A Reflection on Death, In Honor of Life

My grandfather passed last week. At his funeral this weekend, I spent as much time as I could with my grandmother. I’m very lucky to still have her with me, my sweet grandmother.

She shared her stories with me this weekend– she was born in China in 1930 in the countryside, lost both parents before she turned 8, and was a refugee for 3 years when the Japanese massacred the cities and turned to the countryside for forced labor. I asked her about aspirations long gone— she shared how when she was young, she dreamed of building an orphanage, and now in her 80s she dreams still of building compassionate retirement homes for those in old age that feel the sharp pain of isolation and loss. “Build these for me,” she says, “We elderly people need these, not just food and physical care, but food for the heart and the soul.”

Losing my grandfather was a tragedy, but also made me appreciate the limited time I have left with my grandmother. At 25, I have yet to truly grasp mortality, and only experience it through moments of empathy with those I speak of who have come close to death or are nearing their time. I find myself very lucky to be reminded of how precious life is almost daily in conversations with our veterans. Most of us walk into work each day with the highest cost we might suffer measured in dollar signs— a customer lost, a target short, an opportunity missed. So when I listen to veterans speaking about walking into battles accepting that their potential cost may be a limb or their life, I am deeply humbled and also grateful, not only for their service, but also for the necessary reminder that life, health, friendship, family and love are a gift.

Written in honor of my cherished grandfathers Xian Mi Zou and Tsai Ge Xin; our veterans for their sacrifices for our country; those who perished in Paris; and all who have lost a loved one.


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