This is not a story. This is a life, one who ever lived and wrote a history.

I was 8 years old when my father got admitted to a hospital in Jakarta. My mother had to stay with him in the hospital leaving me and my sisters at home for almost a week. The first following morning, my Grand Hero walked down to my house at 6am. She cooked a breakfast for us and helped me buttoning my school uniform. She said to me,”Go to school and study hard. Do not disappoint your parents.” She did it for 3 straight days until my parents came home.

Years gone by after that moment. I did not actually had a very close relationship with her. But I knew that she was a good cook. She remembered everyone’s favorite food and how everyone wanted it to be. Perhaps she got used with her late husband requests. However, I did not know many things about her life until one day I had a chat with my mother.

My mother told me how struggled they were in Medan. My Grand Hero was a bag-tailor, if I could say that way. It was a hard way to live with 7 children and some nephews and nieces, but she never gave up. She had to raise her children herself, but she stayed strong. My mother always described her as a very compassionate lady, and it’s damn true.

There was one day she came over to my house and asked me to do something. I was actually having my afternoon nap. I woke up with half consciousness and I shouted at her. I didn’t say any swears. I just didn’t like to be disturbed. However, I really regret it. I should not behave that way, although it was the one and only time I shouted on her. She seemed disappointed but she tried not to express it. She just went home and didn’t reply my anger. From that incident, I agree and believe that she is a very compassionate lady.

Probably, her compassion was developed from her prayers. She never had a chance to learn about Buddha Dhamma in her life but she could understand easily if she were told. She is very intelligent. She knew what right is and how to differentiate from wrong. That is the way she taught her children. Although, at certain points, she had ever been disappointed by us, her family, but she never stopped to mention us in her prayers. She just didn’t want to dictate her children. She trusted them that they would be able to keep the familyship. Although, I know she was in much worries. That is her. She seldom tell anyone about her worries.

She was also a very supportive to us, especially me. I remember her giving me 200 US Dollars before I departed to Ireland. She cooked my favorite pork and made atap fruit cocktail for me when I came home from overseas. Believe me, no one will be able to beat her on her cooking! They are delicious and leave good memories in us. It is a good perspective as Anton Ego said in “Ratatouille”. Also, she never forgot to say this to me: “Study hard. Be a good doctor, don’t disappoint your parents. Make them proud.” She told me that every time before I left Jakarta. I know that she trusted and believed me fully especially in terms of spirituality.

Another proof that she was very supportive is when she came to Penang with her husband in 2006 to attend my sister’s graduation as a doctor. God! I really can’t tell you how happy and proud she was. Her smiles on that day was priceless. It was like she just win a noble prize. It was a noble day for her. It was her great achievement. She won over her life that day. With her background living in a poverty and struggled throughout her life to grow her children, it was her victory to have a doctor in her descendants. It had always been my wish that she would be here in Dublin to witness me graduate as a doctor in 2012. I also wanted her to attend my wedding. I wanted to see her smile again.

A year later was the worst year in her life. She lost her husband. It was a shocked to the family. However, she could cope well with it. She became a vegan since her husband passed away. She prayed more. I just can’t emphasize enough that she was a warrior. A strong warrior.

In 2008, I bought her a scarf with my money for the first time. I just didn’t know why I felt that I should give her a gift. I heard she was going to USA, so I bought her a pink purplish scarf. I went to her room and gave her the scarf. She smiled and said, “Wah, you can bring me a gift.” I replied her with a smile, then she kissed me. That was her last kiss.

My problems in 2009 made me did not catch up with her much until she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. While everyone in the family thought she would die soon enough, I didn’t believe it. I called her few times and told her that she should be positive even though how hard it is. “Pray, Grand, pray. Believe in Buddha to lead you to the best path. You have been praying hard and should never give it up. Nothing is impossible. I’ll have you in my prayers” I said to her each time. It was hard for me. Terribly hard! More than 40 individuals in the family and those who kept positive were only me and my elder sister. We knew it was incurable but we believed that we should try our best to keep her life as long as possible.

