There is always a first for everything. It is the first time I have lost someone very close to me to death. I have been to many funerals including my paternal grandmother’s when I was young but I didn’t love her. It was more out of duty and because we weren’t given a choice.
The first time I’ve had to read a leaflet about what to do when someone dies. The first time I’ve had to research local funeral directors, ring up and ask about costs and what is involved and make an appointment. First time I’ve had to look up youtube and listen intently for two days to the lyrics of songs in Cantonese and Mandarin to decide which are appropriate for the service. First time I’ve looked through all the family albums in one go to select pics for a powerpoint presentation of Mama’s life.
First time I have stood at the corner of the street where Mama lived waiting for the hearse. First time I sat in a black limousine following the hearse circling the streets where Mama walked all her life in Soho, Chinatown, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Regent’s Park and past UCLH where she died.
First time I have stood in a chapel reciting two poems I wrote for Mama with tears and choking with grief but carrying on because that is what she would have done and in a dignified manner. First time I’ve done instant interpretation as some spoke no Cantonese and some no English or little. I wanted everyone included as they had made the effort to come and bid Mama farewell. She embraced everybody and for a lady of her generation growing up in China she was remarkably open minded and tolerant. Her extended family is like the United Nations and Mama loved them all.
First time I’ve stroked a coffin with Mama resting in peace inside when they were getting her out of the hearse and before they put her in the ground into her final resting place, a lovely serene cemetery with lots of trees not too far from her family home.
First time I actually saw a person alive one second and gone the next. I have always been afraid of death; I guess it is the unknown but Mama’s passing was quick, painless and very peaceful. It was not scary at all. To the end she was considerate, that is Mama. if I could go like that I would be very happy especially as her son was there too. That meant a lot to her to know that when she needed him the most he was there and that he did love her despite his prolonged absence. Mama was finally able to let go knowing that all her children loved and respected her and her grandchildren all grown up now.
First time I realised romantic love pales into insignificance compared to the love of a mother. I love you Mama. I wished I had told you that when you were alive. I will go visit your grave and tell you in person and I know that you hear me in Heaven.