And Then My Grandmother Had A Massive Stroke

On Sunday night, I found a stack of old photos in my grand dad’s study and was looking through it in my grand mum’s room. My grand mother, her sister and myself were staying in that room for that night.

I asked her sister(my grand aunty) if my great grand mother approved of my grand father after looking at a particular picture in which my grand dad was quite cool looking next to a very docile grandmother of mine. Grand ma shook her head. We smiled abit and my grand mother just looked at me with her usual sad expression.

She told my grand aunty, “I want to sell off everything in this house, buy a nice big suitcase and travel the world,”.

My grand aunty had abit of a cough and she turned around and screamed, “Maggie!! Maggie!!”(Maggie being my grandmother’s name).

My grandmother was panting and blowing into her pillow, her right arm trashing. She was on her side and her eyes were closed shut and her tongue twisted out in a grosteque manner.

My grand aunty Peggy who was an ex-nurse, grabbed a hold of her and slapped her on the face repeatedly shouting, “Mag, Mag, wake up, Mag..!” I screamed, “DADDDYYY..MAMA HAS FITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

It was a horrible horrible sight.

My Grand Aunty Peg took out the bottom dentures and I remember she wears an upper one as well so I stuck my hand in to pry that one out. I held on to both her legs because they were trashing. Her right arm was continuously slapping against her thighs and then it slapped against the wall. It then twitched against her head and she broke out in a cold sweat. She couldn’t even control her bladder.

Dad asked in a calm voice, “So what should I do..?”

OBVIOUSLY HE WAS NOT CALM. WE NEEDED AN AMBULANCE.

The damn ambulance came like 30 minutes later and she was ferried off to SJMC.

I was crying my eyes out because she looked really bad and I didn’t want to lose another grandparent too soon. My Aunty Adelin and Uncle Eric came all the way from USJ6 to keep us company and we all slept downstairs, unable to sleep. Waking up to cry somemore.

The rest of the family returned from the hospital and said that my grand mother had a stroke and was in the ICU. So my grandmother slipped into a comma.

She has not been eating her pills for three days because she ran out of it and how do you know?  Her sugar levels and her high blood pressure decided to shoot sky high. Then there was a blood clot in her brain.

We had to keep this from my cousin sister Shevie who was sitting for her PMR the following day. It was so difficult because just before she arrived at my grandparents’ home in USJ3, we were crying again and we had to put on a smile and ask her how’s her paper. We didn’t want to tell my Aunty Judy who is from UK yet because she was on her way back for my grand father’s funeral. We had to let her digest grand dad’s death first before breaking it to her about grandma’s condition. My Aunty Judy took it quite well when my father gently broke it to her.

We were too busy with grand dad’s funeral so we didn’t get to visit her much but other relatives and family friends helped us by going to her and reporting back to us about her condition.

Keeping it from Shevie was very tough. My Aunty Susie told her that my grand mother was sent to the hospital because she was really tired and needed to be put under observation. Shevie was a little puzzled but did not question the family’s decision to do so. She felt it was abit strange though.

On the day of my grand father’s cremation, the doctor called my family up and my Aunty Judy who is a nurse and would be familiar with the terms used, talked to the doctor. They did a CT scan and there is no activity in the brain. She was on the ventilator and they would remove it in a few days to see if she can breathe on her own.

At that very moment when we received the phone call, my grand father’s coffin was being carried out to be put into the hearse. You know that part is one of the sadder parts of the funeral right? Plus the fact that we were so worried about my grandmother made all of us cry uncontrollably while doing that walking-around-the-coffin-with-joss sticks thing.

My grandfather’s cremation was really bad. They opened the incinerator and let us see the fire engulfing his coffin. My Aunty Susie was wailing, calling out for her father. Dad was chanting very fiercely and his grip on me tightened. It was really scary because he could not control the tone of his voice when he was chanting. He was going to go out of control. I thought I was the bravest because I did not start crying. Then I remember the way he used to ask me to eat the apples that he has bought for me and I just started wailing uncontrollably. Plus the fact that I know my grandmother will never be the same person that she once was even if she does survive.