On July 2nd 2010, I met her again and for the first time since she was diagnosed. I kissed her when I saw her came out from her room and gave her a pack of Irish Muesli. That was my last kiss. She was very strong-hearted that night. I tried my best to cheer her up. I used my spirituality which she believed to help her. That night, she gave my sister who was leaving for Sydney a red envelope. My uncle said that she was looking for her all day long. I couldn’t believe that, in that condition, she was still thinking of my sister. She even gave couples of advises to my sister.

The next morning, I came over again with my mother. I asked her one personal question, “Grand, what are you thinking actually? Your face shows it. You are much in high pressure and stress. Is there anything I can do to help you?” She replied, “No. There’s nothing.” I told her, “Grand, come on. You can pretend in front of others, not me, you know it. Is it about your illness?” She answered, “Yes, pretty much. I have spent too much money. The best doctor. The best medicine. Go to Singapore every month. But, it is not getting better. I HAVE MADE YOU ALL DIFFICULT.” I wanted to cry when she mentioned the sentence I blocked. God! We haven’t even paid 5% of what she had given us. Then, I told her, “Don’t think that way, Grand. You must smile more, the more you smile, the better you will be. As soon as you get better, we can end these obstacles. Deal?” She took few seconds before she answered, “Good!” with her thumbs up and a little smile. That was all I wanted to see! She then improved much that day.

My sister and I departed to Sydney on July 4th. We did not have a chance to say a proper “till we meet again” because she was having her nap. Since then, her condition dropped. She was admitted to a hospital on July 12th. It was like nightmares for us in Sydney. Those in Jakarta were like having a tsunami. Every hour they updated with a new photo of her and a note “Pray for her”, “She is now on wheelchair”, “She can’t walk”, “Her conditions drop, pray more.” Gosh! Even if it was me, I would be stressful if you took my photo every hour. It is like I’m dying. Weird enough, they didn’t actually want her to know that she was dying. Again, her face would not lie to us. She was not prepared to die. She had the feeling that we all thought she was dying, while she did not have that idea. She was much in distress. I tried to tell my uncles, my aunties, even I asked my mom to stop all this. We built lots of negative energy around her, days to days. She became more and more weak then. No one actually trusted my suggestions. NO ONE!!! They made it like a live news. Once a day is okay but not every few seconds!

I arrived back in Jakarta on July 23rd. We went straight to the hospital. I found her in terrible stress. Her condition was horrible. It was a horror nightmare for me. I was in pretty much jet lag and everyone in the hospital pushed me to do some spiritual therapy. Of course, they don’t know that it was all negative moods in the room. I couldn’t do much that night. I told my parents that I had to come in the morning. It was very difficult for me. If I was there in the morning, she would feel better eventually, but in the night she dropped again. It gave me lots of pressure and dilemma. On one hand I would hope I could save her because I didn’t want to disappoint her, on the other I had to be realistic it was impossible.

July 25th 2010 night, I visited her in the hospital. Her condition dropped even more. I told my parents I gave up. I couldn’t do it all alone. I tried my best but no one else do the same, even the doctor in the hospital. They just thought about profit and income. They kept pushing her to be transferred to ICU. Every morning the doctor stated that! I swear I will never be that kind of doctor. That night I cried on my pillow. My grandfather visited me and I said sorry to him. I really felt worthless. He told me, “Find out what problems she kept in her mind. Get a monk to pray for her, then let someone she trusts to talk heart to heart with her. She will feel better, but it will not be long. Once you open her heart, that will be the indication. The most will be 2 weeks. You’ve got to be prepared. Prepare yourself and your family.” I promised him that I will prepare her the best. The next day I talked to my parents. After the family discussion, they decided to invite Buddhist monks to pray for her. She improved the day after. The following days were the jobs for her children and sisters to find out what were her worries.

