When I think about the lives that we live, I find it fascinating how fate brings people together. I often ponder if there is a predetermined path that aligns complete strangers together. This question came across my mind again on a recent visit home.
At my parents house, there is a wall that displays photos of family members who have passed away. This wall has remained the same for quite some time (thankfully), however this time I noticed a new photo.
I stood staring at this photo trying to figure out who it was. It was pretty easy to be baffled, as the rest of the photos on the wall were of my Vietnamese ancestry. Who was this fashionably chic white lady in this sepia toned photo? I asked my mom, and found it was my American grandma, Ruth Sholly.
Flashback time. In 1975, my mom, uncle, and brother fled Vietnam at the end of the war and somehow ended up in good ole Lebanon, Pennsylvania. There wasn't too much to do in Lebanon, but one of my mom's favorite pastimes, and still is, was bingo. Whenever my mom went, she took my brother along too. At the bingo hall is where fate brings Grandma Sholly into the lives of our family.
My brother was probably 3 or 4 years old at that time, and Grandma Sholly found my brother to be super cute (Debatable. JK Jeff!). She would often sit next to my mom and brother, and overtime, they slowly got to know each other. My mom said that at the time, Grandma Sholly recently lost her husband, and with my mom who was new to the country, was missing parental figures in her life, since they were still in Vietnam. And at that space and time, life brought a Vietnamese family and an American woman together. It was a perfect match.
As the years passed by, Grandma Sholly was a part of our family. She had children and grandchildren of her own, but somehow always managed to have time for us as well. From my birth, to family from Vietnam coming over, she was there for it all. Every family member I've talked to have all said the same thing, which was that she was the sweetest woman and that she was so good to us.
One of my fondest memories of her is that she remembered everyone's birthday. I was always so amazed, especially till this day, as I still rely on Facebook for birthday reminders.
After seeing the photo, I dug up some old VHS tapes which had my birthdays recorded on them, just to catch a glimpse of how I remembered her. The last time I saw her, was when I was 11 before she passed away. She was my first encounter with a death in the family. I remember being an alter boy at her funeral, and crying like a baby. As the video played, water came to my eyes once again.
Tears didn't just come because of how much I missed her, but also of how grateful I was that she came into our lives. How did a family from Vietnam and an American woman, who were originally 8908.8 miles apart, meet and become intertwined in each other's lives? Was this fate? Perhaps with the next stranger you might meet, who knows what kind of positive impact you might have in their life.