A Year in Retrospection: Realizing My Grandpa’s Legacy and Looking Forward

Hi everyone, I’m back!

I’ve been on hiatus from writing for about a month, but I’m back at it again. These past few days have been particularly difficult for me, but I’ve found my motivation to write once again.

Five days ago, at 11:10 pm, I received multiple frantic missed call messages on my phone. The screen’s missed calls flashed brightly on the screen, showing (2) missed calls from “Mom’s cell”. I feared the worst. My grandpa’s condition had been steadily deteriorating from natural progression of non-small cell lung cancer, but a few days prior, it suddenly took a turn for the worst when he fell down while taking a shower. I paused briefly, looking down at the buzzing phone in my hands, then slid my finger across the screen.

Ten minutes later, I knew. My grandpa: Kuo Chung Chen had passed away. My grandpa had lived an incredible life. From the dredges of poverty with an illiterate mother and good-for-nothing father, he found a way to provide for his siblings, and emigrate to America, the land of his dreams. His accomplishments are truly one-of-a-kind. (Link to his short biography: My Grandpa: Kuo Chung Chen)

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Figure 1: Me and my grandpa talking for the last time

Thinking towards the future, when my time comes to die, I would want it just the same as his: with family all around me, a sense of solidarity in between moments of grief, and maybe even a few smiles thinking back on happier times.

However, I wanted to focus this article on his legacy going into the future. A few days after falling, he uttered his last words to me: “Keep working hard in school”. It was a brief conversation because he quickly became too tired talking, so he resorted to being himself, peering with one eye at the brightly lit phone screen trying to figure out how it worked, waving at the screen all the while. It was evident that he was staying strong for the both of us, but he and I both knew that struggle lied ahead.

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Figure 2: My grandpa in better health with my two cousins in the background

Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to tell this story to him in person, but if he’s out there listening, I just want him to know that I’ve been working to make him proud, and that this post is dedicated to his memory, to his legacy, and to my uncertain life ahead under his guidance.

Firstly, I want to thank all my friends who have seen my tears and have shared my grief. I cherish your friendships all dearly and appreciate all of your presence in my life. In both happiness and despair, you’ve stuck with me and I can’t ask for any more.

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Figure 3: A late night with a couple friends.

Secondly, to my organic chemistry study group this semester, your existence and cheerful dispositions made the semester absolutely unforgettable. From coming up with a name for the group (Maaniacs?) and sharing your food, time, and personalities with me, to making electron booping sounds, to watching me falter with nomenclature, to asking insane questions the day you’ve learned the material, thanks for sticking around and just letting me hang out with such an eclectic collection of people. I hope that the experience was gratifying, and I challenge you all to invest your time into becoming the absolute best students you can be.

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Figure 4: My organic chemistry study group (left to right): Robin, Calvin, Joseph, Sara, Hannah, Bethany, Marissa, Moet, Claire, Gautham

Even now, thinking back to talking to my last conversation with my grandpa, my mom showed him pictures from the mock exam and of group, because I told her it was what made me most proud. Just as I wrapped up the last group of the semester, a student also implored me to keep writing, to put my experiences out there, in the event that someone else might read it one day.

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Figure 5: A picture from my friend Jeff Liang’s study group

Thirdly, to everyone graduating, or in different places in life, I look forward to following your journeys. I’ve always enjoyed taking many pictures, so that memories may be preserved. I look forward to hearing of your misadventures in the near future!

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Figure 6: A picture of my friend Nicki Naddaf’s study group

Finally, I’m really looking forward to the summer to come. No matter what may happen, my grandpa’s legacy will guide my way forward, and I am excited to enter my final year here at Cal.

 

Your friend,

Joseph

 

 

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