Thursday, November 29, 2012


When an old man dies, it’s as if a library burns down - an African proverb says. But not only...

Uncle Bernard and Auntie Cora left us recently. Auntie Cora on Saturday. At the venerable old age of 102 and… (well, we never knew it for certain as - for a feminine mincing way - she always declared a few years less than her real age) - respectively.

Distant relatives, but very present in our memories. Uncle Bernard was for Mathilde the ‘family home’ in La Bourboule, her childhood’ summer holidays, the common element with her cousins. Auntie Cora was for me the last connection with my Chinese roots, a second Nonna Mabel, a 20 dollar note in a red envelop for Christmas.

We haven’t seen them for years. Mathilde missed Uncle Benard’s 100th birthday because we were overseas. And I couldn’t meet Auntie Cora in Los Angeles at Rex’s wedding in September because she could not travel anymore. And probably, we would have not had an opportunity to meet them for many other years.

But still, the sudden awareness that we won’t be able to meet them anymore leaves us a strange sense of void.

But to avoid being pervaded by a deconstructive sense of melancholy about what ‘could have’ but ‘has not’, I am trying to focus on ‘what we did’. And the images that come to my mind are those of my only meeting with Uncle Bernard, at the very beginning of my story with Mathilde, when Mathilde and I spent a couple of days in La Bourboule, Uncle Bernard kindly invited us for dinner, and Mathilde introduced me as one of her university-mates (has he ever swallowed it?). Or those of our Chinese dinner with Auntie Cora during our mini-honey moon in San Francisco, just after our wedding in DC.

Good-bye Uncle Bernard and Auntie Cora. Requiem.

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