Sunday, August 31, 2014


Nikelle: Your dad disowned you? How so? Im sorry! Thats tough. i think you should divorce your parents

Sean:  you really shouldn't disown people over text, everyone knows that


The gentle death of an old man is not like the time-shattering death of a young one. It is no surprise. You have seen it coming from afar. You have seen him fading, fading. Like last night's candle burning, burning.

You have loved one another well, rectified regrets, so death arrives not as that sudden implosion that sucks all the air and love and plans out of life. Because it has been a cross-fade. Perceptible but gentle.

You have had time, and plenty of warning, to fill the space he would leave. You have arranged to cross-fade. An out-tro, an intro. Perceptible but gentle.

You have seen then, that death was his last enemy, his final care, and at last he welcomed it as a friend. You in your heart are grateful that he rests now, where love abides but loss is gone.

You smile. You cry. You'll live right on. You cry. You smile. You're fine.

You're fine. But you must not ask too much of other people.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Abba's smiles are mine

Dear old man.

Your sons and daughter knew you to be a stern, exacting father. They each still stagger under the burden of your expectations, and so they sometimes like to remind me that this big softie was not the "real" you.

But you came to me with nothing but unabashed affection, like you had worked your whole life just to cross oceans to adopt and adore me. That was the 阿公 I knew.

So I was lucky. Very lucky to have had you for so long.

I get my 5'3.5" from you, I guess. It astonished me to find while visiting you, when I at 16 had (sadly) reached my max height, that I was just as tall as you ever were. Because you were an absolute giant in my book––I wrote an essay about it in my high school Comp class, and all that sap put you and me up for an NCTE Award for Excellence in Writing. Grandpa, I had worked and reworked that paper trying to make sure each word was the right one for you. In my memory, you will always be among the tallest of men.


I watched you fade, these years. Your body got too small for your mottled old skin-bag. Your goofy big ears, that aquiline nose. They just kept growing while you shrunk... 160... 110, 100, 90, 80... and finally 70-something lbs.

You hated to go this way. You absolutely hated losing your competencies one by one––and you were SO competent. You shouldn't have gone in this slow excruciating fade. I hated to watch life dissipate from you, slowly, slowly. You should have ridden your オートバイ into a typhoon to save a puppy––or otherwise exit in some act as heroic as you were to me. But then I wouldn't have gotten to keep you for so long.

So I was lucky.  To have overlapped 25 golden years with you.

2013 you, wearing my jacket.
I watched the earth grow dim to you--first you stopped reading world news as your cataracts set in, then you stopped keeping your meticulous methodical 5-year diary, then you stopped visiting the flower markets as was your Saturday ritual, then you stopped being able to chew your favorite foods (but you still drank coffee, beer, red, and whiskey), then you stopped being able to do the dishes as you did for G-maw when she cooked, then you stopped wearing shoes with laces, then you stopped sweeping the floors as you did every morning, then you stopped remembering who spoke Japanese and who spoke Taiwanese and just spoke in whatever the hell language you felt like to whoever you felt like talking to, then you stopped doing anything at all unless Grandma did it for you.

A photo posted by Esther L (@estherogen) on

The silly smiles you reserved just for me stayed as bright as ever, even while your lights dimmed, slowly, slowly. I would thank your sons for the help and hospitality they showed with each of my visits to Taiwan. And they would thank me for coming and revealing a delight and a will to live/be that they felt unable to elicit on their own. Who am I? That you regarded me with such joy and favor.


I was lucky. You saved all that delight for me. Sometimes I wondered whether I was just a proxy for my mother, your favorite child, your baby girl, whose prison prevented her from visiting. But then you would call me 娃娃. How many 娃娃 do you have? Gramma would ask you, one of the many quiz questions meant to stave off your senility. Just one. Her name is 特特!

Like that one time, what, 20 years ago or so, our family was in Nashville, when you went all hypoglycemic and we heard you and your camcorder hit the floor, and you got rushed to the ER by ambulance. You came to, and you recognized nobody. Not Grandma, not Mama––not immediately anyway. But you knew and asked for your 娃娃, they brought me and I asked you  大丈夫? And I know that right now, you are indeed alright. You are with Christ. またね!

So, my old dear man, surely I was the luckiest, to have known Abba's smiles through you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

we are ocean, we are mist
brilliant fools who wound and kiss
there's beauty in the dirt
wandering in skin and soul
searching, longing for a home

// Gungor

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eugoogly for G-ma

Friends and relatives and Grandma herself have remarked on the time I devoted to visiting Grandma and Grandpa these past years, at times making extended trips to Taiwan but seeing mostly just the inside of their Taoyuan apartment rather than exploring the island with friends my age. 好有孝心 they would say, but truly, the only response I have for what compelled me, is that Grandma and Grandpa loved us first. They poured out their lives for us. Though as 外孫女 I did not share their name, they made me, their youngest grandchild and sole granddaughter, their little princess. In their care I knew palpably what it was, to be "somebody's baby." I was the object of totally unmerited favor. These last years, it was my honor to return just a tiny bit of the joy and care they poured into my life. It was truly a privilege to spend time with them and form an adult relationship with them.

