In Memory Of My Poh Poh

pohpoh and lyndsay

I lost my beloved grandmother on Monday – she passed away peacefully, quietly, in her hospital bed, with my mom and dad by her side. She was 92.5 years old – sooo close to 100, poh poh! I would joke with her about reaching 100. “Come on, poh poh! Only 8 more years!” and she’d frown at me with a “Hell no!” expression.

2015 so far has been a real piece of work.

However, in between the piles of poo that my family has been swimming through, there is respite – we hang on to the side of the poo pool for a moment and there is still laughter, beauty, a pretty vase of flowers, a good snack. There is love and happiness. There is kindness from friends and kindness from strangers. There are jokes to be made and jokes to be laughed at. Then, we slip back in, front stroke, index finger first into the poo sludge, swimming upstream against tears and sorrow, fear and anxiety. But I know as we swim against the tide we will eventually get through.

I know not everyone is as close to their grandmother as I was. Sometimes grandmas live far away, in other countries or states or provinces. Or maybe they live in the same cities but their lives are far removed from ours – while we bustle around busy-bee style, cramming as much as we can into 16 hours of daytime, rushing from playdates to meetings to work to coffee with friends or out for a dinner at a new restaurant, the oldies are chilling. Tea time and entertainment at 3pm, dinner at 5pm. Turtle-stroll with walker back to the room, still able to undress and get into nightgowns and creak into bed while the sun has just set, leaving streaks of dusk in the sky.

I miss my poh poh so much.

She was born in a house just a few blocks from where I live now, in Vancouver. The house still stands – a few years ago it was painted a dark navy blue. I can walk by and look up and still see my grandma’s bedroom window, stained glass. It amazes me that this was her house and I always wish it was mine now – but it would be impossible to own at this point. My poh poh told me she always wished she lived in Chinatown, which was where all her friends were – instead she lived close to Commercial Drive, a mostly Italian-populated neighborhood. Her mother died when my poh poh was only four years old, and her dad eventually remarried a stepmother whom my poh poh was not close to.

Photos of my grandmother as a young woman – so tidily and smartly put together, so slim and pretty, ivory pale skin and a wry smile. My poh poh was a lover of books, and a librarian, and a writer in secret. She had written a 300 page book about her family but ended up burning it because she didn’t want to offend anyone. She was an incredible cook – Chinese dishes and “regular” dishes. Dinner at her house meant steamed pork and rice and vegetables and piles of hot noodles, or meat pie with peas and carrots and ketchup. She made lemon meringue pies, her famous Christmas time only chocolate chip butterscotch cookies and cherry flips. She also loved the ease of Jello and Cool Whip, and frozen raspberries and ice cream. She was a feminist before her time, quick witted and very funny beneath the graceful skirt-suit exterior. Deeply loyal and was not one to mince words.

She had one child – my mom, Linda. From Linda came her three granddaughters – my sisters and I – and subsequently, six great grandchildren. Not a bad haul. She loved each of us so much, in her own way. She tolerated my changing hair colours, piercings, tattoos and my changing views of the world. She bought me Doc Martens if that’s what I wanted, Archie comics, Sassy magazine. Nan Goldin books for my birthday. She tried teaching me how to sew (she was an amazing seamstress) but I sucked at it … but she showed me how to make cherry flips and how to use a mixmaster. She gave me my own mixer, my pink Kitchen Aid, as a wedding present in 2007. Without that Kitchen Aid, Coco Cake Land would not have become what it is today – (um, a tiny one woman operation of baking insanity)… She supported and accepted everything my sisters and I did and was so very proud of us.

She was a breast cancer survivor. I never told her I had breast cancer – she went into the hospital shortly after my diagnosis, and never came out. I visited her and held her frail hand while the sun streamed in her hospital room window. She died on her own terms with her daughter and son-in-law by her side. My sisters and I got there soon after she had passed and we sat with her body. It was very hard to leave. The sun was setting outside, glints of gold on the puffy cherry blossoms of the season. It seemed right that it had been a beautiful spring day. Death, rebirth of her spirit. Rising up and meeting my grandfather, I can imagine how tightly they hugged, reunited after 12 years apart.

I will miss my poh poh so much. But I was very lucky to have known such a cool woman, a woman who helped shape the person I’ve become.

raspberry buttercream birthday cake


My poh poh and I, with the raspberry buttercream cake I made her for her 91st birthday – the last cake I made her, as we were away for her 92nd birthday.

Rest peacefully poh poh – I love you!

32 Responses to “In Memory Of My Poh Poh”

  1. Laurel (@abubblylife)

    Im sorry for your loss, Grandmoms are so awesome and sounds like you had a wonderful one! Hope you are feeling well and best wishes.

    Also, Archie & Sassy- omgosh I loved them!!

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you laurel – seeing your comments always brightens my day. always makes me think of the colour pink, funnily enough! i wish i had all my old Sassy magazines … xo

  2. cynthia

    Such a beautiful tribute, Lyndsay. Thinking of you and your wonderful grandmother <3

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you cynthia for reading and for being such a sweet gal. xo

  3. Nancy @ gottagetbaked

    Lyndsay, this is an incredibly beautiful tribute to your wonderful poh poh and I think it echoed exactly the type of woman she was: thoughtful, eloquent with a positive, unbreakable spirit. I can’t believe how much you’re dealing with right now. I’m sorry that you lost someone so close to you in the midst of your own struggles. I was never close to either of my grandparents but I love my mom with a deep and fierce devotion. I hate thinking about the day when she’s no longer with me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos. I’m sending you lots of love ‘n hugs!

