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A little over a year ago (Aug 2021), my grandfather passed away. Recently, I came across the piece I wrote back then. A family member (or anyone) passing away is always a good reminder of what life is for.

My friend Lorna says everyone has their own way of coping with grief. Mine, ever since I can remember, has been writing. So instead of (tearily) updating you individually next time we catch up, I have decided to write here.

Yesterday evening (Beijing Time), my grandfather, my Grand-Papa, passed away. It came as a surprise. He had been in hospital for a few days, but he has unfortunately had his fair few trips to the hospital in the last years. Every time, he got out strong, and evermore stubborn – or at least that’s how it seemed to me. I assumed this time would be the same; and if I am honest with myself, I did not even let myself think of the prospect that I would not see him again.  

I had not seen Grand-Papa since Christmas 2017 – three and a half years. I don’t feel guilty, but instead more like a pang of longing, of longing to see him one more time. Since Covid begun in Feb 2019, I have prayed and hoped that there would be no deaths or major accidents whilst I was halfway across the world and could not travel back easily. But, probability-wise, it has to happen for some, particularly during a global pandemic. A close friend lost their father last year, another lost their Nana more recently. These things happen. But you always wish and hope it does not to you – its natural. 

This morning, I was packing. Ready to hop on the 17:15 via Guangzhou tomorrow – literally the suitcase and clothes are next to me right now. I had a deep desire to be with my family. My dad, my grandma, my mum, Constantin. A big “so what” to the visa expiring; the flights; the covid tests(sss); the 2-week (at least) quarantine; the landlord kicking me out of my home early Sep; my job. I would figure that out. Its all superficial. At the back of my mind, I was thinking about not returning to China at all. Yet, the emotional exhaustion of a last minute trip home is really enormous, as my highly brilliant mum pointed out when she (finaaally) woke up. Ironically, the first time in a year she has advocated for me *not* going home.  

And the thing is, it’s not like I will see him again by going to the funeral, which is what I was attempting to compensate for. With Mum, Dad, and Constantin, my brother (and maybe the cats and dog too) in agreement (and oh so rational), hard to disagree.  

So, trip cancelled. As fast as it had been planned and imagined in my slightly-too-active-sometimes brain. I will have to “Swim Home” (Cautious Clay) a little later.  

Grand-Papa once told me that when they were in Guinea (where my dad was born), or even Greece, Grand-Maman and he relied on the postal system for any sort of message. He made me grateful for the technology we have today. I truly do not know how I would be dealing with this otherwise. 

Yesterday, I realized how much I needed a break. Something which has been so unbelievably reinforced by Grand-Papa’s passing away. A real break – not going travelling and wanting to see everything, and leading friends into bushes because she wants to get to the peak, or wants to go to all of Lonely Planet’s recommendations in Guizhou. No, a Morocco-style break, where it’s me and César (my dog), and I spend my day reading, swimming, thinking, and sleeping. A break where I can also mourn, because ultimately, that is what a funeral is for. So even if I don’t fly across the world to be there, I will find my own place to mourn – this weekend.  

The thing is, Grand-Papa only spent his last few days in hospital, and throughout he was surrounded by his family. His wife who he has been married to for 70 years, his children, grand-children, and great-grand-children. That brings me so much comfort. And it reminds me, though he had a great career in aluminium (I think??), thats not what anyone will remember. What we will remember is the beautiful family he created; his insistence on watching the news before dinner; his snoring on the seat next to us whilst Constantin and I were watching Mimi Cracra; the smell of his car; his collections of seemingly useless things; his interest in what I liked, what I was doing, what I wanted to be, and buying me huge books about these passions, which changed every few months. At least, that is what I will remember.  

RIP, Je T’aime mon Grand-Papa Chéri 💙 

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