Poem Series: Grief

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For those of you who suffer in grief from losing a loved one, you know that there are few words to say how you feel. This poem is dedicated to my grandpa who passed away in November 2023. I wrote another poem called Butterfly that fits well with this season too and is also dedicated to him. If you enjoy poems, I hope this resonates with your soul to know you are not alone. Grief is a part of life; it is something we will inevitably face. That’s why we must face it together. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis might be a helpful book for those struggling to get a sense of bearing during times of grief.

Ezra Ezekiel Theys

grandparents smiling at a table

We had our first close loss in my immediate family. Our beloved grandpa, affectionately called Opa (in Dutch), passed away a week after Thanksgiving from stroke complications at the incredible age of 92. According to the doctors, he had the bone density of someone half his age. While in the hospital after the stroke, the doctors were amazed at his strength when they tested his grip, push, and pull ability. He proudly stated it was due to his lifelong commitment to exercise and strength training. We all can attest to the vitality he had up until the day before he passed.

 Ezra showed extraordinary change in his life and overcame so many obstacles, including almost dying three different times. The photo above is of Opa and his dog Daisy in Lawang East Java, Indonesia. Born and raised in Indonesia, his dad had 75 acres of land with all kinds of gardens and crops. They had monkeys as “guard dogs” on a leather belt and long chain connected to a pole that it would sit and sleep on. They also had 7 horses, one of them named Tony, which was a black horse who “you could do anything to her but she would never kick or bite you, but the others were aggressive and mean!” Around age 10 during World War II, he was unjustly imprisoned in a Japanese labor camp for a few years where he remembered he was forced to carry huge rocks. He and his family then moved to Holland to escape the revolution going on in Indonesia at the time.

As a teenager/young adult, he served in the Dutch air force, studied engineering, married my Oma, and they moved to the United States with my aunt when she was a year and a half old. 6 years later my mom was born. When they moved to San Francisco as refugees (they were sponsored by a church), he first worked at Kliklok as a design engineer, and then happily worked at Clorox as an engineer until retirement. I remember him always testing out new products and showing us a new asparagus holder he created for commercial use. He had 17 patents. After he retired, he took up all kinds of sewing and embroidering. He was by no means perfect, but the beauty he created and repentance he showed from pain and mistakes he made when he was younger were something I am grateful to have witnessed and have seen lived out with us grandkids (and his great-grandkids).

My Oma and Opa spent a lot of time with us grandkids (“chuchuks” in Indonesian). Each of my family members has different reasons why he was our biggest cheerleader. For my husband and I, Opa texted me (yes, texting) even when he was in the hospital about ideas he had for our chicken coop. He said he was amazed that Ephraim was doing all the handyman work himself on the cottage. He even mailed me an Indonesian recipe for fermented cassava a few weeks before he passed, was experimenting with making his own boba tea at home using a bunch of varieties of tapioca pearl balls, and often told me about vegetables like bitter cucumber that his old cook in Indonesia made with lots of onions and garlic, or how he used herbal tea called Kumis Kuching for kidney stones.

Opa had lots of silly quirks, but he was a very faithful grandpa to us, and he believed in absolutely everything we did. If anything ever needed fixing, we sent it to Opa. Up until the day before he died, Opa always acted and talked like the world was his oyster. “If you believe it, then you can achieve it…”

He often typed out little sayings on his computer and would save them to occasionally send to us. I came across this one the other day that he sent to me back in 2022. “Life is not a race but a journey to be savored. Each day of the way, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift.”

May your memory be eternal, Opa.

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