Saturday, October 31, 2009

Death in the Family

The following is a true recap of what has occurred these past two weeks. I felt like I wanted a way to remember what I've felt during this period, and hopefully see whether other people have felt the same way.

Friday, October 16
I had just finished my 2-3pm class early, the teacher let us out at about 2:45. There was going to be a Physics test on Monday, so I was pondering on whether I should stay with two other people to study for it. I went to the bathroom, then to my locker. I felt a buzz in my left pocket. It was my mom calling. I picked it up, and she asked me quietly in Chinese, "Are you still in class?" "No, we got out early." "Could you come to the hospital, your uncle's condition has drastically changed, and he may not have too long to live." "Oh...sure. Where is it again?" ... "I'll be there in I guess probably 20-30mins." "Alright, I'll wait for you there." I rushed back down to the classroom, where my three friends were still waiting. I said, "Uhh guys, my mom called and I have to go to the hospital now; my uncle's really sick and stuff." My friends were apologetic, with one remarking, "I hope he gets better." "Thanks," I said. I left with my friend to take the train. I gave a short description of what my uncle had gone through, including his 'battles' with the insurance company and his assigned hospital doctor, who had frequently been ignorant and out-of-reach from his immediate family. Before I took the train, I went to buy a Mega Millions lotto ticket, (the prize was over $200million), and said to my friend, "If I win this, I'm giving all the money until he's cured."

I took the local train, then switched to an express train, hoping to catch the preceding local, but ended up taking the same local train. I walked as fast as I could to the hospital, where I met up with my mom. She explained to me on how throughout the morning, other relatives, including my grandma, had also visited. I said, "Well, why didn't you call me earlier, I could have left class." Apparently, after going through a chemo just recently, his kidney was no longer functioning but his cancer cell count was at 99%. When I arrived at my uncle's room, his immediate family was there. He was already in a worse condition than in the morning. He had trouble breathing at times, and would frequently use the oxygen mask. He also had trouble talking and drinking, and seemed out of it at times. I now knew what the term "labored breathing" meant. I stayed there for awhile, until I left with my mom. That night, I prayed to the universe, to spare his life, and hoped that he would miraculously get better, because he was a strong man and had a strong and big heart.

For the next two weeks, every time the phone rang, I would keep thinking that it was a call that my uncle had passed. At first, my whole mind would seize up whenever I heard the home phone ring. Thoughts would go by of the bad news and the reaction from it. About a week later, news came that he was getting better; his kidney had started to work by itself again and he was more livid and partly back to his cheery and jovial self of his. Whenever the phone rang, I would think about it being of bad news, but less so because of his improving condition. I felt like my prayers had been answered, and that he would be back to his good old self and his cancer had gone away forever. On Friday, 10/30, my mom told me that my uncle had received another round of chemo.

Saturday, October 31
It was 6:30am. I woke up from a sharp ringing home phone. At first, no one picked up, because who calls that early? The second time, one of my parents picks up. For the next half hour, several more calls, which I later find out are apparently from my grandma and my aunts. I thought that my worst suspicions had come true, and ever more so when I heard my mom go out the door and went into my aunt's car, which headed to my grandma's place and then to the hospital. I dozed back off to sleep, realizing that my dad was still here and no one had woken me up, so presumably, it wasn't that serious. A few hours later, I woke up and asked my dad in Chinese, "So, what's the news?" "Uncle has gotten much worse; his temperature is dropping and they fear that this may be the real deal." I asked, "Well, should we go to the hospital? Who else is there?" Although I could tell my dad wanted to go, he replied that he was not feeling too well (flu-like symptoms) and did not want to get other my uncle sick. I spent the rest of the day doing homework and constantly thinking about whether this really was the end of my uncle's life, and what would happen. I thought about how ironic and symbolic that it was Halloween. And yet, I kept on remaining optimistic, hoping that he would be able to pull through yet again. I wished this again. My mom came home later in the day.

My family and I had finished watching Slumdog Millionaire earlier, and my mom went to take a shower. I was watching a rerun of one of my favorite shows, Boston Legal, when the phone rang. I thought it was just one of the many calls we had received earlier today. My dad, who was reading the newspaper, picked it up. My mom heard the phone ring and yelled, "Is it for me?" My dad gave the phone to her. A few minutes later, my mom came downstairs. She walked over to me and looked at me. I saw her, and looked back. She motioned with her hands a waving gesture. I perceived it to be to turn off the TV, but did not know why. She attempted to say, "Uncle has...," but then placed both of her hands over her face and started sobbing, sat down. I stared at her, thinking about whether It had just happened. I looked back at the TV and froze in place. I had no idea what to do - should I comfort her by hugging her?, or say I'm sorry?" I never personally went through a death in the family, and was in complete denial for several seconds. I shut off the TV. My dad, hearing her sobs, came over and sat down next to her. I then realized what had happened and leaned in close until our shoulders were touching. She sobbed so much, and just would not stop. I pondered to myself, should I get a tissue? But then I would be leaving her side? My dad then asked me to get a tissue, which I hastily got. She initially refused it until my dad said, "Come on, you're going to get a runny nose." I went back to get tissues a few more times. My mind was wiped empty, and I started to shed some tears a minute later. But I was thinking about how neither my dad nor myself really cried that much. When she stopped crying, I held her hand and tried squeezing it.

More phone calls came. My aunt was now getting ready to repeat what she had done this morning-pick my mom up to go to the hospital. My mom went and got ready. We were all still in grief. I was speechless for the next 10 or so minutes, only asking my dad, "Should we go?" My dad said that he would have to talk to my mom about it. After my mom got dressed in dark jeans and a black sweater with a black tie, she called my older cousin at the hospital. She didn't pick up. She tried the other sibling. He picked up and said that his family was leaving the hospital, since the hospital would now take care of the rest and there was nothing else for them to do there. My mom told me to call my grandma to let her know about this change of plan. My cousin also said that we would not have to go to the hospital tomorrow either. I was still hoping that my uncle would somehow, someway, come back alive.

Dai Yut Geen.
Ever since that first Friday, I had been thinking about how I wanted to write a post about this experience and my feelings. And so far, it's been an hour since starting it. I still have not had such an emotional outbreak as my mom did, and my mind is oddly clear. Perhaps this is because I've been thinking about what a great man my uncle has been these past two weeks, and perhaps this was a way of preparing for the bad news. I still cannot believe this, or maybe I have. Perhaps denial is hard to get over, or maybe it helps us deal with sudden catastrophic events. Maybe denial is a mental thing that acts as a protective bubble and you really do not realize the magnitude of a situation until it pops. Whatever it is, I know my uncle has left this earth doing what was good for his family and friends. He was a well-liked, friendly uncle who always made his home open and never gave up on the New York Giants. :) My mom is now (12:15am) trying to call my uncle in HK. My uncle always wanted to go back to HK but never could because he was dedicated to raising his two kids and supporting his family. Perhaps he will get to go now. You will be missed, and I hope that you will live a happy afterlife - I'll see you there in the future. Goodbye and goodnight, Uncle Gen.

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