a guest Nov 13th, 2019 129 Never
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- Thank you all for coming today.
- Never in my life have I met anyone more altruistic and kinder than my Grandmother, Li Laixi. Even if I went into a dictionary and picked all the positive words to describe her, I do not believe it would be enough. She was a wonderful, inspiring, and caring person, and we all mourn the loss of such a great individual today.
- My grandmother endured some of the most harrowing events in history: being born before World War II, only then to suffer through a Civil War, and later towards horrific events such as the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.
- She braved through and endured such unfathomable hardships. Hardships that I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to go through. Not only was she able to survive the conflicts of her era, she persevered through the many misfortunes the world threw at her.
- She was orphaned at an early age; an age so young that she could scarcely recall the memories of the time before she was adopted.
- As a child, she was a lively spirit and a bundle of energy, but was forced to become restricted into her household. Because at that time, that’s what traditional culture demanded of women. Instead of taking great strides in her step and facing the world as she knew it, she was made to walk slowly with smaller steps, and her head held low.
- When she first started her job out of school, all she could think about was earning money to give back to her family. Even when she could barely scrape by with the measly income she had, she sent a large portion of it back to her father.
- During the cultural revolution, she had to take extra care of her family, lest they became a target. She wasn’t just a standard mother. She had to work day and night. Outside of her house, she would work at a power plant. Inside her house, she would cook, feed, clean, and all the stay-at-home duties she had to do. Outside of work, she had to attend meetings and other social gatherings required of her during her time. She did all that and more, every single day, just to provide for her family.
- She was a woman that endured all the sufferings that the world wrought upon her with a smile and thought about everyone but herself. That’s the kind of woman she was. A strong, capable, and incredible individual.
- She helped people out even when there’s no promise of being repaid. She helped family members without them knowing. Her kind heart helped many of her friends during their hardships. In their time of need and in hers as well, she donated large sums of her money to support her friends. These weren’t spending money, they were money that her father sent her for food and other needs. Money like this wasn’t easy to come by and even more difficult to give away, especially in her situation. Once again, she thought of others before herself, and she gave it away anyway.
- When they were successful and bounced back onto their feet, they ignored and avoided my grandmother. Yet despite the reactions from her undeserving friends, she did not hold a grudge against them. She viewed their success as success on her part; that being able to aid and assist people when the world was against them was enough for her to be happy. She did not demand any repayment, and did not hate them even though these people did not recognize nor thank her. Even then, my grandmother was content. That’s how kind she was. That’s the person she was.
- When things were finally starting to look up to her in China, fate threw her another tragedy as my grandfather passed away. Shortly thereafter, in comes me, a little baby that her next twenty three years would be with. She could’ve had it all, enjoyed her life in China with people that admire her, sons that would provide luxuriously for her, and a country she was familiar with and grew up in. Yet again in her mind, duty calls. She left all that behind to be with me, into an unknown country with unknown people, speaking an unknown language, living in an unknown culture.
- I cannot even begin to comprehend how that must have felt. From being able to walk anywhere you want, talk and chat with any friend you want, to live in a nice place, to suddenly living in a cramped apartment building in Arlington, Virginia. All of the sudden, walking to a super mall or giant supermarket is difficult. Communing and communicating with your neighbors become impossible. And in an instant she’s once again restricted into a cage that was my home in Arlington.
- As if things weren’t bad enough, life had cursed her. All her careful efforts in staying healthy was for nought when we found out she had a genetic polycystic kidney disease. And from then on, she was further restrained. Not even counting the numerous surgeries and procedures she had to bear through, she had to be confined to a chair, with tubes extracting her blood and pumping in chemicals just for her to stay alive, for four hours a day, three times a week, every week, for nine consecutive years. As she aged, her health deteriorated further. In addition to her restricted dialysis diet, her teeth started to fall out. The pain of removing the rest prevented her from getting dentures, and she was unable to eat anything but soft porridge and a few morsels of vegetables and sometimes meat.
