Sunday, April 12, 2015

Qingming Festival

Qingming festival is a day for Chinese and people of Chinese heritage to visit and "sweep" tombs of deceased family members, to remember  and to honor the deceased, especially their ancestors.

This year's Qingming, my sister,  brother, and their families visited my grandfather's old house and his tomb in the countryside. Their visit stirred up my memory of my grandpa.

Since my grandpa helped my mom to take care of me, and I stayed in the countryside in his home for nearly a year when I was very young, he and I had a special bond. I would later visit him during summer for a few times when I was in elementary school. Every time he came to city to visit us, I would be his focus of attention. I don't remember most of the experience but the short history lives on in the memory of my uncles and aunts - and they have told many of the stories in that time again and again. The stories of my toddler years and this black and white photo are the main part of my memory of my grandpa. It is the only photo of him that I have,  which was taken during one of his visits.

Grandpa and I
The only thing I remember well is the time when I visited grandpa when he was dying in his bed.

When grandpa was dying, the one last thing he wished was to see me one more time. My first uncle sent a telegraph to us to make the request. Mom bought a ticket for me and I went to the countryside on a train by myself right away, a first ever trip I traveled by myself at age 16. I arrived at the train stop for my grandpa's village in a late afternoon - no address, no map, I walked to the village several kilometers away all based on my memory of the trails from previous visits.When I arrived at grandpa's house, it was dark already..... he was lying in a bed in the main hall of the house, my father's photo by his side. Grandpa opened his eyes when he was told that I was there, he grabbed my hand and started talking. Mostly he talked about my father, his favorite son, who passed away a decade earlier at young age. He also told me to be a good boy, to make my mom proud...... I don't remember how long he talked, I just listened and answered his questions or requests until he was tired and coughed and I was led away..... Early next morning he passed away peacefully, before his youngest son, my second uncle got home.

grandpa's house - which is still standing after half a century

I also remember the old house that my father paid to build for grandpa over half a century ago - which is still standing to this day - it has two stories, the main entrance leads to the main hall, which served as the guest room and dinning room with two bedrooms on each side of the hall; two bedroom and a storage room in the second floor. There was a decent size front court, left hand side of the court was a big kitchen, right hand side was a pigpen. When I described the house to my brother during our conversation about his visit to grandpa's tomb, he was astonished - " how can you remember all this after so many years!"

Despite the bond I had with grandpa, I did not know his name or birthday ....until I saw the picture of his tomb stone! I suddenly feel the urge to know more about my family history and the current extended family - cousins, nephews and nieces.