This has been the worst week for my health this year. I've been coughing for a week straight with no signs of improvement, the kind of cough that feels like it's going to tear my lungs apart. Coincidentally, this happened when I went back home, causing great concern for my parents and family due to my physical condition. Despite feeling guilty, I still made every effort to muster the strength to sit by my grandfather's spirit tablet every day. Because I had to maintain the appearance of being a dutiful granddaughter.

The last time I saw my grandfather was during Chinese New Year. By then, he was already very unwell, needing assistance with eating, and had lost half of his memory. When he saw me, he would just hold my hand and hum, whispering my nickname.

Every afternoon, my father and I would visit him at the nursing home, where I would hold his cold hand and sit with him for a while. The three of us never had much to say to each other; as my mother would put it, the people in our family, the Hans, are all deaf in our mouths.

The first two times I visited the nursing home, I couldn't help but cry at my grandfather's bedside. And it was the kind of crying where the more I tried to suppress my emotions, the more uncontrollable my tears became. My grandpa would sit across from me, silently shedding tears as well. At such moments, my father would always scold, "Stop it, look at what you've done to your grandpa."

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, my uncle insisted on bringing my grandpa home from the nursing house no matter what, because it might be his last Chinese New Year. With my cousin and my dad, we carried his wheelchair up 3 floors and finally got him home, the whole family sat down at a long prepared New Year table full of overwhelming dishes. But no one was looking at them.

I tried hard to recall what this room looked like during New Year's when I was a child, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn't imagine that one day our Han family's New Year celebration would be so dismal.

On the New Year table, his condition was poor; he could barely open his eyes. My grandma kept calling out to him, and during the brief moments when he was awake, I managed to feed him some food. He ate very little, only because it was his granddaughter feeding him. My aunt was very concerned and suggested that we should quickly send him back to the nursing home. As my uncle went to push my grandpa's wheelchair, he suddenly grabbed onto the dining table and refused to let go, whimpering. Both me and my cousin cried.

Before returning to Shanghai, I made my final visit to the nursing home. As I was about to leave, I said, "Grandpa, I'm leaving now, okay? I need to go back to work." He sat in his wheelchair, looking at me without any reaction but grief. "Grandpa, I'm going now!" Then I waved and walked out, couldn't help to glance back one last time and saw him sitting there, couldn't do anything about losing sight of his granddaughter.

How powerless life can be. At that moment, both our hearts shattered into pieces with the shut of the door.

Then came Wednesday evening of this week, at 7:30 p.m.,I received a call from my mom. Even before answering I already knew. I remained calm on the phone and said I would prepare to go back home now with my uncle.

On the train, my uncle and I didn't speak. I kept coughing. It was already late when we arrived. The two of us went upstairs, in the middle of the living room was a large portrait of him surrounded by flowers. My mother said, "Come and kowtow to your grandpa." Finally, I burst into tears.

The funeral rituals were tedious as usual. The few of us sat in the funeral parlor every day, mourning each time a guest arrived. After two days, hundreds of people had come. The most memorable moment was an 88-year-old grandpa who could barely walk and was brought up by his son in a wheelchair. He leaned on his cane and sat in front of my grandpa's portrait, gazing at it for a long afternoon. My dad went to him and said, "Please take care of yourself." But he replied, "Ah, I've lived long enough! Living longer would only burden my children and grandchildren. Look at my friend, when it's time to go, he just goes, for children's sake."

At one point, the bright light from the lamp made me cough violently, so I got up and walked around the house. I remember there used to be flowers on the balcony, along with a fish tank. I searched eagerly, only to find all the plants dead and the fish tank empty for who knows how long. It felt like everything was in disarray, dilutional, everything I saw only contradicted my memories.

When did all this happen? Back then, I was in my senior year of high school and lived in this bedroom because it was closer to school. There were flowers and birds, and my grandfather would wake up at 5:30 am every morning to fry me four spring rolls for breakfast. How did everything vanish just like this?

When I was eighteen, one noon, I stayed late at school and had lunch with my classmates before coming home. When I finally came home after lunch, I found my grandparents sitting in the living room, waiting for me, with a birthday cake on the table. It turned out to be my lunar birthday that day. And my grandpa said, "You're a grown young woman now."

Later, when I went to college, I rarely came back home, only during Chinese New Year. Every time I visited my grandparents' place, he was always in the kitchen cooking. Later on, when I went abroad to study, I visited home less and less, and the phone calls became fewer and fewer, with only occasional video calls during the Chinese New Year. Until my grandparents aged to a point that I couldn't mentally bear.

I tried to search my memories for him, remembering the times when I wouldn't let him smoke and he would get frustrated. It was him picking up a caterpillar when I was afraid to step on the poplar tree in the courtyard. It was him, wearing green rubber shoes, waiting at the school gate to pick me up from school every time it rained or snowed.

My earliest memory was of him holding me and buying me many hawthorn sticks, which I would eat as we walked home. When we met other adults, they would tease me: "Who do you like the most?" And I would loudly reply in my childish voice: "My grandpa!" "When you grow up, who will you show filial piety to first?" "My grandpa!" "Who is the best person in the world?" "My grandpa!" Then my grandpa would laugh loudly and lift me onto his shoulders, holding me tight.

Originally written on 2018-04-21, the year you left us to the stars.