My Jichan by Tess Braun

Losing the most amazing person and finding my own ‘Peace of Derek’

 No matter what age a person passes away or how old you are it is never easy and you can never be fully prepared for it.  My grandpa passed away at 92 and a half, and I was 21 and it was the first person in my life that I was really close to that passed away, and it was incredibly difficult for me to deal with. 

My grandpa was a rare type of person, and to have him has my grandfather was such a blessing.  My Jichan (grandpa in Japanese, and what we called him), was born and raised in the United States, he opened and ran produce shops in San Francisco, CA.  When he was in his mid-twenties he had everything taken away from him because he was of Japanese descent.  He was put in an internment camp during WWII, and the government took everything he owned except one suitcase.  Because of this and many other hardships my grandpa endured during his early life, it is amazing that my grandpa was the most optimistic, positive, enlightening person I ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He never said a bad word about anyone and always thought the best of every situation.  He truly was an eternal optimist.  He was a 16-year old in a 90 year-old body; he had humor, and so much laughter and love. You would never guess he was 92, except for his wisdom!

 The night my grandpa passed away was rough, I cried, and my heart physically hurt.  Through all of it I couldn’t stop thinking about how the rest of my family was hurting too, all my cousins and aunts and uncles.  Finding my ‘peace of Derek’ was realizing the way my grandpa passed was exactly how he would have wanted to.  He was active and sharp until they day he hurt himself doing gardening in his backyard.  He was in the hospital for 3 days, all four of his kids got to say goodbye to him, and he was gone.  It was peaceful and there was no time spent in and out of the hospital for our family. 

 For those of you who know my family, we are ridiculously close. My grandpa had 10 grandkids, and I am just as close or closer with every one of my cousins than most people are with their brothers and sisters.  The reason we are all so close is because my grandpa made it a point to get us all together and make it so special when we were all there.  His 2 year anniversary is coming up this month, and we just had a service for him in Sacramento, and all 10 grandkids made it up for the weekend (my cousins flew in from New York, San Diego, L.A.). He continues to bring us all together even though he is gone.  My ‘peace of Derek’ was realizing that parts of my grandpa continue to live in the four most wonderful children he has raised, and in all of his grandchildren.  Different values of my grandpa and his personality lie in each and every one of us, and his spirit will live on forever.  Finding my ‘Peace with Derek’ was realizing how important my family is and how they have all embodied different qualities of my grandpa that will live on, and be passed down generation to generation.

 There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my grandpa, sometimes I catch myself talking about him as if he is alive, and every time I walk through the door at his house, I still think I might see him sitting there watching TV and eating food.  But I remind myself that he is very much alive in all the people’s lives he touched and changed– he lives in my aunts and uncles, brothers and sister, and cousins.  He had such a strong spirit and soul, and although, he is gone he is still very much here!

As time passes I remember little things that he said to me when I was younger that now mean so much more to me.  He always said, “Never sweat the small stuff,” and “you can’t change what has happened in the past so you just have to let me be, you can’t dwell on it.”  He made me realize the bigger picture in life and to continue to look forward to the future, because we really can’t change what has happened in the past.  Losing my grandpa was not easy, but by ‘finding Peace with Derek’ and looking at the people he influenced, and the life he had, and that he still lives around me everyday makes it that much easier!


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