Growing up amidst the turmoil of war and poverty, my grandmother learned to live through hardships and suffering at a young age. Though she had been frequently challenged in her life and had fought through countless hardships and obstacles, I was able to catch a glimpse of her during possibly one of her most testing points, an experience that seemed less significant to me then. My grandfather had been hospitalized earlier that year, and it was our first time visiting him since. During that visit, I only sensed the determination of my grandfather, but looking back, I realize how much pain my grandmother endured and how she seamlessly concealed it with her strength for the sake of my grandfather and her love for him.
My grandmother swung open the door, and my parents shuffled in; just ten years old then, I followed behind them softly as the hospital room came into view. The gray walls glowed with the gentle light of the Saturday afternoon which illuminated the back corner of the room where my grandfather lay in a bed. We greeted him and spoke to him quietly, telling him stories about where we had gone over summer break and about our lives in America. Meanwhile, my grandmother bustled around the room, turning on the TV, watering the plants she had brought in to add splashes of color into the dreary hospital room, occasionally calling out a witty remark or slipping a sentence or two into our conversation. Every afternoon, she drove out to the hospital to visit my grandfather, even spending her nights there sometimes, sleeping in a small bed in the back of the room to watch over him. After we had engaged in quiet conversation for a while, my parents motioned for my sister and I to let my grandfather rest. I glimpsed my grandmother sitting quietly on a wooden chair next to the bed where my grandfather was lying. Her figure was hunched over in the chair, and her hands were intertwined with my grandfather’s as she spoke to him in soft tones. Sunshine streamed through the broad glass windows behind her and fell across the wrinkles of her timeworn face. As I watched her, I noticed her dark eyes, crinkled at the edges and framed by her drooping eyelids, filled with wisdom, yet an echo of youth that gleamed through the old age the rest of her face suggested. One could barely imagine her pain with just a glance at her bright smile and determined stance, her sorrow masked by her strength and love for my grandfather. His lung condition had left him unable to speak, but my grandmother shared a wordless bond with him, always encouraging and comforting him. As we said our goodbyes and filed out of the hospital room, my grandmother shared a few words with my grandfather before she cast a quick reassuring glance at him, her face still blooming with her smile and her eyes brimming with strength through all her pain, before strolling through the heavy hospital door and closing it quietly with a click.
Visiting my grandmother a few years later now, after my grandfather’s death, she seems to have lost a part of her previous self. Her face still crinkles into a smile when she sees us, and the sound of her laughter still fills the room and spreads irresistible joy. Many nights however, she dozes off on the couch, not wanting to sleep alone on the bed that had been meant for two. After my experience, I was able to see a new side of my grandmother few could observe or appreciate. It was her bravery and courage that I finally learned to admire, shining through even the deepest of of her pains, burrowed within her heart. Even though she may not have done anything significant that demonstrated valor or courage, just understanding the simple yet resilient nature of my grandmother spoke volumes about her quiet strength.