Her condition got worse from day-to-day. She did not fear death but she wanted someone to lead her to the path. I discussed with my parents of the possibility for me to stay overnight in the hospital with her when my mother turn comes. I wanted to make a special morning pray for her on her side. August 3rd was the day I stayed overnight. My mother told me that she was looking for me. I don’t know why, probably, (I’m not trying to be arrogant) I am the 2nd best prayer among the whole family, I would say my elder sister is the best.

That night my mother sat on the chair on her side, one of her nurse slept on the sofa and the other on the floor. I sat at the end of the bed. I just prayed. She could not sleep the whole night. She kept complaining she felt hot. I was so happy to wave a fan for her, so she felt better. That hot feeling was her first sign for me that she was actually leaving us. I took a nap for half an hour from 1:30 am till 2:00 am before I started my pray. I had to take a nap because I came straight from the gym to the hospital. I started my special prayer for her exactly at 2:00 am. No one knew I was praying except my mother. The other two keepers slept. I finished at 4:00 am. Then I slept again until 5:00 am. (A funny note: the 2 keepers told everyone I was sleeping the whole night, just because they found me sleeping at 4:00 am when they woke up). In that morning, around 6:00 am, after she took a shower she asked me, “Why did you not sleep?” I just replied her with a smile.

I had to leave the hospital around 10:00 am. She waved her hand and said to me, “Come here earlier tonight.” I answered, “I will, Grand. See you tonight.” That was our last conversation.

August 4th 2010, I was already prepared for the worst to come at anytime. I told my elder sister in Sydney to be prepared too. She knew exactly when I said it, it would be the time. She then planned her trip to Jakarta. My sister told me, “If she could not wait for us, let her go sooner. Don’t let her suffers for more.” That whole day my mother told me that my sister’s name was mentioned many times. Therefore, my dad agreed to let my sister to come home.

August 4th 07:00 pm, my Grand Hero dropped and lost her consciousness for the first time. My mother called me and urged me to come faster. My elder sister texted me non-stop asking for the factual fact. She and my cousins in Sydney were in much worries because of the inappropriate news from Jakarta. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how furious my big family could be. It was like a time-bomb tied to my Grand Hero. I tell you, even CNN, BBC, or even MetroTV won’t be as furious as they were. Some of them even said to those in Sydney that she has passed away! She was actually just dropped and became coma. She was already conscious when I arrived around 9:00 pm. She looked actually okay although her condition kept dropping. My mother told me that she wished to go home earlier and she dropped when my uncle promised her to go home the day after. I agreed to the decision as part of the family and as a professional doctor-to-be. It was her autonomy.

Suddenly at 11 pm, Her condition dropped even worse. She lost her consciousness for the second time. Everyone was like in hell. They shouted her name loud and louder. I tried to calm them down but they were too many. So what I could do just whisper to her, “Calm down, Grand.” From that moment, one by one family member cried. I did not want her to feel sad, if she had to leave us that night, so I got to ask whoever cried to leave the room.

Everyone thought that she would pass away that night, including me. I thought she would leave us. Everyone got their own chance to give their last word. They said to her things like, “Grand, this is *whoever*. Grand, you go in peace ya.” Each of them mentioned a very similar sentence. I knew it because I sat beside her to whisper some prayers to her. I noticed one of my uncle promised her to go home the day after and she should wait for it. Suddenly, I felt she was calm down a bit. We waited until 1:00 am (August 5th) and she became stable. So, we decided that some of us stayed in the hospital and some go home. Three aunties, two uncles, two keepers and me stayed that night. One uncle and her wife got the bed, one keeper on the floor and one on the sofa. Two more aunties, one uncle and me got a 1-seater couch for each of us. It was a small couch. No one of us except one of the keeper which I dislike much actually got some sleep. I sat beside her bed to kept whispering her the prayers. At one stage, I was too tired because I did not sleep the night before, then that morning I went to Jhana Manggala Meditation Graha with my dad and worked there for few hours. It was a busy day for me. I could not resist my tiredness. I left the room at 3:45 am to get some sleep on the couch in the waiting area. I did not know that one of my uncle who got the room followed me, perhaps, he could not sleep too. Suddenly at 4:00 am my Grand Hero dropped again. She was stiff and shaken, she lost her consciousness for 3rd time. That was her worst. She lost her breaths and heart beat. I noticed it and told my youngest aunty beside me, “Aunt, she is gone. Don’t…” Before I finished my sentence her heart beat bounced back and slowly became stable. I was so shocked, but I understood that she was waiting. She waited to go home and most importantly she waited for her best prayer to arrive from Sydney.