At about 10pm, the doctor called my dad up and said that things were not looking good. Her brains were swelling and the moment it presses against her nerve, her heart will stop functioning. Even if she does survive, she will become a vegetable because there is no activity in her brain. We tried our very best not to start crying because we know once we start, we can’t stop.

We had to tell Shevie already because it would not be fair to us. But she took it very well. All of us took turns to go and see her in the ICU and talked to her and kissed her as well.

Things are not looking great. After collecting grand dad’s bones from the crematorium this morning, we went to see grand mother at SJMC. We’ll be taking turns to be with her.

Everytime the phone rings, we’ll be clutching our hearts because they beat faster and we’ll feel nauseous trying to gauge the facial expressions of those who receive the calls. You can’t even eat your food.

We know that she will be very depressed after his death. If this is what she wants, this is what she wants.
This is the worst week of my life.

At the praying table in front of grand dad’s lot, there were plates of oranges and apples. I took one of each because I still remember him telling me to eat the apples that he has brought for me.

Every now and then, I can still remember the way they call my name very clearly in my head. And it saddens me so. Something so familiar, you know?


Thanks for all the encouraging comments and condolences. I’m just not up to replying to every single one but it touched me that you guys cared to drop a line in the previous post.

My Grandfather Died

It was about 9pm and I was on the bus with Yan Rui and Jimmy coming back to KL for the weekend. My mum called me and said that my granddad went to the hospital but was not admitted after the doctor managed to stabilise his oxygen levels.

I then turned to Yan Rui and said, “My parents will be abit late because my grandfather went to the hospital.”

Then I started to tell him about how my grand dad thought that he should not waste some of my grandmother’s red hair dye and because his hair is white therefore it appeared to be flaming red. He had to wear a cap for a couple of days and didn’t want to go out with us. We all had a good laugh about it but he himself did not find it very funny. It was RED. Told Yan Rui that my grandma’s hair was voluntarily purple. We both shook our heads at my grandparents’ hair styles.

Dad and mum came to pick me up from Pudu and we went to my Aunty’s house to have a look at my grand dad. He looked shockingly yellow but assured us that he was fine. He did not look normal. I thought that perhaps the lighting was bad.

After supper, we left my aunt’s place at about 1.15am. I indulged myself in the internet until the phone started to ring at 3am. My mum picked it up and apparently my grand dad was on the phone, asking if they could send him to the hospital.

They hurried over to my aunt’s place and drove him to Sunway Medical. But 5 minutes before reaching the hospital, he became unconcious. His head plopped against the head rest of the front seat.

The doctors tried to revive him for an hour plus but was unable to do so.

I first got wind of it when my cousin Shevie smsed me at about 3.30am.

Shevie: “You heard the news?”
Me: “What?”

Shevie: “Yea yea sei jor ar”. (Grand father passed away.)

I expected it. I really did. But it’s still damn damn saddening to hear it for real.

I called my mum to confirm.

My Aunt came to pick me and my brother up and my poor aunt was reminiscing and crying while driving. I nearly wanted to take over the steering wheels. It was so heartbreaking at the same time.

He was wrapped in white clothe that was tied at the top of his head. We got the nurse to undo it so that we could see his face. My aunty was kneeling down and crying like a child. Within an hour plus, his face became swollen and yellow. So very different from how he looked when he was alive. I couldn’t feel that it was him. It doesn’t look like him.

You see, my grandfather nearly died at the age of 40 when he had tuberculosis of the back. It ate away bits of his backbone and therefore he is a hunchback. The upper part of his back was perpendicular to his lower back. He used to have to lift up his head(like how we would tilt our heads back) to do normal things like talking and other daily activities and it has become a norm to him.

