Thursday, August 28, 2008


I received very sad news in a row this week – the death of the loved ones of two of my close friends.

Judel’s father who is in his sixties was rushed to the hospital on Saturday night due to chest pain. In less than an hour, he succumbed to death due to massive heart failure.

Cookie’s only sister who is in her mid thirties had just started a family. She had been in the pink of health all these years. A week ago, patches suddenly began to emerge in her skin. The doctors ruled out leukemia and suspected it might have been blood infection. She died a week later, leaving a husband and two very young kids behind.

Two people: one nearing dusk, and the other at the prime of her life. One having lived a full life and the other just about to taste life.

Their death only affirms the hard truth that I’ve long been wrestling with. That death does come like a thief in the night. No choosing of victims. No pattern to watch for. Sparing nobody when the timing is right. Sometimes gently. Sometimes harshly. Always painfully.

The deepest pain and the greatest burden are for those who are left behind. The pain of those who are in the process of mourning just cannot be captured by words. It feels like a hole has been torn in your soul that cannot be mended. I knew, because I lost my brother twenty-five years ago and my father five years ago.

From a positive perspective, the death of my loved ones has changed me in a most profound way. I was never the same person again after they were gone. My personal loss had forced me to come face to face with myself and inspired me to seek the answers to a lot of questions about life. It brought me to the feet of a God I never knew before.

I may not still have found all the answers (perhaps in my lifetime I never won’t) but one thing is certain though: This world is not our home. We are not meant to live here forever. We are simply passing through.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Precious Bonus

It took me a long time after I got married to conceive my first daughter. It was such an agonizing wait, with all the medical attempts I have tried proving to be futile one after the other. In my desperation, I bargained to God that all I needed was just ONE baby, and then I wouldn’t have to ask for anything anymore.

Then Bianca came, and what a bundle of joy she was and is to me and my husband. Truly an answered prayer.

Three years after, I gave birth to Danee. I didn't ask for her, she just came, unplanned but nonetheless wanted. Bianca is the gift, Danee is the bonus.

Today is Danee's 9th birthday and as I look at her, I am amazed at how she has turned out to be - a little lady with a big big heart.

We have given her the gifts she likes, taken from her long wish list prepared long before and plan to have a quiet family dinner later, which is what she wants. She hates parties. Not that she is anti-social, but her idea of a birthday celebration is a quiet time with the people she loves best. How charming for a nine-year old!

Opening the gifts one by one, she smiled so broadly at all of us, as a sign of appreciation. Little does she know that she herself is the greatest gift, touching my heart so gently yet profoundly, leaving a sweet aftertaste in my soul.

When I am ill, Danee is the first to come to my bedside, instantly dropping whatever it is that she's preoccupied with. We would inadvertently switch roles – she acting like a little nursing mommy and me acting like the big sick child. She would stroke me in the forehead, give me a massage, bring me my meds and why, even read me my favorite book.

When I am in such a lowly mood, Danee is the first person to notice and ask me what's wrong. When I cry, Danee would shed equal buckets of tears with me. At her young age, it is easy for her to feel my pain even if she cannot comprehend the cause. To own it even. Which makes me wonder: do we really need to have the breadth of experience to feel empathy for another person?

When I am not my usual self, like I am having a bad day and a bad mood, Danee is sensitive enough to give me space and just let me be. Even when I do or say crazy things, Danee never judges me as a bad mom. I would hear her quip to her ate "you know mom, she's just like that. sometimes abnormal but the real she is not really like that".

When I am away from home for a long time, Danee makes it a point to call me everyday just to talk about nothing and everything. She would sleep with the cellphone beside her, so she can readily grab it when mommy calls up. She never fails to punctuate our conversations with “I love you, Mommy”.

One time, I asked Danee what she wants to be when she grows up. She mumbled something about being a car mechanic, or a jet pilot, an astronaut even but wasn’t sure about anything of those. Out of the blue, she blurted out: “Why, I want to be just like you – pretty, intelligent and loving. I want to take care of you when you grow old!” I was speechless.