I called my dad and asked him to contact the monk who she trusted to accompany her to home. Surprisingly, when the monk arrived, she could wave her hand while before that she did not respond to any of us. Around 9:00 am, we brought her home. She was too excited and she lost her consciousness for the 4th time. Everyone in there thought she has gone, including me and the monk. Again, and again, she woke up from death for the second time in the night. I told the monk that I thought she was waiting for my sister. The monk agreed.

When we arrived in the home, I told my uncle that I want her to pray first. That was her wish. She wanted to go home and pray in the altar. So, we brought her to the praying room. I was the one who carried her wheel-chair with some paramedics. I was in front of her face when she arrived in the room. She took the joysticks from my mother and she smiled. A very beautiful smile. That was her last smile. I was the only one witness it.

After that, her condition dropped and slowly became coma. I was the only capable grandson around and I live just next door. Therefore, I got a duty to watch her for one more night. I stayed until 1:00 am (August 6th) with my mother and then my aunties replaced me. I found out that day she was told by my aunty that everyone will be home the day after (August 6th). Amazingly, she waited. It was the hardest part of her life. She was promised that everyone would be there. I could not let her suffered for more. I asked permission from my dad to pick my elder sister. She and my cousins from Sydney were the last group. I decided to pick her with the fact I’m a fast driver. My father allowed me.

That morning one of my aunty approached me. She asked me about the opinion to draw the supporting machine and infusion of my Grand Hero. I denied and totally disagreed. I told her that we have promised her that everyone will be here and we should wait for everyone to arrive before we make the decision. My aunty told me that the Taiwanese monks (they are different from the monk my Dad brought) kept pushing to pull out the machine because my Grand Hero has passed away while indeed she was still alive (THIS IS THE REASON WHY I HATE THE TAIWANESE MONK AND I WILL DISLIKE AND NEVER FORGIVE THEM FOREVER AND EVER FOR THIS MISTAKE). I told my aunty, for any reason, I will not let it done because we have promised her. My aunty assured me that she was told it will be done when the Australian contingents arrive.

In the evening I took 2 shirts from my wardrobe and was very picky. One is red and one is black. I picked red and I told myself, “My Grand Hero is leaving and I’m gonna give her a gift which is her last wish, that’s why I’ll be happy because she will be free from sufferring.” Then I drove alone to the airport. It was an evening full of thunders and heavy rains. I drove 80 km/h under heavy rains and the road was flooded. Although, I arrived on time to pick my sister, on the way back the rain stopped but the traffic was so heavy and I could not drive faster.

August 6th 2010, 08:50 pm. My uncle called me and urged me to arrive faster because the condition has gone worst. I was around Pluit and about half an hour drive in that wet condition.

August 6th 2010, 09:00 pm. My dad called me asked me where I was. I told him I am at the toll near Ancol. 15 minutes drive in wet condition to my house.

August 6th 2010, 09:05 pm. My sister noticed a smell in the car. She asked if anyone smelled it. I smelled it too. I told her that was the smell of my Grand Hero’s sweats. Three straight nights were enough for me to know exactly how my Grand Hero’s sweats smell like. One of my cousin cursed me for saying bad things. I got the feeling that it was her. Her soul visited us. She knew that I would understand the sign.

August 6th 2010 09:15 pm. My dad called me again. I told him I was just around the corner and asked why it is so urgent now. He didn’t answer, he just asked me to calm down.

