My aunt Sooling ("yiyi") and I, circa 1974.
When I was born, my parents were very poor. Bogged down by full-time jobs and the responsibility to send money back to their parents, they could not afford a nanny. As soon as I could travel (1+ month old), they brought me back to Penang (from Hartford) for my mom's side of the family to take care of me.
My aunt Sooling was the youngest of her generation (of seven kids) and I am the oldest of my generation (of seventeen grandkids). With only a ten-year age gap, naturally, we formed a close bond. For two years, she, along with grandma and my other uncles and aunts, raised me.
As the years went by, she continued to play a big part in my life. In fact, when I first had my period, my mom was too chicken to explain the birds and the bees to me... it was aunt Sooling who sat down with a pen and paper and gave me "the speech" (complete with diagrams of the male and female reproductive organs). ☺️ It's been nearly 3 days since she left us. It still feels surreal.
Regrets I have a few -- I should have made time to travel to Dallas to cook for her and take care of her during her chemo... I should have joined her on her last vacation to SF a couple months ago. I should have, could have, would have.... all of that is too late now.
The first night I spent at the hospital by her bedside, I held her hand and told her that I was there now, and that we were ALL there now to take care of her. Even though she had been drifting in and out of consciousness, she managed to whisper "thank you" in response. Those were her very last words to me.
No, yiyi, the "thank you" should come from me to you.
Thank you for showing us what BRAVERY looks like -- throughout your battle with this dreadful disease, not once did I sense fear in you.
Thank you for showing us what SELFLESSNESS looks like -- even when you were not feeling well, you put the needs of your family and friends ahead of your own.
Thank you for showing us what DISCIPLINE and DILIGENCE looks like -- I cannot believe you were still working up to the day before you were admitted last Friday!
Most of all, thank you for being my yiyi. You will always be in my heart. ❤️