As an adult, I have my own baggages. Sometimes, pride makes it hard for me to apologize to somebody I offended. It will not take a second for Danee to apologize when she knows she’s at fault. And when she does get hurt, Danee readily forgives and forgets, even without the word “sorry” from the person who has offended her.

She is not all that perfect though. I can recall a number of occasions when she would have her own “moments” too. She can be as selfish and as naughty and as rowdy as any child could be. She would have her own annoying antics that really get on my nerves. She would constantly be in a brawl with her ate, with her Dad and even with me.

But with Danee, I have never felt so loved and cared for in my life. For all her innocence, the family has learned a lot of lessons from this nine-year-old who seems to have the wisdom of a ninety-year-old:

Love is not love unless it is shown or given.
Loving a person means loving him not just when he's good but even when he's bad.
It's easy to get hurt. but it's equally easy to forgive.

Happy happy birthday, my dearest daughter. Life had never felt this good, what with the love that you constantly radiate to each of us. You are one precious soul that we will all treasure. My geatest bonus!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Sad Soul

I have met my new friend Anette, a 77-year-old Caucasian widow during our church’s annual outreach project a few months ago. She doesn’t share my faith but she believes in the existence of God. She lives alone in a two-storey grandiose house with a big yard that needs regular mowing. With her limited pension, she can barely afford to hire a grass cutter. So we volunteered to do it, at least every other week till winter.

She has spent the prime of her life taking care of her ailing husband who eventually succumbed to diabetic complications while she was in her fifties. She has serious back problems (her tendons and ligaments have twisted due to heavy lifting of her husband while still alive) that run through her legs. She takes pain relievers daily which provided little comfort over time. The last hope is a back surgery which could cost her her life.

She is in such physical distress, but this is nothing compared to the pain that is searing through her heart. Anette is a very sad woman, with the burden of solitude weighing down her soul day by day. Her gaze reflects an inner ache, her voice a hollow vacuum.

Her children had long left her behind (2 daughters and a son are in Winnipeg while another son is in Toronto) to live their separate lives. Curiously, none of them bother to pay her a visit though they are only a distance away. They only meet on important family occasions like birthday or Christmas. Anette speaks fondly of her children and wishes in her heart that someday, all of them would have a happy reunion in that grand house of hers.

Something has gone wrong somewhere, and I am not about to pass judgment.

My family makes it a point to visit her every Sunday, just sitting for about two hours with her in the kitchen, talking about nothing over a cup of coffee. One time just as we were preparing to leave, Anette told me: “I hope I can fulfill whatever expectations you have from me”. I replied: “We don’t expect you to do anything for us, it is our pleasure to do something for you, and it had been a privilege that you allowed us intruders into your heart”. Her eyes were red with tears when we parted.

I am drawn to Anette, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my way of appeasing my guilt of leaving my mother behind. In my lifetime, I am happy that I am given the chance to meet this wonderful woman, and hopefully to touch her soul in a positive way.

But I will have to admit this - everytime I see her, I feel a gnawing fear inside me. She reminds me of how fragile life can be, and what will become of us all by the end of the road. When all is said and done and we have loved and given everything we have, and then find ourselves alone when dusk time comes, from where do we draw courage to get out from the abyss of despair and loneliness?

In my bed of thorns, He is the fragrant rose;
In my wilderness, He's the stream that flows;
A shelter built with loving grace,
His refuge shall be my dwelling place.
© 2002, New Spring Publishing, Inc./Chips and Salsa Songs

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Trapped. The dictionary defines it as being in a situation from which it is difficult to escape and in which somebody feels confined, restricted, or in somebody else’s power.

My husband and I were cruising peacefully along Jefferson Street yesterday towards the east of Winnipeg. Ever a defensive driver, Ronny was alert and vigilant of the traffic signs and conscious of the rush of vehicles in our way.

We were about to turn a left curve in an intersection when the amber traffic light flashed repeatedly before us. Ronny then slowed down and stopped in the designated area to pave the way for the other vehicles.

