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What my


taught me



& other things

· grandmother,grandma,generational wealth,estate planning,funeral costs

This blog post is difficult to write.

I lost my beloved grandmother last week. 

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My world feels a bit smaller today. 

I know this isn't my usual inspirational or educational money post. 

However, it's real, and I want to share what I'm going through, instead of pretending everything is OK because to be honest, I'm not OK. 

But don't worry. I will be. 

I'm just in mourning right now because my heart is broken. 

I call my grandma - wi pua (the wi is pronounced like wi-fi) in Mandarin and Ama in Taiwanese. I'm going to go with Ama in this post since it's easier to write and pronounce.

My Ama was resilient. She spent the first 16 years of her life living under Japanese control in Taiwan. At school they were taught Japanese and had to speak it daily. Plus, freedoms were curtailed during that time. 

(Below - photos of my grandparents, when they were young. Isn't the photo of them in futuristic sunglasses so amazing?)

My grandparents in super futuristic sunglasses!
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 Ama came to the U.S. and very shortly after my grandfather moved here, he passed away from a brain tumor. When we lost my grandfather 30 years ago, it didn't engulf her, like it did me. I don't know how she did it. I was lost in my grief at the time. I was a teenager, and it definitely shook my faith in everything. 

My parents didn't have the best relationship, and so I always looked at my grandparents, as my foundational center. 

I know my ama would get mad sometimes, but I personally never saw her get angry. I remembered asking her how she and my grandfather didn't fight. 

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She told me that it was better to understand each other than to be "right." 

I've tried to remember that in my relationship with my husband. 

After I got married, Ama would always say to me that if she spoke English better, she would love to live with us because she loved my husband. He made her laugh, even without completely understanding each other's languages. 

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Ama was also an inspiration to me because she was quite independent and ventured out of her comfort zone. She studied and passed the U.S. citizenship test (in English) when she was probably in her 70's or 80s!!! 

Growing up, she would rotate living with my aunts in Taiwan, my uncles in Texas (in the photo above, my uncle Tony is on the very left and my uncle Steve is wearing the red tie) and with my parents either in TX, Seattle or here in Los Angeles. But as she got older, she couldn't travel by herself as easily, so she stayed full time at my Uncle Steve's house. 

Ama mostly loved to laugh, eat good food, socialize with friends and family and dance, which are definitely traits that we have in common, but with dance, she took it to another level, becoming a senior ballroom dance champion in Texas! Below, she's dancing with my husband Michael at my cousin Tina's wedding. Doesn't she look so happy?  

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Ama didn't pursue dancing until after my grandfather had passed. Apparently, dancing wasn't something my grandfather was interested in. 

Ama not only loved to eat, she was a great cook! 

She made her own type of sushi that's very Taiwanese. It's made with ground fish (yu sung), cut up soy sauce pickled cucumbers and sticky rice rolled up with the dried seaweed on the outside. It was delicious! That's what I thought was real sushi growing up. 

Besides her sushi, I also loved her scallion pancakes, dumplings and something so simple but delicious -- scrambled eggs with tomatoes and scallions. 

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As you can see from the photo above, Ama loved to socialize with family and friends. I love this photo, taken at my wedding, where she looks like she's holding court. This is how I remember her, and I also love this photo because I was so "busy" at my wedding, that I don't know if I took the time to be with her. However, seeing this photo makes my heart so happy that she and my friend Jean's mom were able to speak Taiwanese together at the wedding.

Ama also loved a good joke and would get a mischievous look in her eye when you and her would have a "secret," like whenever I would tease my mom that she's everyone's mom... including being grandma's mom...because my mom likes to tell everyone what to do and what to eat/not to eat. 

When I would say that, I would look over at my ama, and she would have that look in her eye and she would laugh in this super cute, indescribable way... 

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My cousin Tina (below on the left) wrote on IG that her goal in life was to make our Ama laugh. 

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When it came to money, Ama was frugal with herself but generous to everyone else. She grew up quite wealthy, living in a house in Taipei. If you don't know, Taipei is a bit like Manhattan, with mostly hi-rise apartment homes. However, her family lived in an actual house, which was really unusual. However, I think living under Japanese occupation during World War II made everyone of that generation more frugal.

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Ama had dresses that she wore for generations! 

My cousin Tina just found a photo of Ama at her parents' wedding (below), and she wore the same Qipao to their wedding as she did to hers! First, we marveled that she could fit into it after all of these years. Then, we wondered if she purposely remembered and that's why she wore the same dress to both weddings. If it was on purpose, wow! That's just incredibly touching.

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With money, Ama was also a saver and really practical. 

Ama also already paid for her own funeral awhile ago, so her children didn't have to pay for it or think about it. To me, if you have children, estate planning is the most loving thing you can do for your children. That way, in their grief, they don't have to worry they're also not honoring your wishes. Ama also always gave money to her children, when they needed it.  

Although she was frugal with herself, she did love beautiful and luxurious surroundings, and she didn't refuse any experiences to indulge. She wasn't someone that didn't feel like she didn't deserve it, and I know my mom and I got that from her. 

Whenever she came over, I would always serve tea and chocolate on my wedding china, and she would love it! She would laugh and say to me that this is the life, and that we're getting to really enjoy ourselves. 

So, Ama...enjoy yourself with Grandpa! I hope you're both having tea and deliciously luxurious meals in heaven.

With all my Love & forever in Gratitude,

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