Something You Can Never Prepare For; Something You Can Never Beat

I got a text message from my dad after I got off work today. He asked me to call my uncle because my aunt has been announced brain-dead. I called my uncle and he told me my aunt just passed away. It’s only been two days since she got hospitalized. I wish I could say something else but I didn’t know what to say other than asking “how are you?”

No matter how fearless you are, there are two things in the world you can never beat — time and death. They come and go, ruthlessly witnessing the joys and tragedies happening. To time, the ultimate joy is no more than a few unnoticeable grains of sand in an enormous hourglass. To death, the most unbearable tragedy comes to an end to the dead when death announces its presence.

My grandpa was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in early 2015. I went back home after my graduation and he could barely eat because of the pain. He passed away right before I went back to Chicago. While we knew the time we had with him was running against the clock, his death was still a shock to everyone. The doctor said my grandpa still had a few months. In fact, he had just left hospital and we even had a small gathering for him. The day he passed away, I was woken up by irregular heartbeat, which never happened to me. It lasted for quite a while and I had to force myself back to sleep because the sun wasn’t out yet. Later that day, my dad told me my grandpa passed away early in the morning. Even though it might sound superstitious, I still firmly believe my grandpa was thinking of me in the last moments in his life. People joked in a kind way that he wanted me to be there for his funeral. He chose to leave early because I probably wouldn’t be home if he passed away later as predicted by the doctor.

My relationship with my grandpa was never close. Or we never knew how to be close. Every time my family visited my grandparents, all I would say was “hi, Grandpa” and then that would be the end of our conversation. While he wasn’t the best grandpa but I knew he had tried his best to love me. A lot of my childhood memories have been buried in time. However, not even having to clean the dust from my memories, I still vividly remember that one day my grandpa flew the kite up for me. I was sitting in the farmland, waiting for him to hand it over. It was probably a beautiful Spring day, as I could still see the liveliness of the field and feel the warmth of the breeze.

Death is something you can never prepare for, either for others or for yourself. Because of all the years I was been away from home — six years of boarding school and then four years overseas for university, I’ve grown estranged from my family. The deaths of family members, ironically, have brought me closer to my family. Time is a luxury that nobody has possession of. Anyone who thinks they are the master of time, will only be proved to be part of time itself. Laugh when you can; cry when you can; love when you can; fear when you can. Because you never know when time and death will sit together and conspire to take things away from you.