Grandma was sitting up in bed with the support of a few pillows. She looked gaunt but peaceful. I stood by her bedside with the sober awareness that the final moment was near. For a second, I thought I saw her taking her last breath. My heart sank. Then she opened her eyes and looked at me. I burst into tears, leaning over to embrace her. “Grandma, you worked way too hard for all of us. I love you so much!”

Grandma’s eyes turned red. She pointed to her pocket. “The girl next door gave me something the other day. I want you to have it.”

I reached into her pocket and took out a little dried gourd with red ribbons attached on top and the two red words on its body “福乐” (Happiness, Joy). I began to sob and held her tiny body tight in my arms.

I opened my eyes. Everything appeared foggy. The large red digits projected on the ceiling were 5:35. “I just had a dream about Grandma. Or more precisely, Grandma paid me another visit!”

The night when grandma passed away, I wasn’t in Shanghai. I was in Washington DC with my family. I wish we had WeChat back then so that I could be constantly and instantly connected with my folks back in China. If that were the case, I would have had abandoned the Christmas party and retreated to my hotel room when my uncle was looking for me during Grandma’s last moments of life. But instead I got the messages a few days later on my answering machine when we returned home.

For whatever reason, I didn’t go to Shanghai to attend Grandma’s funeral. Maybe I wanted to hold onto the fantasy (although it was a firm belief at the time) that she was just sleeping, and someday would be resurrected and we would be reunited in heaven. I didn’t want the last image of Grandma to be a lifeless body in a coffin. The alternate image of her waving to me from the balcony as I was getting into the taxi to catch the flight back to US had already been engraved in my brain. It happened shortly after she was diagnosed with late stage uterus cancer and six month before I got my uncle’s calls. I broke down in the taxi.

So I said goodbye to Grandma my own way. With the help of my Christian friends, we turned the Friday fellowship gathering into a memorial service for Grandma. I delivered the eulogy, presented a slideshow of her life with her grandchildren and great grandchildren (earlier pictures are nonexistent). The hymns sung by the worship team offered comfort, love and hope. To me it felt like a meaningful closure and a good narrative of Grandma’s life, death and eternal life beyond life on earth.

A few years ago when I was contemplating letting go of my Christian faith, I had to ask myself this heartbreaking question, “Can you give up the dream to be with Grandma again?” Eventually I said ‘yes’.

Grandma continues to live in my memory, in my heart and in my dreams like our encounter this morning. The other day Jane and Jim were looking at her baby pictures. Jane pointed to some pictures with Grandma in them and told Jim, “That’s Tai Tai!” Jane was very close to Tai Tai during the first couple years of her life when Grandma lived with us here in the US.

Currently I am connected with my family living in different parts of the world via social media. I hope by reading my blog, we will collectively remember the life of an extraordinary woman and the essence of who she was. Her kindness, unwavering and sacrificial love for her family and her generosity are being passed down from generation to generation. I hope someday my great grandchildren will read the stories of Grandma, see her through my eyes and find a special connection with her.

We love you forever, dear Grandma!