Aunty Unu, preparing surprise cake for Princess in Gold Coast. Tony's birthday party in Sept. Picture of Princess with Aunty Unu. Picture of Aunty Unu as the Avatar, Ang, (from a cartoon series) I took in, Mahurangi, 09.
The Chinese do not have the equivalent of the term “goodbye”. So here I am, doing the very Chinese thing – saying “Joi Kin” (in Cantonese my dad’s dialect), till we meet again, to Anna.
Anna was a Aunty Unu to Princess. She missed Princess’ arrival because she had to drive back to the house to get my parents to the hospital. She never quite let me forget that.
She took time to accompany Princess at the World Transplant Games in Brisbane in August this year. I could see her pride, watching Princess come in first, in the 50m dash, first in long jump, 2nd in swimming, knowing Princess did have the real makings of a competitor, (much like her).
She bought Princess her first easel (which stands too tall in the living room) bought Princess her first metronome, and cringed and chided at Princess’ complete lack of attention to timing at the piano. She once witnessed how I blew my top at Princess, for her lack of focus on the task at hand – practising her piano. Talent Princess had. It was effort she lacked. We both sat and chatted and agreed about effort being everything. She and I often joked about Yale and Harvard as destinations for Princess to aspire to. Princess, obviously has no desire to go to either, and would stomp off, in a huff and a puff, and how we laughed.
On many occasions, Anna would hover over the kitchen, and commented on how I should clean up my benchtop and the clutter. I have largely ignored Anna because she was a perfectionist in everyway, and I am totally at ease with a few specks of dust and a bit of mess. But lately, clutter is beginning to bother me a lot more.
Anna, to me, is a contradiction. She is fire and ice; rain and sunshine. She is gentle yet wrathful.
Anna is bountifully generous with others and stingy with her own comfort. In fact, when she was on her last leg, I was helping her clean up the family bach (she was not in good shape to clean up and yet wouldn’t stop) for the next lot coming in, and she was so apologetic about it, I felt most embarrassed.
Death and dying. How does one prepare for such a momentous event? Grief we must. But let go we also must. This is one of the noble truths Buddha taught – the truth of suffering; also the truth of impermanence. In Buddhist cosmology, there is no such thing as going to meet your maker and Anna and I have had discussions about what happens after death in Buddhist belief. A famous forest monk Ajan Chah has these words of wisdom: The minute we are born, we start to die. How apt. The cycle of life and death.
Anna is not a fan of religion. But she once told me if there was any religious path she could most relate to, it would be Buddhism.
Anna didn’t need religion. She has many religious qualities which we all aspire to.
We disagree on many things but also agree on many of the crucial ones. She dislikes the Chinese way of scuttling around issues, prefering to nail everything right down to black and white. The Chinese, we like to see shades of grade in everything.
Princess wrote this poem right after Anna was first diagnosed with cancer, in her kidneys. I found it crushed up, in a crumbled bit of paper, in the recycling bin. I am glad I retrieved it. It is to be our lesson.
Let the wind pass away, Let the rustling leaves blow away, Let the dust get swept away, Don’t cling to your beloved, The lesson is don’t let attachment, teach you its way. (8 yrs, 2007)
Here is another one of Princess’ poems, found tossed in a scrapbook to be thrown out. I have retrieved this as well…and I think it a perfect description of how most of us who know Anna feel too.
The only thing that makes a flowing droop is the morning dew, Straight and tall a flower survives the cold night With the company of dancing leaves Once admired always admired. (Julia Woolf, 10 yrs, Mar 09)
So, in typical Chinese fashion, here is a "till we meet again" Anna, not a goodbye. Thanks Anna for being a part of our life. Princess, Tony and I will miss you heaps.
For Anna's favourite music and other tributes check out NotPC and Annie Fox