particular August have been a serious roller-coaster of celebrations and goodbyes.

The month began with my friend's beautiful wedding in Mammoth Lakes, then I had a fallout with someone in mid-August, and that same night my Por Por 婆婆 (maternal grandma) passed away.  Furthermore, the 25th was my lucky thirteen anniversary with Tate, and yesterday was one of my best friend's engagement dinner, which I regrettably had to withdraw from due to a death in my family, but also we paid our last respects and bid farewell to my dear Por Por yesterday afternoon as we laid her to rest in Hillside Lily Garden of Cypress Lawn.

For the past couple of months, my Por Por was in and out of hospitals with her health sadly deteriorating.  Almost every day after work and on weekends, I visited her at either St. Francis Memorial Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center, or her home in On Lok Lifeways on Montgomery.  In the final two weeks, there was nothing the hospitals nor my family could do except to ensure my Por Por's comfort and to abide by her wish to spend the last days at home in On Lok instead of an unfamiliar medical building.

My older uncle flew in from China to care for my grandma around the clock, sleeping on a yoga mat every night beside her bed at the On Lok senior center.  My mum and younger uncle took turns daily cooking and bringing birds' nest porridge and chicken soup to grandma, where she sipped through a drinking straw only when she had a slight appetite.  Throughout the years, my grandma was always delighted by the different flowers and plants I bring her, so the weeks leading up to her passing, I kept a constant delivery of freshly cut spray roses in a Marquis by Waterford crystal vase - only the best for my Por Por!

The last words my grandma said to me were "Thank you Sum Yee," (my name in Cantonese) after I helped her with her last "bath."  I brought my favorite Japanese bath powder and body moisturizer, as well as my rose petal facial toner, an SKII face cream, and a heart-shaped basin to soak the washcloths in bath water before wiping her down.  This was the last time I saw her coherent.

On her last day, my mum and I visited her right after dinner.  She was breathing normally and it looked as though she was in a deep sleep, but she did not wake nor respond to us so we left after nearly an hour.  We went home and as I was done with my night shower, mum tells me uncle called and said grandma's breathing just became slow and labored, signs that these would be her last hours.  The entire family including my aunt's and younger uncle's families all rushed to On Lok.  We sat in her room in each other's company until my Por Por took her last breath in the early morning of August 20th.

I  started my bereavement leave from work on the 21th in order to help organize and plan the best funeral service we can for my grandma.  This required three appointments to Cypress Lawn Funeral Home; two visits to Chinatown to purchase ceremonial burning materials and to order five custom floral wreaths for the funeral service from Sweetheart Florist; a two-day shopping ordeal at Joann Fabrics for yardage to make traditional Chinese funeral "blankets;" countless hours of designing, translating, and creating the gorgeous funeral service program below (one of my last gifts to my Por Por); and of course several sleepless nights.

When all is said and done, I now find comfort in knowing that my Por Por passed away peacefully with family surrounding her, that she lived a full 87 and a half years of life in which she knew that I loved her dearly, and that we gave her the loveliest funeral service we can.

So to our grandma who raised my brother, sister, and I, may you rest in peace and remain...
Forever My Por Por

The last Mother's Day I celebrated with my Por Por

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