August 6th 2010 09:20 pm. We arrived. My dad gave me a sign that my Grand Hero has gone. I did not believe him. I went upstairs to witness it myself. My sisters and I are the only family members with a medical background. When we wanted to enter her room, the Taiwanese monks told my family to tell us not to touch her. My blood boiled in my vains. I shouted at them, “Who actually confirmed she has already died? Where is the doctor!?” Then we entered the room and I realised we were too late. She was already in her pyjamas. She has been washed. She has died sometime ago before we arrived. I failed. I failed to give her the last wish. I was curious who decided to pull out the central line and everything before we arrived. It was actually my uncle who gave the consent. However, I never blame my uncle. I blame the Taiwanese monks and the home-care doctor who pulled out the central line without any warnings upon the effects. I also blame myself because I went out to pick my sister. Probably, if I stayed, I could stop it. I failed and this hurt me much until today, until this second I can’t accept it and that is why I dislike the Taiwanese monks.

My sister told me in the car that my Grand Hero might be waiting because she knew that my sister could pray to lead the way. I thought it was right. The Buddha Manggala Gatha that my elder sister recited was very powerful. I might sound crazy or schizophrenic but that is the Gatha / hymns you really want to listen before your time’s up. My Grand Hero deserved that Gatha.

My sister and I cried on the side of my Grand Hero’s body. My uncle asked us to leave but I stood there and let my sister cried. My sister last word (which I could remember) was, “Grand. I’m home. I come to see you. I’m home.” I was the last one to talk with my Grand Hero. I said, “Thank you, Grand. Thank you for raising us. Thank you for the family you have built. Thank you for your life you gave us. You are the best we could wish for. I’m sorry I was late and wasn’t here when you breathe for the last time. I’m happy you’re now free from sufferings. Indeed, you never die. You are alive and live in my heart forever. I promise you, I’ll be a good doctor. I love you. Thank you and good-bye, Grand.”

August 6th 2010 09:05 pm, my beloved Grand Hero rested in peace in her room. It was 12 days after she met the Buddhist Thai monk that my dad brought. All family members from the oldest son until the youngest grandchild were in Jakarta to give her the last salute.

August 10th 2010, the body of my Grand Hero was cremated. It was the happiest ever day for the whole family. Every single family member cried. Even my father who always managed not to cry dropped his tears. The loving-kindness that we felt that day among us was huge. Some of us did not recite the mantra because they are Christian. Therefore, I recited louder. Why do I say we were happy? Because, once we finished the final salute and saw the coffin was in the oven, everyone suddenly stopped crying and started to smile and laugh, no one felt sad anymore. Those tears are tears of loving-kindness. In Buddhist term, it is called as Metta.

I took some of her burnt mala (rosary / tasbih) with me, so I will feel close to her wherever I am. I would actually to have some of her cremated bone to be kept in her favourite place, Jhana Manggala Meditation Graha, Gunung Geulis, Bogor. She loved that place so much. She asked my mother to bring her there if she could leave the hospital.

August 19th 2010, two weeks after she rested, I dreamt of her. I saw her so happy in my dream. Since then, I believe she is now in a better place.

I had 24 years 3 months and 6 days to know and learn from my Grand Hero. I learnt about strong-heart, loving-kindness, never say give up and more importantly about how to build a family.

My Grand Hero has rested in peace. I will never see her again but, as I said, she never actually died. She still lives in my heart forever and after.

Tjong Fa Yin / Tjang Hua Ing / Farida Tjong (1921 – 2010)

is my Grand Hero. A warrior of life, the teacher of family unity, the best grandmother I could have ever wished. She has written a history in my heart. This will be remembered forever by me, my children and my descendants that, in the history, there was a warrior who fought for a family unity until her time’s up. The family was her long-time worry. She was afraid the family would be broken after she left. A united family is her long-life wish.

“Be a good man. Don’t disappoint your parents. Love your family. Family always comes first.” – Tjong Fa Yin, Sept 2006 –

This life story is written as a memoir of my grandmother who rested in peace exactly 2 months ago. This is also a challenge to the family whether we would keep her long-life wish.

A memoir of my grand hero (Aug. 6th 2010 – Oct. 6th 2010).

I love you.