Elisa's Eulogy to Gung-Gung at his Memorial Service

When I was little, if you couldn't find me, I could be anywhere— up a tree, under the covers, in the closet, even hiding in the bathroom where I couldn't be disturbed... but almost always with a book. Friends even through college would ask how it was that I gobbled up words like peanut butter. Usually, I would just shrug and say, “I have no idea where it came from!” Thinking back, though, it's so obvious— how could I miss it?

My GungGung took such an amazing interest in books that one of my lasting childhood memories is him sitting in that armchair in the corner of the Ross Road house, under a pool of lamplight, poring over some biography of a thousand pages. My mom and two uncles used to joke that if an earthquake or fire hit Palo Alto, my grandfather would never notice, because he would be so wrapped up in his reading. I used to think, wandering around that Ross Road living room and looking at the shelves overflowing with books, that hopefully some day I would be able to cook like my grandmother and read thousand-page books like my grandfather.

I also secretly thought that GungGung must be bursting with words, because so many went in... but so few came back out. At least when I knew him, he was not a man of many spoken words. On occasion, an old friend would stop by, and then I would be astounded by their animated back-and-forth. Usually, though, my grandfather was very quiet. I heard amazing stories of his studies in Paris, his political involvement in the Young China Party, and his years at the United Nations, but never from him. He never boasted, and I would never know these stories if it weren't for my mom and two uncles, who were so proud of their dad.

So much of what I know of my grandfather is pieced together from these stories that have trickled down from relatives and friends, and PoPo's photographs that I love to look at. In those, I see a wholly different GungGung— someone who wasn't a GungGung yet, someone laughing tremendously with friends on a beach in Paris (wearing a very fashionable 1920's bathing suit!), someone who, as my mom was fond of saying, looked like a Hollywood movie star, someone striking a debonaire pose in my grandmother's garden with a guitar. Then there are wonderful pictures of GungGung with his family, with so much love shining in his eyes for my PoPo, or countless ones of GungGung giving away yet another bride, perhaps in another wedding match made by PoPo. In each of these, you can see GungGung beaming just as happily and proudly as if he were giving away his own daughter in marriage all over again. I am happy to know that besides being a great scholar and passionate player in Chinese politics, my grandfather knew how to have fun!

So, despite my grandfather's amazing connection to words and books, the ways I will remember him are mostly nonverbal. When you hear that phrase "actions speak louder than words," that's something I truly take to heart regarding the kind of example GungGung set for the rest of us. I will remember GungGung by all these little things— for example, the way my grandfather could really dress, often in what I thought were very dashing three-piece suits, almost always set off with a sharp red tie. In comparison, my mom was always telling me something that GungGung used to tell her when she was little: “Don't look like a tou-bowze!” (It's something I'm still working on, honestly.) That was the care he took with all aspects of his life.

I'll remember how the doorbells would jangle insistently, and there would be GungGung, having run briskly over from their Ross Road house a few blocks away with some delicious meal that PoPo had just cooked— and then without much of a word, he would turn around and run right back, often before we had the chance to give him a ride! That was the generosity he and PoPo both shared with us.

I'll remember when Emily, then Marissa, and then Byron grew up, and how GungGung, pretty deaf by now and very very silent, would spontaneously burst into clapping and chanting to either entertain or praise the kids. That was the pride and delight he had in all his grandchildren.

And what I will remember most of all is how in his last year, when he was very weak and confined to his wheelchair or bed, he always held out his hand to grasp yours tightly the moment you walked in the door. And what a grip! I saw him reach out like this to my Uncle Peter, to my Uncle Jimmy, to my mom— that was his love for his three children, who were often by his side. And for my PoPo— for her, he had a special two-handed grip. There was a time when they hadn't seen each other for awhile, and my Uncle Jimmy wheeled in GungGung, and my mom and I had brought PoPo— as soon as GungGung and PoPo saw each other, across a wide, wide room, they both reached out to each other, instantly. GungGung once told PoPo that no matter where he was physically, even if they weren't living in the same place, his home was in her heart. That was their tremendous love for each other, which they shared for over 70 years.

All these little things that amounted to so much, and that influenced all of us growing up in GungGung's embrace. I know I speak for all the grandchildren when I say that GungGung was a wonderful inspiration, for his passion, his intellect, and most of all, his love. GungGung, we miss you so much, but we know you'll always have a home in all of our hearts as well.

— Elisa K. Cheng, 12-16-2000

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email: peter@wisdomportal.com (12-27-2000)