When I was small, we used to hear that Granda was born in the year of the dragon. And being a dragon lady, she had a relatively blessed life compared with her peers. And this perhaps further reinforced the myth of mystical blessing of those born in the dragon year. This would be the 120th anniversary of her birth in 1892.
When Grandma passed away in April of 1961, I was close to 4 years/ I could barely remember much of it. However, from the photographs taken during the whole incident they had left quite a bit of a memory.
Those photographs were taken over a number of days, recording her passing with all her children grandchildren and kin’s were gathered, of the many customary services, the procession to the cemetery at the foot of Kledang hill, to the final burial ceremony.
The photographs were framed, and hung in the middle hall of the old bungalow for some years, and they were later taken down and kept away and subsequently were lost when we moved house. Those photographs would have been quite a valuable part of the family history –as there a large gathering of the clan in Menglembu. She was being one of the earliest migrant to this town.
Similarly, the earlier passing of Granpa’s in 1948, was also recorded in photographs, which had since been lost. There were two photographs of grandpa’s funeral in Songkou, China – on of the clan gathered in the funeral hall in the village home, and another with members kneeling outside the ancestral home in front of the pond, on the day of the funeral.
It’s 51 years to the lunar calendar month, since Grandma passed away in 1961. The incident had left a deep memory on the 4 year old kid. Perhaps, those were impressionable year when a kid started to get to remember his environment and these impactful incidents had left a deep impression.
Come to think of it – these bytes in the memory bank - while other more recent memories were transiently stored in the random access, those from our childhood seemed to be burnt permanently into the hardware.
An incident I recalled was a cousin sister – Moi Zee - asking this kid if he saw any lucky numbers forming on the white paper tape that sealed the coffin. She was a jovial & friendly cousin sister, and she was already married then. Perhaps in the midst of all the mourning and gloom, perhaps grandma could bring some distractive luck to her brood. The incident perhaps had also unconscious taught this little boy - what a down to tradition we had!
All in Grandma gave birth to 12 children – 6 daughters and 6 boys. All survived to adulthood and got married and had families of their own. All her children had passed away.
Dad was her fist male child after 4 daughters. Mom used to tell us over dinner, that the 2nd daughter was given away to another family as – Sim-Q-Zai – i/e a hakka term to mean – young daughter-in-law. That is - the baby girl was adopted by another family, with the intent of she becoming the wife on marriage age, to the son of the family.
Grandma in turn, adopted another daughter – though she had already had five in the family. We called her – Xie-Moi-Gu – 细妹姑. She would be the one who would help grandma in the household chores. Grandma though, did not pair her with any of her sons, and Xie-Moi-Gu married to another family and used to live in Gunong Rapat. She used to visit us during festive seasons with her kids in the 1960/s and early 1970/s.
Mentioning Gunong Rapat, grandma had a younger sister – whom we called –姨婆- Yee-por. I recall her a old toothless lady, and occasionally would come visit us in Menglembu. She would help to sweep the compound clean of leaves, and heard that sometimes she would walked all the way from Gunong Rapat to Menglembu – a distance of 6-7miles.
Well, so much of Grandma – and the great grand-mother, and great great grand-mother to the many of us here, in China, and the US.
This photograph of her used to hang on the left side of wall of the old house, while that of grandpa was on the right. Many of the pre-war documents were kept in the Germany made safe that she kept in her room. They are an invaluable record of an earlier part of the family history..
1) The date and time of Granda's birth and death were clearly written on the back of the Granda’s portrait -prepared for her funeral service. The record were in – in Chinese lunar and the Gregorian year -
公元一八九二 年西暦 九月十 日
Born: GuangXu – Renchen year, Lunar 8th moon 20th day, Chou hour; 10 September 1892
Died : Republican Xinchou year, Lunar 3rd moon 12th day, Wei hour; 26April 1961l 2:20PM