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thanks so much my friend. xoxo

  4. Sophie // the cake hunter

    This is such a beautifully written post. My grandmother died when I was 12, she was only 54 but I hope we would have grown to have a similar relationship and I hope my daughter will have that with my mother Xx

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      hi sophie – your grandma was so young! my paternal grandmother died when i was 14 and i wish i got to know her better, too. i am certain your daughter and your mom will have a loving relationship – probably one filled with cake! xo

  5. rtuko

    This is so beautiful. I can only hope and strive that one day, my children and grandchildren will describe me with such love. She seems like she was an amazing person. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you so much for taking the time to comment. xo

  6. Luisa

    This was beautiful, Lyndsay. What a kick-ass woman – I hope my granddaughters (if I ever have them, many MANY years down the road) will feel this way about me too. And I will buy them Doc Martens and put up with their blue hair. (I think. I’m pretty staid, to be honest.) But isn’t it the job of grandmas to be awesome? I think so.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      haha – yes, that must certainly be a job description of a grandma! so funny, as youngsters we think the oldies have never seen the likes of us, nor do they understand us – but really, at our age they were probably feeling just as vulnerable/emotional/confused. thanks so much luisa … xo

  7. Carol

    Lyndsay, that’s a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. She was so proud of you and your sisters. She was so lucky to have all of you there loving, caring, and supporting her just as she supported you throughout your growing years.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you auntie carol! xo

  8. Nikki

    Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful story of your beloved Poh Poh…tears stream down my face as I remember my much -loved grandma’s, long gone, but never far away. I hope you find light, even in dark days. Bless you x

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      oh nikki. thank you. it is nice to remember though, even through the tears… xo

  9. Annabelle Lind

    Lyndsay, I remember your Grandmother very well. What a classy lady. She always had a gentle smile for everyone. This is a wonderful tribute to your Poh Poh. It brought back many grand memories of dinners with the “oldies” your two sets of grandparents, your Mom and Dad, Aunts and Uncles and my Parents and family too. Good times. My heartfelt condolences to all of you.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you for remembering her!! i miss all of my grandparents dearly. wish i got to know mama and yeh yeh better… xo

  10. faithy

    I’m so sorry for your loss Lynda. This is a beautiful and touching post, made me tear up. I wish I have a poh-poh like yours – all my grandparents died before I was born. My condolences to you and your family.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      aw thank you faithy. xo

  11. Jennifer

    So sorry for the loss of your sweet poh poh. I agree with others above, what a lovely tribute to super lady. I’m thankful every day that I can see my Granny and that my kids know their GG. I feel very lucky to know and learn from the generations in my family. You are a beautiful soul Lyndsay. Thank you for sharing and I hope your 2015 improves.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      jennifer, how awesome that your granny has great grandkids! i so agree with you – i’m heartbroken my poh poh is gone but also sad that the link to the past, to her history and our family’s history, has been broken. thank you for stopping by… xo

  12. Dini

    So beautiful. Thanks for sharing and I’m sorry for your loss.

  13. janice

    Lyndsay. I am so so sorry about your Poh Poh. I am grateful I knew her a tiny bit. Her legacy of confidence and strength, and just her stories ( I bet she’s got some good ones!) will be a great gift to you all, no? I got the baking bug from my Grandma, too! Come to think of it, she was pretty straight-up, like your Poh Poh. We’re the better for it, hey, Lynds? Praying and sending love out to you and your whole fam . “Poo pool,” I love it!

  14. Brandi

    I love this post-post!




  15. movita beaucoup

    A perfect tribute. So sorry to hear of your loss, but so happy to have read about your Poh Poh and her enduring influence on your life. xox

  16. Michelle

    I’m so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful relationship you had with your grandma! And what a wonderful blog! I’ve just discovered it and can’t wait to check it out more!

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      aw .. thank you michelle, glad you found me… xo

  17. farzana

    Such a beautiful post! I still have grandmom, can’t think what we will do if she is gone! We don’t know that they are an important part of us until they are gone!! Sorry friend, Sorry for your loss!

  18. jan

    A sweet tribute to what sounds like an amazing grandmother. Big hugs Lyndsay.

  19. Linda

    Your post made me cry. I too, lost my Poh Poh on March 10, just 5 days after you lost yours. Mine was just a month past her 89th birthday, from complications caused by stomach cancer. I also used to make her birthday cakes, sometimes two cakes, because our family of aunts, uncles and grandchildren was so big, and like you, I missed her birthday this year because I was away.

    I was fortunate however to have been there for my Grandma’s last hour on earth. At her bedside she had all six of her children, and their spouses, and 13 of her 16 grandchildren. Her first great grandchild will be born at the end of April.

    My Poh Poh was a small woman, but her presence was always felt in any room she entered.

    Thank you for your story about your Poh Poh.

    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      Oh Linda – I am so very sorry to hear about your Poh Poh! :( What a huge family – she must have felt so comforted to be around her entire clan, a legacy of a family! Sending you hugs. xo

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