Last week I went back to Taiwan for my maternal grandfather's funeral. Taiwanese funerals are multiple-day affairs, and at the end of the ceremony family and friends would march the coffin on the street for a few blocks before getting on the carrier.
It had been raining all day with a typhoon in the forecast. But when the crowd got ready to walk outside, the rain stopped, the cloud broke open a little, and sunlight came through it. All the family and friends were able to walk together and remember Grandpa without getting wet. I was pushing Grandma's wheelchair and we headed back to the house after two blocks.
The Taiwanese people believe that the dead has supernatural powers over the physical world. With the rain surprisingly stopping, I turned to Grandma and commented, like most Taiwanese would, "Grandpa must be blessing us!"
"No," she replied, "he is blessed."
An hour and half later, the entire family returned. As soon as they entered the house, the rain resumed and quickly turned into a heavy storm. My mother and her siblings came over to Grandma, and as if they have had rehearsed, one by one they said the same thing to her, "Dad was blessed."
I was in awe. There could not be a more powerful lesson on my grandparents' family values of being humble of themselves and grateful to the rest of the world. In his 90-plus years, Grandpa lived the example of someone who always gives credits to others or to his blessings. Someone who is first to take responsibility when stakes are high, and to shoulder the blame voluntarily when things go wrong. Someone who views boasting or accepting unearned praise as a dishonor that harms his moral and self-image.
That's why Grandma had to correct me. In her mind, Grandpa would not have wanted any credit for this weather miracle, whether or not he had anything to do with it. But he would have certainly been thankful for the blessing that let him and his off-springs have a walk together, nice and dry, for the last time.
Dr. Ben Weng