The true value of inheritance

After Mama’s departure in March 2021, it was only within the last weeks the siblings finalised what to do with Mama’s belonging. Without going into details, we decided to take the pragmatic route and sold what Mama had so the fund could then be fairly divided across all of the siblings – including my eldest sister’s and my younger brother’s offspring.

The final amount that we each received was modest, by the standard in developed countries. It’s the consequence of having a large denominator for the division – I come from a family of eight children. Nevertheless, I am deeply thankful of the amount I received. Of course, the nominal value is very much appreciated – but I am truly thankful for what it represents.

Each cent represents the life they built when they were born in Indonesia – foregoing the luxuries they could have actually enjoyed, by saving all their money to ensure that all of us children were well educated. Each cent also represents our history – it forms a thread the amount of money that my paternal grandfather brought when he sailed down from Fujian in China, to Indonesia – or the link to how much my maternal grandparents built their life in Bogor, West Java. Each cent is laden with their hardship, their achievements, … and their dreams. Inheritance is like grace – we don’t really deserve it, and yet we receive it.

My sister remarked how progressive Papa and Mama were, thinking and planning ahead of what they would leave with us, their children, once they left us for good. It may sound like a cliché but I would’ve happily declined my inheritance money if I had had a chance to meet Mama again. Having the fund in my account serves as a sign that the doors to my past were finally closed.

As a postscript to this rambling blog entry – while thinking of what the inheritance that I received from Mama, I remember Papa’s old stationery store in Jalan Kiaracondong, Bandung. It was there that I cultivated my interest for reading. It was also there that I let my imagination run free as a young boy. When Papa closed the store for siesta, I would sit in the darkened store – looking at the shadow formed by the traffic and the light flickering through the ventilation holes on the wall. I imagined that I was watching a movie reel on the wall, the shadow changing shapes by each moment.

Papa’s old book and stationery shop – “Liberty”

As a grown-up, I wondered why Papa named his stationery store “Liberty” – he didn’t speak English. I wondered why he gave me a name with an anglicised spelling. I received a possible answer when I was on the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty in October 2018. As the ferry approached the island, I was overcome with a sense of unexplained sadness. It might be that Papa actually had wanted to explore the world, and see the sights beyond Jalan Kiaracondong. We the children always assumed that Mama was the one eager to travel, and Papa was the stay-at-home guy. We forgot that it was Papa who would usually brought us to see fun fairs in other towns and villages, or to go in the middle of the night to a remote village – just to watch a gas pipe fire. Perhaps, it was Papa who had wanted to explore the world – that was why he named his store ‘Liberty’. He had to supress his dreams because he had mouths to feed and a whole family to raise. So, although unfortunately he didn’t get to see or climb the Statue of Liberty, I managed to do it on his behalf, seven years after he left us.

The Statue of Liberty, October 2018

I am reminded as well that in terms of inheritance, my whole body also represents their inheritance – half of my genes were Papa’s, with the other half from Mama. I carry their love, their unspoken dreams and ambitions, their quirks, their likes and dislikes – mixed, tempered, and adjusted by the life that I lead. Maybe in due time God will reveal more of what may be their unspoken wish for me, or for the other children.

Thank you for everything, Papa, Mama.