Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Farewell, My Friend

At the beginning of the week, I had resolved to talk about something light, even funny.
After all, I'm a happy and optimistic persons.

But the way things evolved, I will talk about yet another death.
My friend's death.

I got to know Lianne three, maybe four, years ago at a meeting in the US.
Her German-accented American English mesmerized me.
And her wit, intelligence, and gentleness.
They never failed to capture my attention.

Through the years, we moved from colleagues to friends.
We met a couple of times in the US, and in Singapore when she came two years ago to speak at a conference.

Lianne was ten years older than me, and several degrees more qualified.
But she was never afraid to ask for my opinion or admit she knew less of some things in life than I.
Told you she was intelligent.

She was brave too.
When the Berlin Wall came down, she--a single woman--was among the first to go in to reach out to students on the university.
She studied the language. Overcame the odds. Did what God called her to do.

After that trip to Singapore, she was suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
During her darkest hours, she wrote, "I'd conquer this.
"Don't give up."

On January 19 2006, Lianne left her body to be with the Lord Jesus.
She fought till the very end, her brother wrote.
Two days before she passed away, her mum, two sisters and brother held a communion service by her bedside.
As her mum placed a bit of bread in her mouth and touched her lips with wine, her brother said,
"You gave her her first meal and now you are giving her her last.”

Farewell my friend, my dear sweet friend.
And thank you.

For telling me shortly after we met, "You're smart and talented."
That surprised me, coming from you.
For volunteering me for that writing assignment,
even though you and I knew there were smarter and more talented writers available.
For pushing me that time to get on with that project.
And when it was a success, thank you for saying,
"I never once doubted you could do it."
And when we were having our juice in that Shenton Way cafe,
thank you for telling me right in the eye,
"Never give up.
Never stop trying, and becoming whom God wants you to be."

Lianne, my sweet Lianne,
my friend,
thank you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Saying Goodbye"

Yesterday, National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Ananda Rajah died of an heart attack.
Hundreds flocked to his wake to say their last goodbyes (Huang C 2007, ‘Goodbye, Professor’, http://www.straitstimes.asiaone.com/).
People remembered the popular lecturer fondly.
"I was his student, yet he was my fan," one said.
Saying goodbye. Whether it’s to the dead or dying, it's not an easy thing to do.
Yet, it's a necessary part of life.
Often, the ability to say goodbye well brings resolution, and gives us permission to move on.

My dear friend Angel lost her dad a month ago.
Mr. Koh had dementia and a host of other ailments for five years.
“When they said he might go soon,” she said to me at the wake, “I prayed that God would allow daddy to recognize me, even for one fleeting moment, so I could say goodbye.”
That moment came days before he passed away.
In one of those rare times when he would remember his loved ones, Mr. Koh suddenly recognized his youngest daughter.
And so Angel told him how much she loved him.
How she 'd never forgotten the little things he said, the places he took her to as a child.
How he would always be her daddy.
They had an hour of bonding and saying goodbye.
Then he was off again. He never recovered.
“I miss him badly,” Angel told me. “But I’ve said my farewell."
"I can move on.”

A few years ago, while shopping at IKEA,
I bumped into an old acquaintance.
First question I asked Jan, “How’s your mum-in-law? I heard she’s very ill.” Unbeknownst to me then, Jan and her husband, who's the brother of a friend, had already divorced.
In fact, she'd just come back from overseas where she lived for several years.
Two weeks later, I met Jan again. At her ex-mum-in-law's funeral.
We sat, made small talks; then out of the blue, she touched my hand and whispered, "Thank you.”
It was a god-send that she bumped into me, she said.
“When my marriage failed, I took off and left.
"I didn't say goodbye to her. She'd loved me as her own daughter."
And so for two years, Jan had carried a guilt in her heart.
Until the day we met at IKEA.
That evening, Jan contacted her ex and rushed to the hospital to see the mum-in-law.
"I went there to ask for her understanding and forgiveness.
“But when I saw her frail and kind face," she said,
"I just sat there and cried and cried."
That day, two women said goodbye to one another.
It was a time for grace and forgiveness.
It was a time for courage and healing.
A time to allow each other to move on.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

“Am I My Children’s Keeper?”

First there was the story about the couple who interrupted their brain-damaged child’s growth.
The reason: so she’d be more manageable (‘Pillow Angel’, TIME 2006).
Then the video clip, on CNN.com, of a 17-year-old in South Africa who has been forced to fend for five hungry kids.
The reason: her parents had died of AIDS.

There’s been much talk lately on what’s right and wrong with decisions made by parents.
It may be good to put arguments of ‘ethics’ aside and ask ourselves one simple question: what is our role as parents?
Are we not our children’s protectors, dream-keepers, dream-makers?
Are they not entrusted to us by our Maker as a stewardship—to be loved, and nurtured?
My daughter volunteered for a Royal Family Kids' Camps for abused children last Christmas.

First day, the organizers told her:
“These kids have bad memories, imprinted by their parents or care-givers.
“Your job is not to erase these memories or heal them. You can’t.
“But you can help them make positive memories.”

Let us live our lives well every day so our children won’t have to pay for our lame excuses and side-shows.
Let us not forget we are but their keepers.
Let us at least help them make some great memories.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


I'm writing about Saddam.
This shows the man is really famous, not for how he lived—and his life was brutally evil--but the way he died.
Bad timing. That’s what it was all about, wasn’t it?
No doubt there was a 'certain sense of historic justice' to where and how he died (The Straits Times, 6 January 2007, p. 30),
but the timing sucked.
Executing the man during the Hari Raya Haji festivities reeks of insensitivity, even insanity, in this day and age.
Top that with the offensive video,
the punishment of a tyrant has become his moment of glory.
Bad timing is the mother of many evils.
We had a farewell party the other night for a dear friend.
As we wrapped up the mostly fun-and-laughter evening with a speech—by the goodbye girl—suddenly someone interjected an emotional pause with a joke.
Needless to say, it didn't come out right.
It’s been more than a week into the new year.
But never too late to still make resolutions.
May 2007 be a year when I tell my daughter to do her chores after she’s stopped chatting on the line,
give words of advice to people only when they're ready for them,
and pour my problems on the hubby when he’s not watching the premier league.
Do things right, say words well,
make wise decisions.
But always couple them with good timing.
Makes all the difference.

love the ocean - God made it for Himself

About Me

In the Old Testament in the Bible, there was a man named Jacob who "wrestled with God and man." He wouldn't let God go until God answered his prayers. God admired that and renamed him Israel, "the one who fought or wrestled and prevailed". He fought with man--his inner man--and conquered his own weaknesses. He's my hero. He is what I hope God and man see me to be.