Last Friday was the Qingming Festival (清明節). On that day, Chinese families are supposed to honor their ancestors by visiting the family graves and cleaning the gravestones. I was in Las Vegas last Friday, and my mom was on a business trip, so we postponed going to my grandmother’s grave until today. I hadn’t visited my grandmother’s grave in many years (probably not since I went to college), so my memories of going were distant yet familiar.
My grandmother (my mom’s mom) actually died two years before I was born. My brother was two years old when she died. My sister was the only one of us who had any extended amount of time with her. In fact, my grandmother moved from Taiwan to the US in order to help my mom take care of my sister when she was born.
After my grandmother moved to the US, she ran the family business, a fish and chips restaurant. She was killed by someone who tried to rob the restaurant. She was 52. My mom used to tell me stories about how amazing her mom was. How kind and giving she was. How smart she was, even without much schooling. How life would be so different if she was still with us.
My parents and I met my sister and her boyfriend at the cemetery. We were only at my grandmother’s grave for a few minutes (it felt like a formality), but I tried to remember some of the things my mom said about her. I tried to picture the photographs I’ve seen of her, to envision the woman who raised my mom. In the end, it felt like when I visited my aunt’s grave recently.