oldman

I never got to know my grandfathers.

I don’t remember if I ever asked my parents about them, but for most of my early life, I didn’t know where they went. But I had some theories of why they weren’t at home based on what I overheard from the adults’ conversations.

I had an idea of what I wanted my grandfather to be like – someone dignified. I wanted him to be someone who carried himself well, someone who cared for others, someone who could be my role model.

Based on the clues I had overheard, it was likely that my grandfathers were never going to live up to the image I had created for them in their absence. So I decided that it was better that I didn’t know about them.

I was afraid that I would find nothing about them that was worth celebrating, so I summarised them simply as the grandfathers I never had.

But one day, I did get to meet one of my grandfathers again before he passed on.

Both our meetings happened at the hospital, where I seemed like little more than a stranger to him – just as he was to me.

He knew my nickname from when I was a toddler … but nothing more than that.

I managed to say ah gong (grandfather) with a smile. I tried to hold back the tears from feeling so unknown to my own grandfather.

By our second meeting, he had tubes inserted into his body and he was in a lot of pain. His strength was fading and it was evident that it might well be our last meeting.

I spoke as much as I could to him, trying to remember the way he looked and the sound of his voice. 

He couldn’t say much anymore, and I never got to tell him about myself. Or ask him about the last 20 years.

But at the end of that encounter, I was glad that I did get to meet him, even though I didn’t know if I would be.

I am grateful now for those 30 or so minutes that we spent in the same room, and for what I witnessed that day.

Because that was the day I began to give up being mad at him. 

I began to think of him as human, too. Who knows if he also grew up without his grandfather? Or his parents?

As I listened to the sound of the ventilator breathing on my grandfather’s behalf, and to the warm tones of my mother telling him not to worry anymore, I left aside my pride and my ideals of a picture-perfect grandfather.

Forgiveness was taking place.

At the end of his life, he seemed flustered, as if he still had a lot to say and worry about.

But he calmed down as soon as he heard he could hand his burdens over to Jesus. He began to be at ease when he heard that Someone would take his hand, he wouldn’t need to be alone.

He was hearing the sound of forgiveness – perhaps for the first time – and it began to silence his fears because it was forgiveness from God Himself. Forgiveness with the power to redeem and cancel out years of hurt and pain.

His strength returned for a few minutes and I heard his voice clearly for the first time ever as he said the Sinner’s Prayer, slowly and carefully. I saw anxiety release its hold on him; he found peace with God.

Then his speech began to slur again, only this time he looked peaceful. At ease, my grandfather had let go of his past as he was about to pass into eternity.

Forgiveness with the power to redeem and cancel out years of hurt and pain.

I never heard much from him, but the last words I ever heard my grandfather say was a prayer, and it made all the difference.

Because He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, I know that I’ll see him again one day. And we’ll have time then to talk about everything in a perfect world.

About the author

Fiona Teh

Fiona is low-key hilarious, a dog person, and she loves a good chat with strangers – particularly at Yakun. She also believes that everyone should know that they are absolutely worthy of love.