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Sharing our last bowl of “long life noodles” with Grandma over WeChat

Recently, we shared our last family dinner with my Grandma in a family group chat.

Photo of Shane Zhao
14 29

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Texting was always something casual I shared with friends until my cousin created a family group on WeChat. She started the family chat for us to stay connected with our relatives in Beijing when my Grandma’s health began to fade last year. We used the group to share snapshots of good meals we ate, photos of my cousin’s wedding and frequent updates on my Grandma’s health condition overseas.

When my Dad had his 60’s birthday three months ago, I flew home to celebrate with my parents in New Jersey. We had a small family dinner and celebrated over bowls of my Mom’s homemade changsho mein, or “long life noodles.”  In Chinese families, eating noodles on someone’s birthday is a tradition to wish a long life for whoever eats it. On that occasion, the noodles were for my Grandma. Her health had been fading quickly in hospice care over the previous month.

Without being able to be by her bedside, we took photos of the dinner and sent it over WeChat to our relatives in China. By then, my Grandma had lost the ability communicate and only responded when my uncle showed her snapshots of her children and grandchildren on his mobile screen.

Two days later, my Grandma passed away. The photos from my Dad’s birthday was the last family dinner we shared with her.

Now when I scroll through our family chat history I see a montage of happy moments stitched together with sad ones. I see snapshots of my cousin’s wedding coupled with photos of my Grandma on her hospital bed. I see happy birthday messages followed by news of my Grandma’s passing.

We never expected to say goodbye over family chat on a small screen — it’s not how any family would expect to say goodbye. Yet, it’s strangely comforting to look back and see moments of new beginnings and farewells collected in one place.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Every end of life experience has an unexpected story. What might be an unexpected but beautiful a story that you shared with your loved ones?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sherri McElroy

This is a beautiful story. 

Photo of Michael Fratkin

Our incredible technologies provide a magic window that dissolves our shared universe to the single dimension of time. The "long noodle goodbye" demonstrates that distance can dissolve....even when the technology is used asynchronously....through the co-existance of people in one dimensional realtional space. No separating distance...

Photo of Shane Zhao

Beautifully put Michael:) Indeed, technology does "demonstrates that distance can dissolve."

Photo of Japhet Aloyce Kalegeya

Shane Zhao Thanks very much for your good story; I join you, as at the end of life, no special provisions for finishing the life. We should make plans to prepare a meal for grandma or grandpa.

Photo of Morgan Meinel


Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of your grandmother. How meaningful and special that you were all able to connect in this way. Very often, on our Palliative Care Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital, we have patients whose families are across the continent or international, without a way to get their bedside to say goodbye to them. Because of this reality, our unit provides each of our patients and their families with an iPad in their hospital room with a Skype application built in. This way, we can encourage our patients and/or their families to connect with their loved ones and have meaningful conversations and interactions with one another. These conversations are not necessarily limited to just saying goodbye, but can also include celebrating a special day together, sharing of memories, or just a simple hello and checking in. This allows our patients and their families to remain connected in an intimate and special way and gives meaning to their every day experience - and often brings levity and joy to ones day. Also to keep in mind, for those patients who are comatose or unresponsive, and unable to engage in this way of connecting digitally, it’s assumed and important to know that these dying individuals still have their sense of hearing - so connecting via Skype or through some other video chat could really be beneficial to both the patient and family.

Photo of Mustafa Akkoc

Morgan Meinel I am sending  you my hugs with my comments , Did you get them ? Feel them ? Of course NO  :(( until i come and really hug you , you feel it , please  forget about this drive thru type of  ideas that makes people more fat ,  skype and similar media is only for communication until some point  , at some point in our life it is better to be really together ,  hospitals gives lots of medics to old people to keep them alive , when they get this much of medics how they are gonna talk on skype or any other media , and hospitals have rules as well ,  let people die with their family , hospitals always trying to find ways to keep people in hospitals until their last moment.  if the person is very sick or  known that he or she is gonna die soon , why do we keep them in hospital , what is the difference between dying today or tomorrow. No body wants to see dying on skype on hospital bed. Say no to Hospitals to have better end of life experience. There is difference between digitally connected and really connected (hugs).

Photo of Shane Zhao

Morgan, thanks for sharing this! I love how you've highlighted that the conversations patients and family have is not limited to just saying goodbye — instead, it's more about "celebrating a special day together, or just a simple hello and checking in." Technology has made connections between patients and their loved ones easier — yet it hasn't changed the conversations we have.

We're so glad to have you as a Community Advisor in this challenge.  Your perspectives as a registered nurse in palliative care will be very important to our community:)

Photo of Morgan Meinel


Thank you for your thoughtful response; I appreciate it! I completely agree with you - nothing will ever replace the sacred and intimate experience of being physically present with our loved ones, especially during the dying process. To clarify, I believe connecting digitally can be beneficial for some people who don't have the opportunity (because of distance, illness, etc.) to be with their loved ones. Thanks again for your helpful insights and suggestions! 

Photo of Morgan Meinel

Thank you, Shane! I'm glad for the opportunity to be a Community Advisor in this challenge! :) 

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Shane for sharing this story. It's great to see how technology can be used creatively to create connection. and it's great to know that at Palliative Care Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital, patients and their families are provided tools for these connections. I like how the WeChat channel was a way to connect your grandmother and the family and is now a piece of memory you can go back. It illustrates the potential that technology can have in supporting connections (when face-to-face is not an option). It also reminds us of the importance of connections for those who are seeing a loved one dying.  

Photo of Robert Guertin


Great, and personal share. There is something to be said for nostalgia of reflecting on moments that have a large influence on you as you grow through life. The usage of the application in this instance is a great method to share these moments.

Something we widely study in architecture is mobility. Influential of architecture and design as people with disabilities or age move through the built environment. Often, architects also look into cemetery design,experience and programming. I recall when my grandfather was falling into Alzheimer's, it became increasingly difficult for him to move around, until eventually having an in house caregiver.

I am very interested to see what route this challenge takes on. Hopefully looking into the issues of connectivity, emotion, remembrance, and experience and perhaps even what roles technology can play for our aid.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Great insights Robert! I actually spend many years as architecture/ planning professional in another career — so I appreciate how you've highlighted the relationship between spaces and caregiving:) In addition to personal connections, it'll be key to explore the impact that environments have on the ones we care for. Glad to have you onboard!

Photo of Lisa

Thank you for sharing your story about your Grandmother Shane!  It was very touching and special!  

Photo of Shane Zhao

Thanks Lisa, great to have you in this challenge!