Jessica says my eulogy is like a blog post so I decided to post it.
My grandfather loved to garden.
When I was young, I remember going to my grandfather’s house. His house used to be a very large lot down on Lower Azusa. I think I spent most of my time playing computer games on my uncle’s computer, but when I wasn’t doing that, I’d spend my time in the backyard. In the backyard was this large garden. It was endless. I don’t recall ever seeing the back of the garden. This garden was filled with plants and vegetables my grandfather had planted. Though I don’t remember all the plants he grew, I remember he used to have these large sunflowers that I’d always imagine eating. To this day, when I see sunflowers I think of my grandfather’s garden.
I know gardening was important to him because when he moved to a new house with no place to garden, he had a small lot in a community garden down in Alhambra. My grandfather must have loved nurturing things. I do remember there being a dog at his house. A Labrador if I’m not mistaken.
And I remember at his house on Duarte, he used to have hundreds of birds in the side area. Small birds. I’d sneak inside the walk-in cage and listen to them chirp. They were so loud.
Which reminds me, my grandfather was also deaf.
If you have never seen my mom talk with my grandfather, you’d be surprised. I think those that work with my mom would know what I’m talking about. My niece, Megan would say… why is harmi yelling at him.
My grandfather couldn’t hear much.
I think personally his deafness was adaptive. He had 4 daughters… 4 strong-minded strong-willed daughters, plus harmoni. I think his deafness was probably a blessing in disguise. “Don’t talk to me unless you really need something.”
I think, in this quiet, my grandfather was given the time to think and reflect on life and… on God.
My grandfather was a devout Christian. He would always be carrying a religious book or the bible or the Sabbath school lesson plan. When our family would get together, there wasn’t any question who was going to pray for the meal. My grandfather prayed with much vigor and ferocity. In these moments, I could pick out what he was thinking about, concerns he may have.
Later in his years, when he and my grandmother lived in Boyle Heights, I was commissioned by my mom to visit my grandparents every week. I would take food to their apartment and clean the place; take out the trash, clean the bathroom. vacuum. wash dishes. Things like that. I remember him smiling and chuckling that I’d do those things.
I did those things the first time I went. Every time I went afterwards, the bathroom would already be clean before I got there. There was only a few things in the trash can, the house already vacuumed.
So I’d visit and have nothing to do. I’d find my grandfather usually reading or watching tv. He’d always give me a big smile when I’d come and he would sit me on the couch. I’d say, Harabogi, jar jeen nah say yo? And he’d smile and ask how school was. The conversation would usually end there and I’d spend the next hour watching Korean tv until my grandfather would tell me I should probably head home to miss traffic.
This was our normal routine.
One time, after my grandmother passed away I was driving my grandfather home after a family party and we were stumbling through another conversation. Between the uhs and hmms and nehs, I just stopped and it became quiet.
I said to him, or rather to my dashboard in English, I’m sorry. Harabogi, I know you’re a wise man, and I wish I could talk to you, know what you’re thinking, be able to pick your brain. But my Korean is so bad. I’m sorry.
He gave me his smile and the rest of the car ride was quiet.
I remember one of the last times I visited him at his house.
It was the same routine. Hi Harlbogi, jar jeen nah suh yo.. Etc.
But this time he sat me down and said these two things to me that I won’t forget. He said it slowly to make sure I understood.
- I know you’re into computers. Be careful. It can be a tough occupation. You must try hard.
- What happened with your girlfriend? (at the time I had broken up with a girlfriend) It’s important to find a Christian girl.
At the time I think I found it comical. But in hindsight, I think this was the most important word of wisdom he wanted to give me. To have a family based around Christ.
I look at his family. To my aunts and uncle to those they married, to my cousins. It’s filled with elders and deacons and deaconesses. Praise leaders, choir members, small group leaders. People devoted to the churches they attend. I think that’s what made my grandfather smile.
Someday I hope to take on his example and have a Christian family like my grandfather’s.
I’m saddened by the passing of my grandfather but now he rests peacefully. Next time we meet, I am encouraged to know the conversation will be more than jar jeen nah say yo and we can finally have a deep conversation with each other.
old man before all his possessions