Remembering My Mother, Who Never Knew Me After China, and My Grandma (From the Archives)

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If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know my grandma passed away recently. The funeral services took place during this past weekend — but I couldn’t leave China to attend. I was incredibly close to my grandma growing up. Now that she’s gone, it’s like the end of an era in my life. A truly bittersweet time.

It’s always hard when you choose to move abroad and end up missing things like this. I had hoped I could have returned to the US and seen her at least one last time before she left this world.


When I think of my grandma, I can’t help but think of my mother too. I lost her when I was only 17 — which means my mother never had a chance to know the person I became after coming to China.

As mother’s day draws to a close for many of you in the West, I thought I’d share this essay I penned for the Wall Street Journal, titled Mom, If Only You Could Have Known the Expat I’ve Become. Here’s an excerpt:

My heart aches as I stare down at my old Dr. Seuss Cat-in-the-Hat doll, now covered in splotches of mold. I chastise myself for burying it in the closet: How had I forgotten about the ferocious humidity of Hangzhou, the Chinese city I once called my home and whose climate ultimately claimed this most precious of childhood relics from my late mother. She never imagined this doll would follow me to China.

I was only 17 years old when she died of cancer. At the time, there was nothing to suggest I would end up in China, though China would eventually become a part of me, giving me a home, a career, and a husband.

It has been a busy and mournful time for me. But I’ll be back next week with fresh content.

In the meantime, hold your loved ones a little closer and cherish their presence in your life. You never know when they’ll be gone.

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3 Replies to “Remembering My Mother, Who Never Knew Me After China, and My Grandma (From the Archives)”

  1. I’m sorry to hear the sad news of your grandmother, Jocelyn.

    Life as an expat can bring out the best and the worst in us. As we go on the journey, people come and go in our lives. Some touched our lives and leave footprints in our heart. We are never, ever the same. The worst is saying good bye to people who matters. But I also feel very privileged and humbled that I have had been a recipient of their generousity, kindness and support. It keeps one grounded.

    Here’s a hug to you, Jocelyn. Stay strong.

  2. Sorry to know that your mother died when you were only 17. My wife died of cancer last month, which means my son lost his mother when he is only 11 years old. I wonder how he can grow up as healthily in mind as the other boys.

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