Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Speaking of my Grandfather

On the same week I visited my dad, I attended my grandfather's funeral. Though it was a sad event, my grandfather lived a full and happy life. He had the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone before passing away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. He was 89 years old.

My Grandfather with My Dad
My grandfather with my dad in the late sixties.

Grandparents Eating Icecream
My grandmother and my grandfather in the nineties.

Here's a video of our family (with Woomi) visiting him two years ago to celebrate his birthday:

He was fluent in the Ningbo and Shanghai dialect of Chinese, and spoke basic English. Every time I visited my Grandfather, he would ask me: "So, you cannot speak Chinese anymore?" I'd reply that I could understand the language but not speak it well. Eventually, I just said: "No, not really."

For a farewell gift, I wanted to say something to him in Chinese.  So I crocheted him this speech bubble with something he and I shared: our last name.

Speech Bubble with Chinese Character for Woo
"Woo" is embroidered as its Chinese character:

I felt fortunate to place the speech bubble in his casket before the cremation ceremony.

Remembering Grandfather

Most of the eulogies were spoken in Chinese, where I learned he was married to my grandma for sixty-nine years, that he spent cautiously on himself but was generous to others, that he loved practicing calligraphy and listening to Chinese operas, that he was an even-tempered dad, and that he treated his six daughters and one son equally. He taught them to keep their promises, as he was was a man of his word.

My Grandfather - Formal
Hsien Teh Woo, 1921-2010

May you rest in peace, Grandfather.

My Grandfather - Informal


  1. I'm sorry for your loss.Sounds you like he was a wonderful Man.

  2. So precious - your Grandfather looked and sounded like a lovely man!

  3. My condolences for your loss, but congratulations as well, for having such a grandfather and a life well lived. I hope that similar things will be said of me at my funeral. (I've only been married a year and a half - I can't imagine seven decades with the same person, but I'm going to try!)

  4. Such a loving tribute. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. What a sweet man your grandfather was. Such wonderful photos you posted too. I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my grandad in January. Its sad to see your love ones go. But it looks like you have such precious memories to remember him by.

  6. sorry for ur loss, ur grandfather looked like a happy content man. im just getting into crochet and am very happy i came across ur blog via paisley jade. its neat to find cool blogs!!!

  7. I'm very sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute you have posted about someone who was clearly very special. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  8. I am so sorry for your loss. He seems like such a kind hearted man, you can tell from his sweet smile. May he rest in peace.

  9. So sorry for your loss Howie. It sounds like he led a wonderful life. He seemed to enjoy Woomi's little jig on his birthday! I just love his pictures; he has such kind eyes.

    Thank you for the early morning warm fuzzy. :)

  10. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man. How lucky you are that you got to spend time with him and learn from him.

  11. Sorry for your loss, Howie. But thank you for sharing the memory of your grandfather with us all. He sounds like he was a great man who was loved by many people.

  12. In English we have the same last name but it's written different in Chinese... Sorry for your loss, but it seems like you're grandfather lived a very fulfilling life. It's very brave of you to open yourself up so personally on the internet by showing us the crafts you made for your loved ones. My Grandpa used to make the same jokes about my ability to speak chinese...

  13. I'm so sorry for your loss, He sounds like he was a great man.

  14. Another time you share something strong, special with us.
    I send you a lot of soft thoughts and I am sorry for your loss.

  15. your stories are always so touching! I'm sorry for your loss, but it's wonderful that you can appreciate the long happy life he had.

  16. I'm sorry for your loss, Howie.

    My grandparents on my mom's side are from Ningbo. I can speak Shanghai-ness. Yes I can!

  17. Oh he's a lovely man. So sorry for your family's loss, but the tribute to him was so touching.

  18. I'm very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute for your grandfather. My thoughts are with you and your family.


  19. Howie--
    As always, a beautiful post! I admire the talk bubble you made for your grandfather. That might be the best memorial ever made.

