This Is Us


Notes on watching my grandmother love, age, and embrace cheap music

Angela Meng
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readJun 17, 2020


A photo of the author as a child with her grandmother.
Photo courtesy of the author.

My grandmother died on May 6, 2020, at 8:49 a.m. I don’t remember what I was doing when I got the call — only thinking that, since I was in California (a whopping 15 hours behind Beijing), in my time zone, she was most certainly still alive.

We don’t know if she had Covid, as she was isolated for months even before the outbreak, but she did exhibit an alarming number of symptoms: fever, chills, and shortness of breath, which ultimately took her life.

I found myself fumbling for a pen and frantically jotting down notes as my uncle shared the details. She’d had a fever, he said. Antibiotics were picked up. She seemed improved. This morning she woke up around 7 a.m., the caretaker gave her congee and a hard-boiled egg and she ate it, or she ate half of it. “Did she eat it all or did she eat half?” I asked. “I think she ate half.” Suddenly, she was struggling to breathe. The caretaker called an ambulance, but she stopped moving before it got there. Cause of death was heart failure. I noted his tone — “hurried,” “brusque,” “rueful” — and my reactions. He said she died with a smile across her face: “a white lie.” That we won’t make the funeral due to China’s required two-week quarantine: “The price of immigration,” I wrote…