Goodbye, Grandma Sunan


She is no more – What happened on August 20, 2010
Written on September 1, 2010


August 20th was the last of my three-day factory visits with my business colleagues from abroad.   From the morning I somehow felt that I must visit Grandma (my mother-in-law) after work.   Unfortunately, the traffic was terrible and it took us ages to get from the last factory we visited back to the city center.   As soon as I dropped off my colleagues at their hotel it started to rain.   In no time at all it was pouring elephants and buffalos.   Traffic jam during rush hours in the city center on such a rainy Friday evening proved to be beyond one's worst expectation.   Eventually, although feeling bad, I had to give up my idea of going to Paolo Memorial Hospital on Paholyothin Road.   I told the driver to take me back home in Banga.   Even so, it took us more than 2 and a half hours on the road.   When I finally got home I was shocked again: in the dark I vaguely saw Ken sitting in front of the locked door as he had forgotten to take the house keys with him that morning and thus was unable to get inside the house.   Ken said he had been waiting for at least two hours.   He must have been starved if not scared. Poor boy...   It was good Ken did not break down and cry at once.

We waited for a while for his dad to be home.   I was too tired to cook and we agreed to eat out.   When the father arrived he immediately showed his son the newly bought Iphone4.   Ken was so excited and had no time to cry.   The boy was soon busily exploring this new "toy".   We ate at a noodle place nearby.   All the time Ken played with his dad's new Iphone.

She was gone...

After dinner we came back home.   At past 9 the telephone rang.   A woman from Paolo told me Grandma was in rather bad condition.   She said, "if you want to visit her now you can come."   Usually the hospital does not welcome visitors at late hours.

I immediately told my husband and he said let's go.

I then called my sister-in-law.

As soon as I hung up the woman called again.   She said the doctor wanted to talk to us.   She asked if I was Grandma's daughter.   "Daughter-in-law," I answered.   She said could I get Grandma's son to talk on the phone.   Goodness, this sounded scary.

I handed the phone over to my husband.   He talked with the doc for a few minutes.

This is what I was told:

Grandma had heart failure this evening,   They massaged her chest for many minutes but could not bring her back.   She stopped breathing in the evening at around 9 p.m.   The doctor decided not to use electric shock as it only hurted her and it would not really help.

In another words, Grandma was no more.

Oh dear, dear, dear.....

Why so suddenly...

What happened, how, and why...

So many questions popped up in our mind.

I then made another call to Sis-in-law.

It was too late that night and Ken had school the next day so I told him not to come with us.   His older brother, Tony, was about to arrive home anyway.   Ken was brave.   He showed no signs of anxiety.   He even reminded us to wear something white or black.

I could not remember if it was still raining.   Probably not.   Anyway, the traffic was OK so we could arrive at the hospital "soon", which was a few minutes past 10 p.m.

On the way I talked to my sis-in-law again.   She and my brother-in-law live near Paolo and they already arrived while we were still on the road.   She said the doctor told them Grandma "just passed away at a few minutes before 10p.m."   Well, obviously the hospital lied!   But I think it was out of their good will.   They probably did not want us to feel too sad... or something like that.

Sis-in-law said her husband just made the payment for the hospital.   "How come when the hospital wants us to pay they call me, but when there is bad news they don't let us know first?  "

Good question!  

On the phone Sis-in-law said the hospital already cleaned Grandma, and that she was about to go back home to get some clothes for Grandma to wear.

We finally arrived at the ward at Paolo.   The light blue curtains around her bed were drawn.   Other patients probably did not know what happened at all... Many were stroke patients.   I went inside the curtain.   If it weren't for the white cotton or cloth that the nurses stuffed inside Grandma's nostrils, ears, and mouth I would have thought her sleeping peacefully.   I stared at Grandma for many minutes, hoping to see her breathing.... But she just lied there so still.   I touched her arms and legs.   They were soft, but ah.... so cold.   I hate the cotton things.   They kept reminding me that she would not wake up again.   Not anymore.

Soon a young doctor came.   He told us what he had already told my husband on the phone.

We then went inside the curtain and just stood / sat by Grandma's bed.   I started to take pictures.   The last of Grandma.

A week later I was told it was a taboo for certain culture(s) to take pictures of the deceased.   Well, taboo or not taboo for me it did not matter!   I just felt that I had to take the pictures... We won't be seeing Grandma again ever, and I know too well memory fades very fast.

As soon as I began emailing the news my husband also started that.   Before that it was sort of a "blah" moment for both of us:   we were waiting for Brother-in-law and family, and there was nothing for us to do – or rather, we were at a loss and did not know what to do.

It was good our mobile had access to the internet.   Soon we were busy answering emails.

We were soon asked with the questions like:   which temple ("wat nai?") and what dates ("wan nai?).   Goodness.... both of us did not think that far.... yet.

Before another blah moment arrived my brother-in-law and everyone in his family came.   The maid came with three sets of Grandma's most favorite clothes.   She and the nurses started to put all the three sets of the clothes on Grandma.   My first time to know that we had to put on many sets of clothes for the deceased.   Sis-in-law kept repeating to the maid and the nurses which dress should be put first, and next, etc.

One nurse came with some documents.   She had Grandma's fingers stamped on the paper.   In a picture that I took there was dark blue ink on Grandma's fingers.

That was for issuing Grandma's death certificate.

Some more "work" had to be done on Grandma.   We were told to wait in the lobby outside the ward.   While waiting the family had a meeting.   At first we discussed what kind of funeral we should have, and if there would be cremation.   None of us could decide so Brother-in-law phoned the oldest sibling in America.   We were told not to cremate Grandma.   We were also told that the insurance Grandma had would cover the funeral expense in America.   What we had to check was the procedure to move Grandma from Thailand to America.   We also discussed how many days we would have the funeral for her in Thailand.   Would it be 3, 5 or 7 days?   And many more...   We could not make any confirmed conclusion yet.   So many undecided factors at the moment!

Before long Grandma was ready to leave the ward.   We followed her into the elevator, and down to the morgue.

The family then parted with "homework": to check and confirm all the details for the procedure.

I suddenly realized that funeral was to occupy the minds of the survivors so that they (we) did not have too much idle time to feel sad, depressed, or shocked.

In Grandma's case she had been ill for many years and had been in great pain during the last few months.   It was actually a relief for her – although it was sort of shocking and sad for us to let her go permanently this way.

To be continued....



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