Her name was Eladia. It’s a wonderful, musical name, but I called her Grandma. She died in August of this year, in the Philippines.
I have to admit, I considered not going to the funeral. There just seemed to be too many obstacles. We would be leaving on short notice which meant the tickets would be super expensive. Plus, I didn’t know if I would be able to take the time off; a newspaper doesn’t go on vacation when you do.
But this was a woman who left her own homeland so she could take care of my siblings and me, four children under the age of 9. My mom needed her help, so she came. Boy, did she need her help: I remember us as sometimes being very naughty. But I don’t remember my grandma ever yelling at us or spanking us. She was gentle and mild-mannered, even when we were surely bratty and obnoxious.
This was the woman who made us whatever we wanted to eat. She would take the skin off of frozen chickens just to fry up some balat for Jofe. When my brother Jason requested no crumbs on his snack plate of jam and butter on toast, she brushed them off. Me? I remember many fond days of eating nothing but eggs and hot dogs with rice. This was a woman who could make eating oranges sound crunchy, like she was eating potato chips instead. To this day, I don’t know how she did it.
So we went. Bjorn and I bought the tickets, cleared it with work and took off.
I had mixed feelings about her death. I was sad, of course. But I was happy because she had lived to the ripe old age of 99, healthy until the end, which had come in her sleep. But I still grieved. I grieved for me. You see, I was a bad granddaughter.
After we had grown up and gone to school, we didn’t need Grandma anymore. So she went back to the Philippines. My contact with her, at best, was sporadic, but was closer to nonexistent. Seeing her in her casket was the first time I had seen her in more than 20 years. I never got to tell her thank you.
Some of you may be wondering at this point, how is she ever going to put the fun into funeral?
Well, it helped that we had good food.
And I had my first ever ride in a pedicab that’s really meant to hold only one person.
Plus, we got to visit Bjorn’s childhood home. He grew up in the Philippines, and now I understand why he loves it so much. This is what his home looks like:
He grew up on a college campus that looks like Disneyland with a tropical flair. Seriously, Lilo and Stitch would have gnawed off their right arm to grow up there. Their house had marble floors and high ceilings. Green flowing grass covers the meticulously maintained softly rolling grounds. Trees are everywhere. A concrete wall with barbed wire surrounds the place, ensuring that fat little kids can roll around on those green mounds with impunity and ease. I wanted to have grown up here.
Bjorn also got to reconnect with his former caretaker, Ate Fe.
And this is how I found the fun in funeral.
Flying to the Phillippines was exciting, eating the food was good, seeing new places was interesting, but best of all was reconnecting with loved ones.
Through my grandma’s death, I learned a big lesson in cherishing the ones we love while they are alive. To find the fun in funeral, you have to celebrate life — with the living. It’s funny, but even in death my grandma is still helping me.
Thank you, grandma.
Jammie Karlman is the entertainment editor for the Chico Enterprise-Record. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JammieKarlman