There’s so much I have to say Tais...
There are so much unspoken feelings; Too many angry words thrown into the pile and not enough gratitude passed through my lips into your ears. Not enough understanding of what you were going through; that the beautiful, fierce strong woman I knew was deteriorating at such a fast pace.
I don’t think I was able to fully process that this woman who held me, fed me, washed my butt, and accompanied me places, now needed me to do this for her. I couldn’t accept you were aging; you were weakening. You weren’t going to stay the same. I was angry.
“Why couldn’t you just stay like the grandma I once knew.”
I remember in 2016 when you had salmonella. You could barely stand and were falling everywhere. I drove you to the ER and tried getting you out of the back seat. As I helped you out of the car, you were so exhausted and winded you could not stand up by yourself. I had to pin you against my car so you would not fall. I could not help but cry with tears streaming down, seeing my strong grandma in such a vulnerable state. Under my breath, through my tears, I plead you to stop being this way. You were supposed to be the one to hold me when I couldn’t walk. You were supposed take care of me. Not the other way around.
You knew this about yourself. And you felt horrible about it. You were becoming less and less independent. And we didn’t help you by screaming in anger when you couldn’t hear us or was confused due to your dementia. You were already aware that you weren’t the same person you used to be. Your dementia was getting worse. I think your spirit was in between our world and the next; the in-between. I was frustrated, hurting, and helpless, but I knew you needed me.
What could I have done to make you happy?
I tried to find ways to make you happy — or smiled at least. I remember one night when I cooked chicken noodle soup and you ate 3 bowls of it, scooping the soup with the ladle and smiling as you ate the food. I felt proud that I found a way to make you smile.
I made coffee for you as much as possible. You and grandpa used to drink it all the time together. You even let us drink it when we were 6 years old. I don’t think you actually knew it was bad for us. Your face brightened a little when I asked if you wanted coffee. Sometimes you would even ask me to make it for you. You loved your coffee sweet, so when your face scrunched together, that meant I made it too bitter. I would add more scoops of sugar into your coffee. You also loved the strawberry smoothie from Caribou.
I wondered what else could I do for you grandma. I had no idea what could make you happy.
I kept telling myself I’d start a video series of you and I to document our funny conversations and your humorous character. I knew people would love you. But. I never got to it.
I told myself, I’d take you somewhere warm before you passed, so you can feel the warm sun on your skin like how you did back in your homeland. Maybe California or Hawaii. I already was imagining it in my head. But. I never got to that either.
I always believed you could bounce back from ANYTHING.
On a rare snowy morning in March 2019, you walked barefoot out of the house onto the snowy streets, blocks away from home. I’m sorry that I didn’t get up to check on you when I heard you grandma. I was so tired because you kept us up all night. I thought you were up just to use the bathroom and you’d come back to sleep. You had frost bite and your feet blistered and bruised. You couldn’t walk on your feet. But, you still tried.
In June, just when you were recovering from your frost bite, you had another stroke in your sleep. We had to take you to the ER. The left side of your body slowly stopped moving, eventually becoming paralyzed. You suffered many strokes, a stomach ulcer, salmonella, and frost bite. Every time you endured a health issue that landed you in the hospital, you always bounced back and came out still the strong woman I knew. I thought it’d be the same. I thought in time you’d regain mobility of your left side again. My grandma is strong. She can come out of anything.
But, you stopped talking. You were deteriorating. I didn’t comprehend it completely at the time but. You were dying. I had a feeling you didn’t have much time left.
We were heartbroken that we could not give you the 24 hour care that you needed and so September 2019, we made the hard decision to have you stay in a group home. I was angry. I did not want you there. None of us did. I said I could work a 3rd shift job so I can stay during the day to be with you. I did not want you to go grandma. I voiced strongly how I felt to mom. She said we really didn’t have any other choice.
Mom, some of your grandchildren, and I arrived at the group home to check it out. I dreaded that we were even doing this. But, when I stepped into the home, it felt like a place you would like. I felt a calming vibe. The other grandmas living there were so cute and kind. I realized that this place better suited your needs. I couldn’t hold onto you just because I wanted you close. Our house was not built for special needs.
