Filtering by Tag: family

Uncle Lee (1926-2015)

Added on by Annie Ling.

When my Aunt Helen phoned me last week to say her husband had passed away from his long struggle with cancer, I traveled to Houston to be with her. For the past seven years, Helen was a devoted nurse and caretaker, never leaving his side when she wasn't working full-time as a drapery seamstress.

Lee lived a storied life and traversed the globe as a camera man working for Chinese TV stations. He loved to be in front of the camera however, just about as much as he loved working behind it. Enlarged photographs of Lee in his element hang on nearly every wall in every room at their home. I had spent a year living at this house when I was ten-years-old. Twenty years later, not much about this place has changed besides the notable addition of some memorabilia from the few vacations they've since taken together—personalized decorative plates from a floating market in Thailand; an Elvis wall clock from Nashville. The quintessential foil to my more introverted aunt, Lee was vivacious and outspoken with an enduring child-like enthusiasm and curiosity. 

Below are some images from my visit with them last summer, shortly before Uncle Lee could no longer speak or stand. Last time I saw him, he was eager to tell tales and share photographs from his youth. Then I remember a long silence, as he stared into his collection of memories. This afternoon, my aunt and I will bid a final tribute to her companion and remember him for the way he was, before his illness overtook him.

Picnics in the park, with ancestors

Added on by Annie Ling.

Early last Easter Sunday morning, I had the pleasure to witness masses of Chinese families descending upon their ancestors' graves at Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County with writer Sarah Kramer for the New York Times. The resulting essay "Chinese Families Celebrate Qingming Festival in New York" was published today in the Sunday Metropolitan section of the paper. 

Aside from being a beautiful ceremony, it was also a deeply nostalgic experience as it brought me back to my early childhood memories in Taiwan, participating in the Qing Ming Festival and in funerals of my grandfather and lost loved ones.

When I first moved to New York nearly five years ago, I lived by Chatham Square in Chinatown - a key intersection of major arteries and streets in the neighborhood. One such street is lined with traditional Chinese funeral homes, tomb engravers and Buddhist funeral supplies stores. The constant flow of funeral processions juxtaposed with a park teeming with youth across the street dramatizes the ephemeral like a chorus with perpetual rises and falls.

I often visited and eventually befriended a small business owner on this Mulberry Street who would spend his days building mansions and dolls out of paper. Cars, clothing, jewelry, Rolex watches, electronics, games, snacks, even dentures and floss - all made out of cardboard, are sold in colorful array along with joss paper money to families to burn and send up to their departed loved ones.

At Kensico cemetery, one family of five generations came together to feast with their ancestors. A mother and son pair visited their family's grave with humble home-cooked offerings. New memories were made as young and old congregated for hours at the cemetery amidst the aroma of roast pigs while popping firecrackers and ashes filled the air.