After crossing the intersection about 500 meters away, we heard a vehicle honking from somewhere. We dismissed it as probably a machine defect or something in the car behind us. But the honking repeated, forcing me to look closely to the lone vehicle following us to ascertain what was wrong. I thought maybe our tires were flat, or our hood was left open. By this time, Ronny has started to reduce the speed and was preparing to pull over.

Another very loud honking followed and before we knew it, the vehicle behind us has already made a swift overtake. When it was almost adjacent to ours, the male Caucasian (probably in his thirties) seated next to the driver suddenly thrust his head out and made a “f--k you” sign with his finger and shouted something like “you stupid Asians, better clear the way!” Then they quickly sped off.

Such brazen display of arrogance and rudeness! What have we done wrong? We reviewed the events that recently transpired to see if we violated any traffic sign or had been discourteous to them in any manner. We couldn’t recall any and I ended up suggesting that may be we were in such a slow irritating speed. Ronny corrected that we were very well within the speed limit and reasoned out that assuming that my conclusion is true, the other vehicle could easily make a cut without the need to honk given that the road was very clear.

Having realized what was just done to us, I started to get angry. Furious is a better term. It was racial discrimination, plain and simple. What right do these people have to treat us that way? Just because they are whites and we are Asians doesn’t mean that they have a license to call us names. Do they think of us as second-class citizens or an inferior race that can easily be trampled upon?

I felt an injustice of some sort was done and a part of me wanted to get even. I even urged Ronny to drive faster so we can run after the vehicle and then take my sweet revenge. But thankfully, the vehicle was nowhere in sight (or I would have done something that I will certainly regret later). I was left nursing my wounded ego and to appease myself, I resorted to cursing them and calling them names as well.

And then I froze. I realized what I was doing. By calling them names, by cursing them, I was debasing myself. I was no different. I don’t even know them, they have been out of my life as quickly as they came in, and yet they continued to still affect me several minutes later. And that is because I allowed them to exert such powerful impact on me that they were actually dictating how I should feel.

That was when I released them and even bid them peace. And when I did, I felt sorry for them. Beyond that, I felt good that I liberated myself from the trap. Several minutes later, I have already forgotten about the incident. And the rest of the day went on smoothly.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I was greeted yesterday morning by a most horrific, bone-chilling news flashed all over Canadian television.

A 40-year-old man repeatedly stabbed a twenty-something man sleeping next to him as they rode in the back of a Greyhound bus together along the Trans-Canada Highway near Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg. Afterwards, he decapitated the man and waved the severed head in front of thirty-four passengers who watched in complete and total horror.

How I wished this was simply a gruesome scene from a horror movie, or photos in magazines from faraway places. But this was real, the grit and pain and horror of life, up close and personal.

Amid my disbelief and horror, I rationalized that there must have been a deep motive for the gruesome killing, like a personal vendetta of some sort. It was my mind’s way of tuning out a most shocking and unacceptable reality.

Subsequent reports about the incident had my defense mechanism crumbling to the ground. Alas, there was no motive that would account for the mayhem. The murderer and the victim didn’t know each other. The latter, a simple, unassuming boy who worked in a rolling carnival in Edmonton, was going home to his parents in Winnipeg. The killing was not planned nor pre-meditated. The murderer simply went on a rampage, attacking the first person closest to him who happened to be that sleeping boy.

The psychopath is now in jail, and during his brief court appearances, he never said a word, never had an eye contact with people. He provided little clues as to what was going on in his mind. Sketchy reports said that he worked as a newspaper delivery boy and his supervisor attested that he appeared like a "normal" person although with some marital problems.

I came from a country where crime happens everyday to the point that its vastness has numbed my senses. But this incomprehensible incident has personalized the horror once again and made me shudder anew in terrible disbelief. It is an intensely personal matter that has tied my emotions into knots and leaving me dazed, angry, scared, almost like a spiritual vertigo.

By the chilly manner of killing his victim, it is as if the psychopath was telling me “I am doing this and I can do it to anybody.” I cringe at the thought that that that anybody could be me, or someone I care for.

Why does it have to be a world where predators stalk prey and violence is an integral part of life? why do terrible things have to happen to innocent people?

I hope that the indifferent stars will give me the answers soon.