Towards the end of my time at Sperry's, a man who I was very close with died very suddenly of cancer. I remember him telling me in passing that he had some pain in his back that wouldn't go away - and within a few months he was in the ground. While my grandmother had passed away from brain cancer about 6 years ago - this was the first time I had really experienced this disease from start to finish and seen how it can cripple a family. Its such a strange thing, having a loved one with a terminal disease. You feel so helpless. There always seems to be an answer for everything, a solution, or a way out. With something like this - you always seem to be one step behind, as if no matter what you do, you just cant win.
Wen-Ho's pain persisted and doctors seemed unclear about what the cause was. By the time he was in so much pain he could no longer work, or really do anything, they realized what it was. He received treatment at Johns Hopkins, but soon went into organ failure and was transferred to Hospice Care back here in New York. I was in Chicago staging with a friend when I received the call that I needed to come home. It was only a few more days before he was gone.
The (Taiwanese) rituals and traditions associated with his passing were very moving and something that - while I am deeply saddened to have experienced - I am also grateful for. His body was prayed over for (I believe) 12 hours before it was handled. His children were to kneel and say goodbye to their father as he was carried out. At his cremation they shouted for him to run from the fire. His funeral was standing room only, a testament to how much he was loved, as well as how deeply connected the Taiwanese American community is.
We recently celebrated his birthday by gathering with friends and eating a traditional Taiwanese dish of braised pork shanks, which are supposed to bring you good luck, along with some of his other favorite dishes too.
I found out this week that a close friend of J's family, a woman who we stayed with on our trip this fall, had passed away. When she and her family emigrated to the US from Egypt, they lived with J and her family while they got on their feet. Before we left, she taught me some Egyptian Arabic. Ba hebek, Grandma. (I hope Im getting that right)
A few days later, I learned that the son of my mothers dear friend and neighbor had passed away from a very aggressive cancer - and then later in the week their daughter died very suddenly in her sleep. While they have quite a community of support, it is just unimaginable what they are going through.
There is no real reason for this post - these are just things that I kind of feel like putting into words. Sometimes you cant help but feel surrounded by death. But its important to remember how precious life is, and to make sure those around you know they are loved.