- She was the type to take the brunt of everything, and shielded us from the uglies and the bads of the world. I can say with certainty that she was in pain every day she lived, but said nothing to us so that she could ensure our happiness, so that we could worry about anything but her. Only when the pain became unbearable, would she relent and succumb, and we would bring her to a hospital.
- Anyone, myself included, would have wanted a fast way out of this. To be able to live as I want and away from these pain. But my grandmother? She consistently put others before herself. When offered the chance to perform a kidney transplant, she denied it, stating: “other people need it more than I do. I’m just an old lady with a ticking timer.”
- Undeterred by all of this, when she came to the States, she had one mission and one mission only: to make sure that I would be able to grow up in an environment where I’m loved. And after twenty three years, I can say that her mission was more than successful. Everything I am today is because of her. Everything that I believe, everything that I uphold, is because of her.
- During the past month, she conversed with me and other family members. She knew her days were numbered and wanted to let us all know. She told us that she was proud of what we are. Sure, there are kinks that could be worked out, but overall she was satisfied. She was finally satisfied with her handiwork.
- Because of her, my mother is able to avoid mistakes in life and learn to be loved even in isolation. Because of her, my dad was able to rid away the tremendous amount of stress that would’ve been to raise me. Because of her, my uncles were raised to become the men they are now, and their abilities to support not just their families but each others. Because of her, my cousins were able to soften their landings when they came to the United States. Because of her, we’re all kinder to each other. Because of her, I was able to be raised with love and affection, to learn what unconditional love is, to learn what altruism entails. Because of her, I was able to get to meet and know the wonderful group of friends here in front of me today, because I see the same in all of you and your actions from the time I’ve known you all.
- To me, and my family, she was a sanctuary. A beacon of hope and safety that we would all gather around when times were dark for us. We could confide in her, ask her for advice, and most of all, depend on her. With her passing, we all feel an emptiness within us. This hollow feeling will never go away. It’s a hole in our hearts that won’t ever close. It’s a hole in our hearts that won’t ever be filled.
- Don’t let this pain overwhelm and overcome you. But don’t let this pain ever disappear, as it is a reminder of our dearest grandmother. Let that bit of pain be a pinch from her when things aren’t looking bright, to remind us of her life and memories and the things she stood for. Let it be something that pushes us to be something better; someone greater.
- Even though she’s gone, that shield that she held did not disappear. It is passed down to us. Her duty has been fulfilled and now it’s our time to hold it high, become the sanctuary, become the barrier, become the beacon of hope and safety, for each other, and for those that have yet to exist in this world.
- My grandmother’s story is that of suffering, sacrifice, and love. A lonely girl in a cruel, cruel world that braved through all odds to lay the foundation of what is now my family. Her life was just duty after duty, mission after mission, with no pause. Even in death, she managed to bring my family closer to each other. Something she was struggling to do in life. Even her final act was one for us and not for herself. She was that selfless.
- Now, she is truly at peace. All that suffering has been lifted, and she can eat all the food she wants. She could leap and hop and do all the yoga she wants. She could finally go to her little garden and plant all the coolest vegetables you could sprout in a backyard. She can play on her little i-Pad all day, knit all day, watch TV all day, do anything she wasn’t able to fully enjoy while she was alive. She could watch us from above, and guide us with her spirit. She is finally free.
- To our friends and strangers, I say this to you: don’t forget to love each other. If my grandma’s story taught us anything, it’s that the sheer power of love and determination can overcome all odds. Don’t hesitate to say “I love you”, for you might never know when it would be too late to do so.
- To my family members, I say this to you: remember her for what she was and what she stood for. Wear a smile on your face and laugh, because that’s what she strived for. Live life to the fullest, because that’s what she died for.
- And to my grandma, I say this: Thank you. Thank you for all that you lived through to get us where we are today. Thank you for making me a better person. I miss you so much, but I know you’re in a better place now. I hope that you can finally enjoy all the things you’ve wanted to do in life. And that someday, I can have lunch with you again. My treat.
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