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  • Writer's pictureSharon Uy

#39. Zephyr


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I took this photograph of my grandmother, Tarcela Go Uy, four years ago in the Philippines during the week of her 100th birthday celebration.

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A million blinks of an eye, and four months have passed since my last letter.

Call the break an emotional hangover, burnout, rest.

Or D, all of the above.

 

In the span of exactly one week, a death, and a birth.

 

A little over one week ago, my grandmother, Tarcela Go Uy, passed away peacefully and at home in Carigara, at 104 years old. We could say she died of natural causes, even though death is one of the most natural things about being here, being human. The only "unnatural" thing about death is when it happens outside of our most ideal timelines or circumstances.

 

One week after Mama passed, after a few months of cosmic planning with my doula bestie and at yet another peak of my own life purpose panic, I photographed my first birth. We could say it was a natural birth, in a tub of water with no medication other than bliss lights, a fantastic playlist, and an atmosphere of peace, calm, and intention.


The two most natural things about our existence, these bookends of breath entering the lungs for the first time, and breath leaving the body for the last time.

 

This life is but a zephyr, measured in moments and blinks of an eye.

 

Everything about it, everything in between, a miracle.

And yet.

 

And yet, it's never enough to keep all of the worries away, to render moot the stresses of everything in between. But maybe, somehow, that's part of the miracle, or the miracle itself, to experience the very breadth of all that this human life entails.

 

When we went back for Mama's 100th birthday four years ago, I recorded an attempt at an interview. Her answers--when she would offer them--were simple. She didn't have a favorite child (though she did have one that she felt was very talkative), there wasn't a food she didn't like, she didn't have a favorite memory or any regrets to speak of, no dreams unrealized. She had no feelings about being 100, because she was actually still 5, or 16, or 2, depending on when you asked her. My uncle wondered what she wanted to do in her life now that she was 100 years old. "Sleep," she said, to our delight and understanding. She'd ignore questions about any secrets to a long life or her relationship with Papa, instead asking if her children and grandchildren were still in town, and why were we all there again? My dad asked her if she was happy. "Why do you ask?" was her response, as though we were prying. We were. She loved all her grandchildren equally, even the ones whose names or faces she couldn't remember. She couldn't name all of her children, but when reminded, remembered. Her third youngest, David, who had died many years ago, was "ah, always away."

 

Mama had no interest in my complicated questions, no interest in questions at all, it seemed. I have no idea how complicated she felt her life may have been at various points, but at this point, it was very simple. She'd sit out front among all of her plants and watch her great-grandkids play, or nap. She seemed to be where I'm always trying to get to. The place of not doing, not speaking, just observing what's in front of her, just being. Life takes care of itself.

 

There was no need to have asked her about her legacy. Mama was a good reminder that there isn't anything more natural or necessary than to be. She didn't need to patent an invention or publish a novel or reach for the stars to be important to herself or her loved ones. If it weren't for her, none of the very many of us would be here, close-knit and crying and laughing, and marveling at the magnificence of her 104-year life. 

 

 

- As always, with love and thanks,

Brookie

 

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