In the weeks since I was asked to pen this letter, all I could think to write about was my grandmother. She passed away recently, and I was by her side when she passed, though I didn't know it at the time, not until after I was told to step out momentarily, and a moment became 20 minutes before the doctor came to speak to me and, after a long preamble, finally said the definitive words, sorry for your loss.
I wish I could say something more general about International Women's Day, something more empowering. But currently all I can think of when I think about International Women's Day is my grandmother—her strength, her life, what it was like to live through the second world war, to migrate to a place she had never been, to live through the tremendous changes in postwar Singapore and, finally, pass away from COVID. It is impossible for me to think of her without thinking of history, without thinking about how little I know of hers. A few years ago someone came to our home to collect her oral history—by then her Alzheimer's was already pretty advanced—and I, despite having lived with her for thirteen years, could provide practically none of the basic facts of her life.
I wish I didn't have to write this, but as it is this was the only thing I could write about. I cry every time Miguel, the protagonist of the Pixar animation Coco, sobs as he plays "Remember Me" for his great-grandmother Coco in a last-ditch effort to get her to remember her father. The stakes are high: in the Land of the Dead, Coco's father, unsustained by living memory, is slowly fading.
May her memory be eternal.
Author of The Orchid Folios