My Spirit Was Broken But My Heart Was Singing

George Chapter 2: Sieh, Sieh (Thank you)

Feb 19, 2011 by

George’s mother was a complete wreck as the funeral continued her wails and sobs at the loss of her youngest of 7 children, her ‘happy accident’ as she called him because he was born in her early forties when women of her time were simply not able to have kids, was being laid to rest. She had buried the eldest of her children a boyish man when he was 17 when George was a mere toddler and her husband 3 years prior of the same cancer.

I had the idea to play some of George’s favourite music gently in the background so that when people approached the casket that did not hear church music. Portishead and Massive Attack played as softly as trip-hop could possibly.

As her screams and cries echoed in the packed standing room only sanctuary, I held steady reliving the 48 hours prior when she and Nancy, George’s sister sat me down to communicate that Mrs. Chang wanted an open-casket funeral for her youngest boy. George was an Atheist and wanted to be cremated and it took every fiber in my being to gently explain in a diplomatic fashion that I did not think that it would have been his wish to be remembered in a box with makeup and wax, etc.

As Nancy left my soon to be almost-ex-mother-in-law and I alone in a room at the hospital I kept remembering how much she HATED me because I was not Chinese. How often she would say in a thick Chino-English accent, “You nice girl, you sweet girl, you NO Chineee!” I remember George placating me by saying, ‘she will grow to love you, you’ll see’ it had been almost 7 years and she still did not have the affection for me that her husband had.

In the end, I caved and had an open-casket at the funeral and memorial and cremation following. I suppose I so wanted her acceptance that I just wanted her to have it her way. After all he was her baby for 39 years and only mine for 7.

After the funeral, the casket was carried by the team George had working for him at the original MJQ (the nightclub he owned before he got too sick and we sold the concept to some kids who moved it half a mile up Ponce De Leon Avenue and they renamed it MJQ Concourse). The family and I stood proudly at the back of the sanctuary, shaking hands, hugging people and thanking them for coming. A select few were invited to an after funeral dim sum brunch at Hong Kong Harbor (George’s favourtie Szechuan cuisine restaurant).

About 350 close personal friends showed up. Lots of kissing, hugging, and smiling followed as people shared very personal stories of George, the old MJQ, good times all over tea, Tsingtao and spicy delicious dim sum. I couldn’t eat. I had my fair share of hot tea. There is so much caffeine in Chinese Black tea that my hands were shaking by the time I had made the rounds to each table and 1pm soon became early evening.

Toward the end of the afternoon when we were settling the bill, I was sitting with Reggie Ealy, former owner of the Ying Yang Café. George and I had once seen a young Erika Badu there for a mere 6 dollar cover charge. Reggie and I were sharing ‘George’ stores when my future-almost-mother-in-law found an empty seat beside me.

As the conversation drifted to the very funny and romantic story of how George came home with me to Italy and asked my Grandfather for my hand. Mrs. Chang had heard the story hundreds of times before, but this time she listened intently as I recounted it slowly, even leaning in during parts to fully understand my English. At the end of the story I had lifted the spirits of the table and everyone was laughing. She leaned in very close to me and as she did she grabbed my left arm very tightly and dug her nails in deep as she pulled me close to her face so only I could hear what she had to convey and she quietly said, “Dorothéa, you sweet girl, you nice girl, it’s okay you nooo Chinee.” I nodded a thank you and replied shyly, ‘sieh, sieh.’   (Thank you)

I waited 7 years for that and while my spirit was broken, my heart was singing.

More George Chapters



About the Author

Dorothéa Bozicolona-Volpe Has Written 19 Articles For Us!

Dorothea is a senior strategic marketing executive, fluent in 4 languages, who specializes in developing new business for national and international brands via strategic partnerships and technology. She specializes in integrating social media into marketing strategies and understanding how to measure, optimize and build current new media efforts to increase value and develop strong relationships between consumers and brands
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  1. Molly C Gaines


    I’m so happy I discovered your blog series. I love all of your posts, but I’ve chosen to comment on this particular one because it’s my absolute favorite. I’m always fascinated with how life tends to present us with joyful and devastating circumstances simultaneously. This point is illustrated beautifully when you describe the happiness that emerged through your grief when George’s mother said, “Dorothéa, it’s ok you no Chinee”.

    I hope you continue to post here. I think it’s quite brave of you to talk about such painful events, and I have no doubt that you’re providing a great deal of comfort to many of your readers who’ve had similar experiences.


  2. As we continue being our best selves, others tend to come around eventually…

  3. Mike Weinberg

    So happy she finally appreciated you.

  4. Rebecca Crichton

    I’m glad you finally received the thanks and acknowledgement you deserved. I feel I know you and George and am glad you can share your memories with us.

    • Dorothea

      Thank you Rebecca, at the time it is was almost surreal but I was so thankful to finally fit in!

  5. Beautiful story, Dorothea. I’m sure George is smiling.

  6. Sieh,Sieh for sharing this story. It made my heart sing as well.

  7. Dorothea – Thanks to *you* for bravely, but with grace and humor, sharing the story of soul mates. Your words paint images of an amazing journey. I’m honored that you’re inviting us along.

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