  20. RIP Grandpa Woo. He looked like a very kind person :)

  21. I'm sorry for your loss and it sounds like your Grandfather was a good man :)

  22. My condolences. He looked like a gloriously kind person.

  23. Alisha: Thank you :) It's funny how we often learn more about someone after they're gone...

    PaisleyJade: Thank you :) Yes, he did carry himself with grace whenever we saw him. And he was always in a collared shirt!

    Anonymous: When you surely reach your 70th anniversary with your partner, let me know! I will blog about it (as my future robot self ;)

    JelliDonut: And thank you for reading :)

    Rebekah: In every photo I have, my grandfather and grandmother posed formally for the camera. So it was fun to find the less-formal ice-cream photo of them :)

    I'm sorry for the loss of your granddad this year. He was surely proud that you create such beautiful things for such noble causes :)

    emerson-j: I'm glad you found my nutty blog :) It's not usually this somber. There is much wackiness planned for the remainder of the year ;)

    chchchxtnsl: Thank you for your thoughts :) I will send all the good wishes to my grandma, especially.

    Sharona: Thank you! Yes, my grandpa was always smiling... Maybe that's a secret to living a long lovely life :)

    Annette: hehe Yes, Woomi was just born when he did that jig for my grandfather :) It's fortunate that MJ was videotaping his dance number with my mom :)

    I'm reminded of a CoCo Chanel quote MJ likes to repeat: "Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve."

    Lindy Stamper: Thank you for your *hug* :)

    Nessa the Procrastinator: Thank you :) To be honest, I wish I knew more about my grandfather. I hope I get to learn more about his amazing feats as time goes by, though raising seven children is already a great achievement!

    ~Feather.Wing~: Thank you :) Yes, he was loved by many, especially by my grandma. Thankfully, she's being looked after by her big family and a truly caring caretaker :)

    PunkRawkKnitter: Hey, that's super that you're a Woo too! :) Yes, grandparents must get frustrated when their grandchildren don't continue some traditions, especially when it comes to language. When we're older, I wonder if we'll scold the younger generation for not using emoticons ;)

    Blanca: Thank you :) I'll continue to learn more about his greatness as time goes by. Surviving the loss of their son (my dad) is a testament to both of my grandparent's strength too...

    Christelle: Thank you for your thoughts :) The two stories about my dad and my grandpa are a little blue, but I hope there are positive things that can be taken from those stories?

    lindseycore: Thank you, I'm glad you found the story touching :) In Chinese tradition, white is a sad colour related to death while red is a celebratory colour. Mom told me there were red flowers (among the white flowers) at his funeral because my grandfather lived such a long life, which is reason to celebrate!

  24. TADA's Revolution: Wow, I didn't know anything about Ningbo until my mom told me about it. I like learning about your Ningbo-ness and your Shanghai-ness! :)

    KelleBelle: Thank you for all your support, on the blog and on Twitter :)

    Jersey Knitting Mama: Thank you for your kind thoughts, Sonya. My mom told my grandma and relatives that there's an online tribute to my grandfather here, so everyone's kind words will go to the people who deserve it :)

    Amy Lynn: I'm glad you like the speech bubble, thank you :) I felt fortunate to put the speech bubble in my grandfather's casket. When I gave the book to my dad, I bizarrely wished the book could sink underground to him.

    kmyk: Thank you :) Yes, he was a kind person. It reminds me a eulogy where my aunt recounted how he reminded her to tip well...

    breakmydreams: Thank you :) I can never know enough about my grandfather, but I do know he was a good person. I never saw him lose his temper or act uncivil, and instead saw how kindly he treated everyone. Like my grandmother, he was always so happy to see his children and grandchildren. In turn, the eulogies about him were glowing :)

    Shoveling Ferret: Thank you :) He was indeed kind. It's funny how someone's inner demeanor can indeed be reflected in their face.

  25. I read somewhere once that by the time we're 50, we have the face we deserve. It seems your grandfather was a wonderful man, he has such a wonderful face.