Mom visited you every day. I visited you every week and your other grand children came often too.
March 15th, 2020.
It was a Sunday; the last day of my Hmong Women show at Park Square Theatre. You passed in your sleep that morning. Randy burst into my room and hastily told me to wake up as he told me the news and left out my room as quick as his words. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was half awake not sure how to feel.
I was shocked. I was sad that we were not there to be with you when you passed. I was also relieved, because I knew you weren’t suffering anymore.
The PCA said at 3 am, the morning you passed, someone ringed the doorbell.
I wanted to be there when you passed. I knew you were afraid of being alone and I never wanted you to be alone. I never wanted you to feel like we abandoned you. We didn’t.
I hurt so much because I feel like I did not do my part to ensure that you knew we loved you with all our hearts despite all the disputes and frustrations. We loved you with our whole hearts. It was our inability to understand the aging process and how mental illness affected a person. We had no idea what you were facing. We did not understand you. I’m so sorry Tais. I’m so sorry. I felt so hopeless and trapped that no one was helping us and I was helpless in helping my mom take care of you. We were going through this alone with no support and no resources. Your dementia episodes were getting worse, to the point where I had to physically hold you down so you wouldn’t leave our house. You scratched and bit me, but I continued holding you. I was hurt, frustrated, and confused. I didn’t want to do that to you. You were my grandma. Dementia, depression, understanding the aging process; These kinds of things were never mentioned in our community and I failed to find resources to help you through your depression and other illnesses. I think, if only I was able to find you the help you needed, maybe you’d still be here happier and doing better.
F**K the Hmong Culture on this Part
You didn’t want a proper funeral because you felt like you didn’t have children to hold incense and come bow down for you. You felt like you were small in this big world. You felt like you were second to men. You felt like you didn’t mean much to the world. You left this world with a heavy heart of the unspoken pain and trauma held within you.
I want to let you know that you meant something to the world. You meant something to me, your children and grandchildren. I was infuriated when those men at your funeral were all throwing the mic to one another unwilling to sing the traditional tunes to send you off, as if they had better things to do. I knew if you had sons or more children, they wouldn’t even act that way. I was angry that people did not see your value. You were just another old lady who passed whom had no husband or sons. YOU WERE WAY MORE THAN THAT. And yet, that is what our society painted you as.
Your Legacy Lives on through Me
I wear your clothes because I miss you. I wear them because that is the way I feel closest and connected to you. This is the way I can embody you. Even though you didn’t think you deserved to leave a legacy, you have, and I will carry that legacy on for you; To be a righteous and kind person. I will let your legacy carry on through me. I will become the best massage therapist because you were the best. I will always give you the credit for when people ask why I’m so good at massages. Every time I sip my coffee, I will think of you. And one day if I choose to open a coffeeshop, I will do it in honor of you and grandpa. I will help girls and women and anyone else who are in need to be understood, seen, and supported to become the best versions of themselves. You never had anyone tell you that you were amazing, talented, and strong. You never understood how wonderful you were.
Though I couldn’t help you realize that about yourself, I will make it my purpose and mission to make sure that everyone sees their potential and realize that they can live out the highest best version of themselves. I carry you with me in everything I do. Every life that I touch positively, I think of you, and send all that positivity and love your way in hopes you could live your best life in the next life. That’s all I want for you Tais.
I want to be strong, selfless, and independent JUST LIKE YOU. I want to love unconditionally JUST LIKE YOU. I want you to continue living through me. I want your legacy of love and healing to live through me. Without you, there would be no me and all the positive things I’ve sent out into the universe.
I love you grandma. I miss you. I think of you every day. But I do want to forgive myself. I want to let you go so you can go ahead and LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE as you are with Source at this moment.
LOVE YOU TO THE MOON. LOVE YOU TO THE SUN. HERE ON EARTH WE STAY AS YOUR NEW JOURNEY HAS BEGUN, SO DOES MINE MAMA.
❤ You’re loving granddaughter