Thoughts on life and death

Recently one of my great uncles decided he’d die.

I guess in a way, you don’t really decide to die. Circumstances always push you towards it. In his case, he started needing to get dialysis treatments twice a week. He’s had diabetes as long as I’ve known him. For one whole month, he went through with biweekly dialysis treatments. And then last week he stopped. Doctors told him he has 2 more weeks to live.

Dialysis was causing him a lot of pain, and he called it torture. He cried every time he had to go through it.

I still remember all the weekends my family and I would go over to his house for dinner when I was younger. I think around when I was 8 to 10 years old was the peak of when we’d most frequently go (we later moved to Hong Kong until 2009). It was always super chill at my aunt and uncle’s house. I’d watch TV with him, and sometimes, I’d watch TV alone as the adults talked. Being a kid, I would go around the house and look at everything. Everything was super interesting, and sometimes I’d get in trouble when I extended beyond just looking and start touching things.

He used to work on a boat, and you could see a lot of memorabilia around his house from the days when he lived on the seas. I distinctly remember a framed recognition plaque that thanked him for his years of service. I also remember a china cabinet that was full of fine china. Littered amongst the empty spaces between the plates and cups were lots of different wedding favors from weddings past.

I think it was likely my aunt who collected the favors, but I’m pretty sure he was at basically all the weddings that these favors were from. Even back then, you could tell he lived a pretty full life and was in the hearts and minds of a lot of friends and family.

Another thing I’ll distinctly remember him for was food. Being diabetic, he did have to be mindful of what he ate. But at the same time, he’d often sneak foods that were out of bounds into his diet too—when my aunt wasn’t looking! He loved chili/hot sauce and he had once proudly shown off a super spicy hot sauce that he had procured from the US. I myself have loved spicy foods since I was young so it was always fun when he shared his hot sauces with us during dinnertime.

A funny story surrounding this great uncle of mine was his marriage. My aunt was in Hong Kong when they were paired together through somewhat of an arranged marriage. They had never met one another but had exchanged photos. In his photo, he looked like a dashing young man. I’ve seen this photo, and my great uncle was quite charming and handsome in it. So off my aunt went across the ocean to Canada to meet her future husband. Back then, you’d buy a one-way trip. It’s pretty pricey to travel this far, as you can imagine. She was ready to move there and put down roots.

As she waited in the airport, she peered around looking for the young man from the photo. My great uncle approached her, recognizing her. That’s when she burst into tears. The photo that was sent to her was from quite a few years back, and he wasn’t exactly the young man she had been expecting. Nonetheless, they did end up having a family together (they had one son: my uncle) and have been together ever since.

Yesterday, my parents, sister, and another uncle’s family had dinner with his family. It sucks being so far away from Vancouver, especially in circumstances like this. At the same time, I can only imagine the emotions running through everyone’s heads during the dinner. My dad and mom sent me photos and videos from the dinner, which I was very thankful for. But at the same time, my great uncle must know the reason why everyone was pointing their cameras at him throughout the night. We all were trying to hold on to some last memory of him for when he’d leave us.

My heart is heavy as I write this, but my great uncle has made his choice and I will respect it. I pray that his journey is full of love and warmth all the way to the end.

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