Our Last Dinner

October 19, 2010
Every year our family gets together to celebrate my grandma’s birthday. And every year we go to a Chinese restaurant, everyone pitches in and we spend time laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s always fun, getting together with the family and all my cousins. I look forward to it every year, every chance I get to spend time together with my family. But now, I realize that I take it for granted sometimes. My family has always been around me, loving and caring, I never truly thought about how blessed I am to have them all here. That is, until I lost Andy.

It was in November, Grandma’s birthday dinner at Diamond Bar Plaza. That’s the last time I saw my cousin Andy. Under the roof of a Chinese restaurant with laughing people, fighting over the dinner bill at the end of the night, with everyone sitting around the table, dipping their chopsticks into the steaming dishes, unlike the way Americans eat with serving spoons. We’re all family so the serving utensils don’t matter much, just as long as we can spend time in each other’s presence. The overwhelmingly loud conversations of the people around engulf us in a mixture of laughter and noise. Smiles are everywhere, among the faces of the old and young.


At the time, a dinner like this with the family seemed so ordinary. I never thought it’d be the last time I would ever see Andy alive. He brought his girlfriend, Khanh, with him. She was so sweet, and the family was ecstatic about meeting her. “They must be pretty serious for him to bring her to a family dinner…”; that’s what we thought back then... I still remember the last words I said to him, “Bye, I’ll see you at the Christmas party”; little did I know that I’d never see his smiling face again. Even now I remember the day we got the news, the day we found out of Andy's death.


My family and I had spent the weekend in Big Bear with my Uncle Steve, Aunt Robie, my –at the time- 2 year old cousin Cayli, and my cousin Brian. They have a vacation home up in Big Bear so we head up there during the winter to go skiing and snowboarding. Sunday December 17th, that’s the day we got the news. We were driving home from Big Bear when my mom called my Aunt Thulinh. She heard someone crying on the other line, the sound painful and heart-wrenching. At first, she thought they were playing a joke on her. Then they told her. My cousin Andy had died.



The news was so unexpected and implausible that my mom broke down, she sobbed and my dad had to exit the freeway. I couldn’t believe it “He was only 23… how could this be happening?!” I kept asking myself that through my tears and my mom’s tormented sobs. It felt so unreal, like it was all a bad dream. But in the back of my mind I knew this was something I couldn’t just wake up from in the morning and have it all be okay. This would change my life; we had never had a death in the family before.

Because of Andy’s death, that dinner at Diamond Bar Plaza for my grandma’s birthday has become one of my most treasured moments. That was the last time I saw Andy alive. After that, it was before he was buried. He looked so pale, unlike the Andy I knew. The Andy I knew was always teasing me and smiling. His death made that one dinner so special to me. Something as simple as a family dinner, changed from simple to special and memorable. All under the roof of the Chinese restaurant that I never thought would be the dwelling of our last dinner. That Chinese restaurant filled with laughter and light-hearted squabbles over the bill… It’s an unlikely place to hold such meaningful memory.





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happysoul said...
Nov. 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm
I love it and you put your soul into it. You are truly an author and you should never forget it.
 
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