Grandma brought a lot of light, hope, safety, wonder, and laughter to my childhood. She spent more than half of each year in a foreign country to make sure Joshua and I had the best shot possible at growing up. She came to be a mother––to my mom, but also to Joshua and me. The only people I spent more time with than Grandpa and Grandma, was my brother. Grandma really let us be children: for example, pretending to be mad while allowing us to jump on her bed, delighting in and encouraging our play and exploration. Seeing what a chatterbox she was, even in the last months when her voice was weak and damaged, I know now that Grandma had left her comfort zone, a social realm in which she was the glue, the queen, the life of the party––to make my brother and me her world. She loved preparing or hosting feasts, she remembered everyone's every birthday and anniversary. We had this wonderful example of a pious life oriented toward loving people and lavishing generous grace everywhere. She and Grandpa were world travelers in those retirement years, and they would bring stories and gifts from far corners of Indonesia, Israel, New Zealand, Holland, Egypt... to the confines of our little home in Warrenville/Naperville, where language barriers limited their adventures. Joshua and I do not know where we would be today, if it had not been for her.

Certainly, without Grandma, I would not know how to be a lady. I remember with fondness how Grandma loved to style me pretty. She would jokingly plead with me to be more ladylike: "I already have 7 grandsons! Don't be another one," she would say. I of course had spent my childhood trying to catch up to the boys. And she often reminded me to keep it classy... and be pretty. I was her ちびや--her babiest baby. I remember how beautiful she was. And how she never seemed to believe it, when people complimented her. I remember how she loved to brush and braid my hair, and to dress me like a "娃娃," or "doll," as they called me. But still, she was spunky, playful, athletic, witty––and I very much loved how hip and "with it" my Grandma was.

As a child I cried a lot. In more recent years I also carried a heavy heart which she shouldered with me, praying for me, and celebrating the miracle that I had been preserved in the church––her daily prayer for our whole family. All throughout my life, Grandma would tell me to "stop crying. 阿媽喜歡妳!" even while she would be crying with me. I think if she were here now, she would tell me to stop crying and enjoy my 20s. She told me to laugh often, said she liked the sound of my laughter, and to keep my heart open and tender, to leave the heaviness behind, and sing. I loved to hear her sing. Even when her voice got as wrinkly and cracked as her skin, she would sing at church, and those were precious sounds to me.

Each time Grandma left for Taiwan again I could be counted on to cry, beg her to stay. I'd follow her as far as the airport security would allow, and plead with her, "Don't go. Take me with you." She would assure me that they would be back soon, and tell me to listen and obey and do good in the meantime. I grew up with this rhythm of anticipating reunion; so that years after, when I was gathered up by grace to share in Grandma's faith, I had a real tangible sense of what it meant to wait and hope and anticipate a promised return. Her absence left a real lack and longing––but these were inevitably met with certain fruition each time. And there was feasting and kisses, gifts from afar (always 4+ 70lb suitcases with candy and frozen seafood from Hokkaido), stories of their traveling days. Tickles, laughter, and gifting and hugging. I WILL see her again.

I will see her again. I know it, because it was Grandma's hope in Christ that enabled her to persevere in service and love to others. She spent herself for Grandpa in the last years; we all saw it, we all asked her to rest more. But hers was a self-forgetting love, and she loved us all until the very end. For her self-forgetting love, she is remembered and repaid by Christ himself. I hope when I'm 60, 70, 80... That I will be as alive as she was, still praying, still loving Scripture, still hoping, still loving, still serving others.

Grandma's final months were dark, confusing, and painful, as she fought wave after wave of illness. We have great comfort in knowing she inhabits a renewed and restored body now. She is even more lovely and loving than we knew her to be. For this and much more, I give thanks.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It is squash/pepper/tomato time!

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

For even as He crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

But if in your fear you would seek only
love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing floor,
Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

// K. Gibran

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Learn from this"

Don't beat yourself up!
Ask God's forgiveness (I'm sure you have),
let that be sufficient, and learn from this :)

Thank you, kind stranger. God must have known I would need such a forgiving friend these whelming weeks. Thank you for a fresh wind of forgiveness.

"Fun to think God might have sent that pretty face of my old friend to NYC just to help you out this week," Abby had said. He was like my own Totoro, a transitional object. I called it an innocuous crush, a silly fun divertissement during a week of messy grief.

But there was nothing innocuous about indulging my ravenous heart... foraging on slippery slopes.

Take, eat. Hunger no more.

Thank you Pa for shielding my way and shepherding my grief. For your mercy that time and again spares me from my folly. I dangle precariously over destruction. Apart from grace.

Caught by mercy in my reckless coping. Oh, you never let go of me.

Yours are loving constraints. While I hang out over pits of hell.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Til soon, Ahma.