    What a sweet remembrance, you have made my day.

  26. Howie I am so sorry to hear about your grandfather. I was moving across country when I read about your father and was unable to comment at that time...

    You wrote: "I crocheted him [grandfather] this speech bubble with something he and I shared: our last name." Howie, you shared so much more than a last name. Hsien Teh Woo was generous to others, Howie Woo is generous with his time, warmth, and humor. Hsien Teh Woo practiced calligraphy, Howie Woo entertains and enlightens us with his incredible illustrations and crochet work...

    Hsien Teh Woo's body may have passed from this physical plane, but his smile, love, and the essence of his life lives on through you, Howie. May we all pause to be grateful for those who came before us to give us the life we are so blessed with today.

    Love you, Howie.


  27. Kate Halleron: I'm a fan of that quote about getting the face we deserve when we're 50. At the very least, it's a great reminder to smile more and be more positive :)

    We visited my grandma tonight and learned that my grandfather used to be a plant manager at a carpet factory, that he had a background in chemistry, and that he loved his morning bacon-on-a-bun. These new bits of trivia become so precious after someone has gone. Thanks, Kate :)

    ecuadoriana: Thank you so much for your sweet sentiments and for kindly comparing me to my grandfather. I've been wishing that I had more in common with my father & grandfather, and your words were very reassuring. Isn't it fascinating how we can spend our teenage years wanting to be different from our parents and grandparents, then look for similarities as we get older?

    I'm always honoured that this nutty blog can receive comments from so many intelligent & kind-hearted individuals as you, thank you! And congratulations on your successful cross-country trek :)

  28. Dear Howie,
    I am truly sorry for your loss, but like so many others have written before me, your grandfather seemed like a wonderful, kind and generous person...and you DO seem to have inherited all those traits from him.
    I am always amazed and touched to see how you take time out to respond to EVERY single person who comments on your blog. It's a small gesture...but it says so much about you :)

    Thanks for all the warmth that you bring into the lives of so many people...

    Keep spreading the sunshine... :)

    Much Love and good wishes,

  29. Sorry to read of your family's loss. What a touching tribute to your grandfather!

  30. cheesy: Thank you for your super sweet words, Parul :) I do try to respond to every comment... If someone took the time to write something beneficial to this blog, the least I can do is reply :) I'm very lucky to receive so many smart, sweet, and funny comments from so many smart, sweet, and funny individuals!

    Maven: Thank you :) Last weekend, our families returned to the cemetery for a burial ceremony of my grandfather's urn. His gravestone was located under the shade of a tree, and it was reassuring to see his final resting spot.

  31. I'm very sorry for your loss, your grandfather seemed like a very kind man. What you said about learning more about a person after they've gone, that happened to me too. I wish I had gotten to know my grandfather better, but I was probably too young, and when I was older he suffered from dementia. I guess it just reminds you how precious life is.

  32. Thank you for sharing this beauty in sharing your loss. I salute your grandfather, whose radiant goodness still shines. I salute you for appreciating
    such grace and celebrating it. I loved and miss my grandfather, who was also an exemplar and culture bearer. In reading about yours, I remember and honor mine. May your grief ease.

  33. Tessel: Isn't it funny how, when we're children, we know our grandparents as, simply, our grandparents? It's only later that we learn about the full, eventful lives they led before we were even born.

    Thank you for sharing your story about your grandfather. If anything good comes out of losing a loved one, it might be learning to better-appreciate those who are still with us. :)

    Akua: Thank you :) I salute your noble grandfather as well. How our grandparents raised our parents surely affected how our parents then raised us (sometimes for better or for worse), so I appreciate the important role of good grandparents everywhere!

  34. what a beautiful heartfelt post

  35. Howie, I love the picture with the ice cream cones. Your grandfather was beautiful. One can only think, "Oh, I wish I had known him!" How lucky you are to have had him in your life. {hug}


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