I have faced many obstacles in my life. Obstacles that took both emotional and physical strength to overcome, yet the most challenging obstacle of all is learning to accept that death is a reality of life. It is a lesson I have tried to understand time and time again, but the answer continues to evade me. The truth is that life is filled with complexities that we may never truly grasp, like poverty in a world of rich resources, or why an all powerful God would allow humanity to endure pain and suffering, sickness and death.
The only thing I understand is love. Love is such a strong emotion, it exemplifies a connection to the most vital organ in our body, the heart. To love is to live, to recognize that our lived experiences are enhanced by those around us, our family and our friends. The people that make us realize that life, despite its complexities, is worth living. Aunt Chin Chin was one such individual. The eldest of her siblings, she represented a part of the structural foundation to this amazing family.
My earliest memories of my beloved aunt take me back to my days as a toddler where Aunt Chin Chin would always intimidate me with the prospects of marriage. I fondly remember how she would always refer to me as “likkle Demi,” and indicated that when I got older she would marry me, because she knew I would be quite the catch. And while I do agree that my looks are exemplary, you may imagine that at 7 years old, marriage seemed rather daunting. Despite this, I knew that in her comedic taunts underlie the fact that she loved her family unconditionally. She was my only Aunt whose nick name on many occasions made my friends pondered if I was making fun of Asian people, because lets face it, not many people are referred to as Chin Chin. As unique as her name was, she is credited with introducing me to delectable delights she called “flaw flaw,” known to others as fritters. I can hear her now, “Yu want likkle flaw flaw?”
Aunt Chin Chin loved to cook, and no mention of food can be made without reference to her love for all things pork. She would cook it every day if she had the opportunity. In fact, she did just that a few years ago when she spent time with her niece Wendy. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that she made pork for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps the only other cuisine she would opt for was Asian, or as she would say “Chiney food.”
In her spare time, gardening would be her activity of choice, and if she wasn’t gardening she would be toiling away at the sewing machine. Her talent was evident in the artful creations she came up with. She lived an admirable life, and through it she never once wavered in commitment to demonstrate love to those around her. When she loved, she did so unconditionally.
As we reflect on her life, it would be remiss of me to not mention her charming character. She was a quiet person, but was always up for a good conversation. And although charming, she was quite a critic especially with regards to health and physical fitness. If I gained a pound, Aunt Chin Chin never missed the opportunity to tell me. Just last year I called her via FaceTime and as we video chatted she noticed my face was looking rather plump. However, before passing judgement she wanted to do the ultimate fat test. She asked that I change the angle of the camera, stretch my arms and shake it. Why? She wanted to see just how much fat had accumulated under my arms. Once observed, she replied “ehehe yu fat.” And if that were not enough, she proceeded to do the same thing herself to demonstrate just how slim she was. My heart smiles just remembering the exchange.
In the last few months, I realized that everything I thought I knew about my aunt, was secondary to the hero that she was. I call her a hero, because she demonstrated what it meant to fight and come out victorious. Throughout her illness Aunt Chin Chin never allowed they way she felt to dictate how she lived. She was committed to making the best of life even in the worst of circumstances. Everyone was astonished by her strength even as she underwent chemotherapy. When told to rest, she would be up finding something to do in the house, or a garden that needed attention. She fought admirably, and she did so while wearing a smile. Even when those around her lost hope, she remained hopeful. She even found the time to go on a juice diet while ill. I called her just a few weeks ago expressing alarm that she had not eaten for a day or two and she rubbished my concerns by saying “no sah, mi a do mi juice cleanse.” And even as she was transitioning from this life, she would refuse certain medications because she was adamant that what she read, said it wasn’t good for the body. Another of her favorite things to do was to take road trips, she loved the long drives. Road tripping to Canada to attend her nephews wedding was a grand occasion. When I told her I did not fancy road trips, she seh “no man, a dem deh drive deh mi love.”
In her fight she prayed, and prayed consistently, and she would tell you “Marie is mi prayer warrior,” In reference to my mom who prayed for her daily. We all prayed, and we all hoped. Today I stand before you crushed, haunted by the fact that Aunt Chin Chin is no longer with us. Since her passing I have prayed that I wake up and realize that this is a dream. The tears have not stopped flowing since she left. If only our tears could bring her back, we would have her for an eternity. I close my eyes, and for a moment she is back again. I see her smile, I hear her cheerful voice but sadly when I open them again, I realize that she is indeed gone and no amount of wishing and hoping can bring her back. All we have are the memories of the moments we shared with her, and those we need to cherish.
Through this loss we again realize that all we have is now and we need to make the best of it. Embrace our loved ones, smile, and live in harmony. Aunt Chin Chin’s last wish was for her family to live in harmony. This is the only family we have, and we must cherish it. Yes we may fight and hurt each other but in so doing we must forgive, and in our forgiveness, demonstrate love. Life is too short to hold grudges. If someone offends you,tell them, work it out now, not later. Tomorrow is not promised. Live in the present. We have a gift that others wish they had. We have perhaps the best family that anyone could ask for, so let’s cherish it.
Today is not about goodbyes, it is a bon voyage to a beloved soul that we will one day see again. The cessation of life on earth is the birth into the new world our Father created. Aunt Chin Chin went home and until we see her again, we will continue to miss her. In my last conversation with her I told her I loved her, and she responded, “I love you too my likkle Demi and my likkle Wendy. I always have, and I always will.”
Aunt Chin Chin sleep well, you never lost the battle to cancer, you won it! You fought with all you had, and never once made your illness define you. We miss you but understand that this is your journey to take. Go knowing that we love you Aunt Chin Chin, we always have and always will.
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