Rather than keeping the memorial’s introduction and my eulogy behind lock and key, I want to share my Ama with the world.
Ama, wherever you may be, I hope these words make you happy:
Last Sunday, September 13th, we sisters reunited in fear and in courage to face one of our greatest fears—Ama, our beloved grandmother, passed away in her sleep three days after we discovered she was positive for COVID-19.
It was a night each of us hoped and prayed would never happen—to witness a moment so crucial in our lives, yet not be by her side and hear her last words of advice, receive her final assurances, or feel the warmth of her skin before her soul took flight.
This pandemic has pushed people to limits and heights no one would’ve imagined. It pushed us to be stronger, innovative, humble, and courageous. Since we can’t physically be with one another, we decided to have our own memorial for Ama on a platform like Animal Crossing.
Before we share our eulogies, I wanna thank Katrina for everything she has done for our family this past week. She showed strength, love, and relentlessness as she handled everything since the coronavirus impacted our family. From arranging the swab tests to calling for help the night Ama’s eyes wouldn’t open, to Ama’s cremation and burial. Despite the burden and sadness she carried in her chest, Kat made sure Dad, Gezelle, our brother William, and the helpers were taken care of. Thank you, Kat, we love you and will always appreciate everything you’ve done to keep our family together.
This memorial at its core is us honoring Ama’s memory, our way of placing our heart’s wishes in lanterns and sending them to her. It’s our final goodbye to the woman who loved us endlessly, who made sure she worked night and day so we’d become the strong men and women we are today.
Thank you, Ama
Entering Ama’s bedroom is like opening a large medieval door, leading you into a world filled with the treasures of her life. Her table lamp would shine over photos and letters on her desk held in place by clean-cut glass. Some were of us, some were of her and Kong Kong, and some were of her own family. There was, however, one thing in her room I recognized—a piece of bond paper tacked to her wooden shelf on the far left side of her room. As I looked closely that quiet afternoon, it was a 4-stanza poem I wrote many years ago entitled, “My Family.”
I can’t remember the lines of that poem anymore (I hope it’s still there), but I remember writing it at a time when our family was still pretty much intact. Dad and Mom, the four of us, Ama and Kong Kong—we filled the house with stories, jokes, serious discussions, laughs and tears.
The house slowly began to change. It grew darker, quieter. Sometimes, it would erupt in anger and despair. But Ama was the constant figure in that house and in our individual lives. She continued to be the light we needed to keep growing, to be brave, and to keep moving forward, even though many things could’ve held us back. She’d shake her hands with sheer clarity in her bright eyes as she repeated her most important lesson for us: “Study hard, work hard, and you’ll succeed in life.”
Ama has always been that one person I can count on to be on the other end of the line, no matter how often and dramatic my life would change. She would make sure I never forgot the importance of striving to succeed, whether that’s finishing college or working at the store.
When Jayson and I married, she always reminded ME to love selflessly, to love my husband as how she loved Kong Kong. Sometimes, those intentions came out as hurtful words or painful reminders of my failures that it was often difficult to feel her love. But she was there, she never abandoned us, and I thought she’d continue to be there even as the world fell onto its knees because of the pandemic.
Last Saturday, Cyrus and I were about to take a walk when we saw crows cawing and flying over the house. I had to blink a couple of times to be sure they were real. I’ve never seen them in my 7 years living here that I felt this was the universe telling me something. Never, never did I expect that gut feeling to become the midnight shock I woke up to, the dark moment when I watched strangers hovering over Ama’s body, their words, “No breath, no pulse” reverberating that I had to hold onto the table to keep from losing it.
All I could think of was her hand, how I wanted to hear her voice again, how I wanted to kiss her and let her know how much we all loved her. When daylight broke, all I wanted to do was stay in bed or sit on the stairs, and just sing and cry. But I knew Ama wouldn’t want that. She’d scold me, make me get off my ass because I have a family to care for. She would’ve wanted me to be a source of strength for Dad, for my sisters, and for my own family, as how she had been for all of us.
Ama, I don’t have new stanzas worthy enough to memorialize your name and memory, but wherever your soul may be, I hope these words, these stories, the tears we’ve all shed, the ache and silence we bear in our hearts will fall as dewdrops on the flowers you’re tending to right now.
I hope Kong Kong is by your side this very moment, holding your hand tightly, giving you the kisses and hugs that you’ve longed for 17 years.
Ama, thank you for everything you’ve done for us, for the love you showed us in your own way—bags of chips, cartons of milk and cereal for breakfast, large Hawaiian Delight pizza from Shakey’s, ang paos for the kids, a good education, a good work ethic, and life lessons.
Thank you for showing us the strength and patience of one who loves selflessly and endlessly, the beauty of simplicity, and the rewards of prayer and perseverance. It may be a long time before we can all fully come out of the dark, but your smile will be the starlight we can always count on.
Thank you, Ama. I love you. I’ll make sure to bring flowers when I get to fly back home for you.