我的祖母

 

祖母走了。三个月前,一百岁高龄的她竟奇迹般地战胜了大量内出血和近四十度的酷暑,却在一礼拜前一个秋高气爽的日子,悄悄地离开了这个她生活整整一个世纪的凡世间。祖母走得很快,快到没有留下一句话。祖母的一生虽然物质生活条件很差,但却很完美,她不会有什么未了的心愿,该说的她平时也都说了,能做的她也都做了,任何遗言也许都是多余的。

祖母一生坎坷,前大半辈子多是在战乱和饥饿中度过,最后的日子则备受病痛的折磨。祖母是个典型的旧中国农村妇人,裹了一双小脚,不足三寸,人们甚至不知道她的名字,只呼她八婶或婶婆,说来惭愧,我也是从她的讣告中才知道她的真实姓名。祖母自己没有生育,却有诸多儿女、孙辈、曾孙和玄孙送终。她和祖父先后收养了从印尼回国避乱的伯父,从省城逃到乡下躲避日本鬼子的父亲,以及出生在邻村的姑姑,一家五口各不同姓,祖父祖母含辛茹苦地把他们抚养成人。可怜的祖父是在大跃进后所谓的三年自然灾害中活活饿死,祖母她却顽强地活着。

祖母一生淡如清水,身为一个虔诚的天主教徒,她一生大多的时间都花在念经和祷告。对我来说,祖母就象一本充满爱的书,时时在教诲着我。她总是热心为善、乐于助人,从不与左邻右舍有过不快,也极少生过气、骂过人,祖母她多是逆来顺受,就是有谁跟她过不去或得罪于她,也从不放在心上。在我的记忆中,她唯一的一次生气是在我孩提时候,当时我与堂兄打得不可开交。我的记忆中的祖母总是在我生病的时候默默地陪着我,坐在床前为我祷告;在我儿时挨揍的时候总是用自己的身体护着我,让我免受些皮肉之苦;当儿孙们漂泊在异国他乡,她总是日日夜夜在为我们祈祷。我们虽人在天涯,却都可以感受到有一个慈祥的祖母天天在祝福着我们,时时在牵挂着我们,她是我们心中的根。

祖母最后的十多年是在病痛中度过,每次回去看到躺在床上被病魔折腾不成样子的她,我心如刀绞,叹老天不公、长寿非福。祖母是在默默地代儿孙受过,或为了给子孙有个报恩的机会,她自己却要忍受莫大的痛苦。祖母从不会说什么大的道理,但她却在潜移默化地熏陶着我,她使我懂得这人世间的善与爱,懂得人不能没有根,不可以忘了本,要时存感恩之心。授不图报受知恩,得饶人处且饶人。

祖母出殡时,内亲外戚、左邻右舍、还有本村和附近村庄的热心教友都来为她送上最后一程,队伍长达数里。当我最后目送祖母火化的时候,我竟丝毫没有觉得她已经离开了我们,我知道她在天之灵还会时时刻刻在庇佑着她的子孙。在我默默地为她祷告送行的时候,我恍然间觉得死亡并不可怕,等到我走的那一天,我知道我有一个慈祥的祖母在天国里等着我。

祖母,您安息吧!我们会常常为您祈祷。愿仁慈的天主父、天主子、天主圣神及童贞圣母玛丽娅与您同在。

 

陈本美

二零零六年十一月二日于新加坡

祖母的生前照片   -  1985   1987   1989   1991   2001   2002   2003   2004

 

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Friends and Kin

Blogging from China this time, because they called on Thursday and it was urgent. I could remember that something on the Project Work booklet said that we weren’t allowed to go out from such to such, but by the time it came to me, I was one foot into the plane.

I’ve been called back to attend my great-grandmother’s funeral, who had passed away peacefully at an age of one hundred. My great-grandmother had seen a life more illustrious than I had ever imagined; friends and kin came in from distant corners everywhere to the village on Friday. Wenfang hasn’t changed much, thankfully, except for a random misbegotten house that now blocks the view of the church tower from the road coming in from north-west.

I’d have to be frank here, to say that I did not experience as much emotion as Zhengyou did, in my great-grandmother’s funeral. The older folks in Wenfang did, as the people who were mostly around during her final years or decades. The emotional element, however, must have been diluted by the fanfare that tailed the ceremony; it was more of a celebration of her life than mourning for her passing, for Great Gran has touched the lives of many.

The five of us in my immediate family visited once a year in winter, and a stand-around my great-grandmother’s bed was a must-have upon each homecoming. The folks spoke almost monolingual Fuqingese, which made me and my sisters sort of left-out. Sometimes, though, Dad would offer a translation, while she talked directly to her great-grandchildren.

The last words I remember coming from my great-grandmother, as she held my hands, was along the lines of “Keep praying.” They were valuable words, which I intend to bring to my own grave. Maybe it was why to me, it was as if she had never died; as if she had, like we say, attained everlasting life.

That was the first thing I thought after gramps uncovered her face. She looked as if peacefully asleep, although quite distressingly still. The wake-table was lined with flowers and flashing lights. The head of the table pointed towards the door into the room, and on the other end towards a cloth painting of the Virgin Mary and Christ. The painting was in a western style, and so was the village church. It made me wonder why the idea of Chinese Catholic art never caught on in these parts.

There was no priest present for the ceremony, only a choir, singing hymns like only a Fuqingese could. Smacks of home.

Today we sent Great Gran on her journey via the crematorium. It was crazy the way they did it; five or six brass bands, two or three carriages, and even a stunt troupe called in (did they?) to top it off. The extended family became more extended than I used to think: relatives I’ve never met, cousins I never knew I had and cousins who’d grown so much in the past year I could hardly recognize them anymore.

The crematorium was deathly white inside, which worried me a bit. And it also worried me the way the personnel handled their client irreverently; they must have been through the same process countless times for years! They cried the loudest as Great Gran inched her way into the cremator. And ninety minutes later, Grandpa and the others were out, with a black umbrella and a red box with the ashes.

They buried the ashes in the coffin, shoveling mud and dust to plaintive beats of the musicians. Thereafter we paid a last visit to the wake house and had a full lunch with the same music band cheering everyone up.

 

Andy Paul Chen

Wenfang, Fuqing, Fujian, China

Posted at http://dunmorecave.blogspot.com on October 28, 2006

 

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