True Love

November 17, 2008
“I am not afraid of dying—God is with me.” I have heard this phrase spoken by many people in many situations. Unlike these people, I am essentially a very atheistic, scientific person. Religion is something I do not believe in. God is something that I do not have faith in. Heaven is not somewhere I expect I can go to when I die. My honest feeling is that religion was made by humans who could not fully explain the doings of nature with simple science alone, and God by those who wanted someone constant, solid, and unwavering in their uncertain lives. Most of all, I believe that heaven is the product of fear people have towards death and the unknown, and the foolish hope they harbour towards something more. However, the day my great grandmother died, the day when I first experienced the excruciating pain of losing a loved one, I wished, for the first time in my entire life, that heaven existed—and I wished it from the very core, the very, very bottom of my grief-stricken eight-year old heart.
Since I was raised as an only child, I was always a bit on the selfish, willful side when I was small. I exasperated and infuriated all the people around me into oblivion with my insolent mouth and grumpy acts. Within my family, my great grand mother was the only one who could tolerate the-world-centers-around-me-and-only-me

attitude every time it surfaced, which was quite often. I used to call her Hiichan, my original shortened version of “Hiiobaachan,” which is Japanese for great grandmother.
We used to play with the doll house every day, my great grandmother and I. I remember her never uttering a word of complaint, smiling gently as I self-centeredly hogged all the best dolls and took all the best items. My whiny complaints when she took one wrong move with the dolls fell on deaf ears; in fact, she even acted annoyed and impatient with herself to play along with me, to satisfy me. Sometimes my mother would find us amid all this and would scold me severely for being so unbelievably uncharitable and so incredibly selfish. Then, when I showed signs of starting to sniffle and throw a petty tantrum, it was always, always, without fail my great grandmother who would come to my defense. It was absurd in a way, since it was she who had had been badgered about by my whimsical desires in the first place. However, thinking back, she never failed to protect me, even when I was clearly in the wrong and the only lies I could think of were crappy, second-rate, who-in-the-world-would-ever-fall-for-that kind of lies. Some may call this spoiling me, saying that if my great grand mother truly loved me, she would have scolded me when I did something wrong, so that I would not embarrass myself in the future. There is nothing further from the truth. A person who did not love me would not have bothered to spend her every single waking hour covering up after a cheeky little pest, who always left a trail of mess and trouble in her wake. A person who did not love me would not have spent more than an hour every time there was fish for dinner, making sure to take out every single bone from mine so as to spare my clumsy little fingers the trouble—even when it was hard for her to keep her own steady. A person who did not love me would not have smiled up at my sulky face so tenderly, even after she became incurably sick and bedridden.

And for a person who did not love me, I would not have cried so much when she died.

Up until this day, I still choose to remain a firm non-believer in God or heaven. Sometimes though, just sometimes, fleetingly, I find myself unconsciously longing after heaven’s existence—ever since that time when I was eight years old. Wishing for a place where we can reunite with our loved ones again. For a place that I can believe in, even if it does not exist. A place that, when I die, will allow me to say with quiet confidence and faith,
“I am not afraid of dying—my Hiichan is with me.”

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