The death of anyone at a wrongful age is difficult for the family left behind. My sister (黄道培) died at barely six years of age, in the fall of 1949, which might be the most devastating event of our family. She was my parents’ favorite child. You are not supposed to have a favorite child in a family. But when a child had shown herself to be an understanding person beyond her age and had been able to anticipate her parents’ emotional changes at a difficult stage of our family life, it was natural for my parents to pay more attention to this sickly sister. As her older brothers, Dean and I rarely interacted with her. She was interested in girls’ stuff and she was close to our parents and she paid attention to what interested them. She had a sensitivity way beyond someone of her age!
She was in the hospital for quite a while after she was diagnosed as having pneumonia. I do not know what they did for her. Our parents went to the hospital daily. Sometimes they took turns; occasionally they were both there for a whole day. Even though there were quite a number of people at the house, no one seemed to notice that Dean, Ed and I were at home and hungry. (Ed was about one and a half at this time.) Mom was very bitter about the people in the house. Then the pneumonia turned to the inflammation of the brain and there was little chance for her to survive since no antibiotics were available for her. If you ask me why, I have no answer! Most likely there were just no antibiotics available in Taiwan, since I am sure that my parents would have paid with their lives for the medicine if it was available.
Dean and I were asked to go to the burial ground, among several stands of bamboo forests, where she was buried. My parents were sitting on the ground right beside the small wooden box where my sister was lying peacefully. (The reason that she was buried in a small wooden box was because my Uncle had asked his assistant to purchase a coffin for her but he bought one too small. As a result, at the last moment, a wooden box had to be built.) My Mom, with tears smeared on her face, told us that this would be the last time we would see her and that we would never hear her telling us to obey our parents again! Both Dean and I felt my parents’ sorrow, but it was much later when we realized the magnitude of this devastating event! Years later, when I visited Taiwan, I tried to find the location where my small sister was buried. But everything had changed and I was unable to locate it.
Every time, when I talk or think about this period in our life, the picture of my sister lying in the wooden box comes up. But it generally just flashes by quickly, without giving me much disturbance. But this time, as I am writing about it in this blog, it has stuck me hard, with an emotional impact bigger than I expected. Maybe now that I have a granddaughter who is older than the age when my sister passed away, my emotional burden is much heavier.