So when he passed away, I don’t know why but suddenly his back straightened out and his head was tilted way back due to the many years that he was in that position.

He’s mouth was slightly opened and his tongue looked so dry… it was really scary.

The following day, he was sent home at about 1pm. The undertaker laid out mats outside his house and we were to kneel down while holding a joss stick each. Dad and his sister were crying like mad and so were we. It was made worse when the undertaker asked us to call out to him and ask him to come home. Sometimes chinese traditions can be so ….well…for use of a better word, unsettling.

He looked much much better in the coffin. He looked like himself. Heck, he even looked like he was smiling. Once I saw his body, I did not feel so agitated anymore. In fact, I felt relieved to see him back home as compared to the hours when he was kept in the hospital.

It’s all too sudden really. He is 74 years old and yesterday he even drove down to Shah Alam to play mahjong and he could still do his gardening in the morning. It’s the damn haze I tell you. He was diagnosed with Coronary Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(COPD) about more than a year ago. I remember reading about it in my A-levels biology book and usually old people do not recover from it. The cause of it? SMOKES. Fucking smokes. He had this machine called the oxygen concentrator but he was too stubborn to use it.

I want to heave a sigh but I am too tired to. The day before I only slept like 1 hour on the bus and after all the hustle and bustle to the hospital and back, we slept for two more hours before going back to his house in USJ3 to wait for his body.

Visitors streamed in around dinner time. Relatives and friends paid their last respects but like any other chinese wake, there were a smattering of laughter when old friends got together. I went around chatting with all the relatives. I talked so much and this morning I even woke up with a sore throat. 

Do you know that the prayers are the saddest part? You keep staring at the photo and you just think back about what he has done for you or what you have done together and the tears just start cascading down like waterfalls. We used his IC photo and he was never good at smiling but he did make a pretty good attempt to.

The heat from the flames distorted the air in front of the picture and it made it look like he was crying as well. Little did he know that he would just go like that. I wonder how he feels about that.

In times like these, I wish I had a huge family. I only have one brother and a cousin sister who is sitting for her PMR on Monday. The cremation’s on Tuesday. Really worrying. When you have a huge family, the sadness is not so concentrated because at least you’ll still have that silly cousin or aunty or uncle who will try to inject a little joy into the situation. Uncle, Aunty and Cousin sister went home to sleep. Brother and Mother went home to sleep.

As you know, all the boys in the family will have to stay with the deceased for the night right? Due to size of my family, it was only me, my father and my grandmother who stayed with my grand father last night. Dad was abit pissed to be left pretty much alone and so was I, but we were blaming the uncles and aunties and cousins that we never had. Strange feeling right?  The undertaker’s underlings who were suppose to stay guard with us went out to fucken’ yam cha and my dad nearly wanted to pass out due to more than 24 hours without sleep and I mean, we pay you money how can you be so irresponsible??!

I do miss my grandfather though. The most saddening part about it all is that he was not senile like most of the old men who leave their families.

He gave me a tin of biscuits that I did not like to bring to Kedah and it is still sitting in my kitchen in my hostel. He could still boil herbal soup for me and bring it to me during my national service stint and it tasted so good. So many recipes that I have not learnt from him yet. His chai choi during chinese new year will now be no more. I will miss hearing him rant about how stupid the government is and how the reckless drivers are “bloody bastards” and “stupid buggers.” I will miss having him to make me watch tapes of me as a child and he would repeat himself about all the funny things that I did as a child. I will miss having him dropping by my house and forcing apples and oranges on me and lecturing me about how I’m too lazy to even wash an apple. He was my first example of a parent because my mum, dad and grandma were too busy to look after me.

Do you know how I felt when I opened the fridge to see leftover meals cooked by him days ago? He was still so able. 

So many things I will miss but of course I know that it’s time to let go.

Isn’t it heartbreaking to know that all of it would not happen anymore?