I can’t seem to get over my Lola Sing’s sudden death. It’s very hard to swallow another loss when there is still a lingering sadness over Lola Lord’s death last December. People keep telling me that it’s okay because they’re old and death seems inevitable. I’ll never understand what that means. Death completes the symmetry of life but what makes it hard is when the timing is just so abrupt. One day you see them alive and the next day they’re gone. I feel like she was stolen from us.
Lola Sing dropped by on my father’s birthday on the 27th of March and we had afternoon tea with chocolate cake. I gave her a big hug before she left; In between chuckles she refused when I offered to carry her groceries for her and walk her to the street corner where she rode a tricycle home to the village where she lived.
The next day she collapsed in front of the stage while watching her grandson, my cousin Matthew performing a modern dance on the stage. She was so elated that she was crackling with laughter before she fell on my uncle’s arms, unconscious. I didn’t see that unfold. I saw her minutes after the event at the emergency room of our district hospital, her small frame on a stretcher—pale, cold and pulseless. She was pronounced dead on arrival. I was so shocked and I wept like a child.
The grief that I have is that of a little girl who grew up having grandmothers who are present on any given day. They all gave me the fundamentals of a happy childhood and beyond. My Lola Ning, my maternal grandmother has 6 sisters and 1 brother, all of whom have been active while I was growing up. Years ago, I pondered on the idea of what it would be like when I start losing them. There is no pondering and wondering anymore, it’s real-time unfolding of the things that will never be the same. Lola Lord’s house on the other block has lost its luster. What used to be a backyard full of children—one group doing a mock fashion show on the balcony ledge while some huddle over the pond poking water lilies—is now a house with boarded up windows. It breaks my heart that I never cast a look at the house whenever I pass by because the flood of childhood memories and echoes of past conversations on the front porch are just overwhelming.
Now, with Lola Sing gone too, a mass of childhood memories comes flitting on the surface of my consciousness. I feel like I’m in a time machine where the first destination is the year 1990.I’m 8 years old all over again. I’m transported back to that summer afternoon when I packed my bag and headed for Lola Sing’s house at the farm, one tricycle ride away from the town where I lived. Lola Sing is one of my maternal grandmother’s sister and she has this house on top of the hill beside the village Elementary School where she was a teacher. After the dusty tricycle ride, I scrambled through the bamboo bridge that connects their hill to the main road, then I went up the stone pathway where my Lola Sing awaits with a smile that makes here eyes disappear into small slits .I can hear her signature chuckle as a greeting. I don’ t remember if I gave her a hug or what but I probably did because that’s how it has always been for us, a hug, every time we meet. We spent the afternoon rummaging through her wooden chest, where I found a bunch of foot-long wooden pencils with a carved design on the base instead of an eraser, that bounced when you write and a couple of note pads. She let me keep everything that I liked. The best part was when I helped her pack her stuff in her classroom because she was retiring that week; she handed me a story book and let me keep it as well. I have it up to this day.
The funeral was two Mondays ago and it was not as emotional as Lola Lord’s but it was the most peaceful our clan has ever had. There was no wailing and no monologues of regret from anyone because Lola Sing died with laughter on her lips. She was happy up to her last breath and we all know that.
This little girl in my heart clutching a story book will miss her so dearly.