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Loss and Grief

I almost forgot how it feels to lose someone I love to death until my uncle’s untimely demise last December. It was all too sudden. He was still physically fit at 78 and was even able to drive around although he was probably already feeling sick but kept it hidden from the family. It would have been so typical of him, someone who doesn’t wanna waste time in a hospital bed. Whenever we had a family outing, he was notable for hurrying all of us to go home right after we finished eating even though some of us haven’t started swimming yet. He just wanted to be home.

The day before he died I was happy to see a video uploaded by my cousin on Facebook of him opening his eyes for the first time after several days. We all took it as a positive sign. I thought I would still be able to see him well and kicking with all his jokes. Past midnight I woke up and checked Facebook only to find he was gone. I would never see him with his toothless smile ever again.

My cousin suggested we make a slideshow of his photos. Being the one with the technical know-how, I was tasked to produce the video. I checked all the photo folders in my external drive, searched for his photos in all my cousins’ Facebook posts only to realise all of us don’t have much photos of him. We don’t have even a single proper solo photo to frame and place above his casket. We ended up framing a photo when he was younger, probably 40 years old. It was because he didn’t want to be pictured so all we have are photos of him sandwiched in a crowd, many of which he wasn’t even looking at the camera. Now I don’t dread people who post too much selfies that much anymore.

“Come stop your crying it will be alright,” I was unto the first few slides but my tears couldn’t stop falling. “You’ll be in my heart, from this day on now and forevermore…” I looked back on those opportunities I missed when I could have visited him. I realised we didn’t really have that much memories spent together but that doesn’t mean I loved him less. He was always in my heart, I was always fond of him, I just don’t know why I didn’t exert that much effort to spend more time with him. The last time I saw him he asked for a Christmas gift and I just answered him, “Yong it’s too early. Christmas is still far away”. Had I known that I won’t see him ever again, I would have given him all the cash I had at hand then.

You see, regrets are futile. It will never bring back missed chances. It will never bring back our loved ones. I remember about 5 years ago, I was struck with the thought that our elders are getting too old and that they may leave us soon. So I began to take lots of photos of them with my DSLR. The sad thing is my uncle, being himself, evaded my camera so much that I never found the right timing or angle. I thought there will be many more chances to capture him but I failed. And I also failed at making sure he felt how much I cared about him.

Since high school, I tried to live by the saying “never leave words unsaid and things undone” and “roses mean nothing at deathbed”. Somehow, I was good at executing these words to my friends maybe because I knew they are in my life only temporarily; our paths will cross and then they will move on with their career or marriage and I may not see them for years. On the contrary my family is always there no matter what happens, or so I thought.

Christmas 2015 was a very sad moment for our family but as the new year begin, my uncle left us with a valuable lesson and that is to always make the most of the time we have with our loved ones. We are a united family but my uncle’s death bound us even more. It’s still difficult to move past this grief but I will make sure that it doesn’t cripple me from appreciating those that are still alive.

Dinner after midnight

sunset-heart-by-the-beach

I sat on a chair across the band; gulped cold beer from a bottle while waiting for our food. My companion left for the loo. The band began to play. I can see her from the corner of my eye, walking slowly with a basket in her hand. “Would you like to buy some peanuts?” she asked me. I gave a lazy smile and said, “no, thanks”. She sat on the chair opposite us, carefully placed her basket half full of peanuts on the table as she watched the band. She looked like she was 60 or 70 years old but I can never conclude as I only based my assessment from her and my mother’s appearance. She looked much older than my mom who is now in her late 50s.

Our food arrived; we ordered two courses but they were too much for just two people moreso that I eat less. I asked the waitress to give us one extra plate, spoon and fork. I placed food on her plate and gave it to her with a glass of water before we began eating as I didn’t want her to think that we are giving her our leftover. She accepted and thanked me shyly.

I was enjoying my food when I unconsciously threw glance at her and noticed that she seemed hungry. It was 8PM, a bit late for dinner. She must have eaten early before leaving home to sell her peanuts, I thought. “Let’s buy some of her peanuts later”, my companion said after noticing that I was looking at her.

After she ate, she approached us with a smile full of gratitude. She handed us two packs of peanuts. “Allow me to thank you for your graciousness with these peanuts. You know, I normally eat after midnight usually around 1AM when all my peanuts are sold. I would run to the food stalls near the park and ask for a soup which they give for free after midnight. I would then go home to eat my supper of soup and rice.”

We didn’t know what to say. We were hit with a pang but couldn’t show it. Instead, we told her we will buy 10 packs and pay for all of them. She insisted on giving us two packs for free but we refused. We knew that two packs could already buy her a decent meal so we urged her to accept the money. She did, thanked us wholeheartedly and proceeded selling to other customers.

After dinner we dropped by at the apartment, took six pancakes leftover from breakfast and brought it to four students with the peanuts. People say peanuts are food for the brain so the old woman’s peanuts were perfect for the students who were preparing for their exams until after midnight.


3AM meetup and life on the edge

I have this impulsive habit my friends call “Cambodia syndrome”. It was during my annual leave in June 2014 that I woke up at 9AM and declared I will go to Cambodia. All I did was check if there is a train scheduled to Aranyaprathet, a province in eastern Thailand that borders with Cambodia, then packed my bag and left. I didn’t know yet how to actually reach Siem Reap, where to stay or what exactly I should anticipate from the trip. I just wanted random things to happen without me making so much fuss planning about it. My close friends who know me well are aware how such a risk-taker I am. And I have lived life this way even before that trip to Cambodia.

Long train ride from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet

Long train ride from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet

It was summer. I just finished my first year at uni. I went to my cousin’s birthday party. She told me about her school and how it looked like one in the telenovela, Meteor Garden, with its natural beauty and a beach at the lower campus. I went home, woke my mom from her nap and told her I will transfer to my cousin’s school. This is where I’m good at, running away.

After graduation, I went to apply for a job. I did not get in. The interviewer told me I have a different potential and may pose risks to the company (private). He said, “I don’t think you belong here. We invest money training our staff but you don’t seem to be the kind who would stay longer.” So much about being honest on one’s passion.

I went home feeling bad about the result. Although it may not have been because I am not good enough, still I took it against myself. I was on a hammock feeling bitter when suddenly I thought about coming to Thailand. I chose Thailand because 1) I did not need a visa 2) It is geographically well-positioned in the region 3) I have this beautiful image of Thailand in my head – glistening temples, monks meditating – and it has a vibrant, friendly society. In less than a week I flew to Thailand. I told myself I will stay for just one year, work on whatever decent job I can get, explore the country, mend my chaotic and confused heart, get a headspace and decide which direction I want to take, then leave.

Six years after, I found myself having trouble getting around the fact that I am leaving Thailand in 8 weeks from now. This country that cradled me, the country now I call home, how can I be leaving it already?

I’m moving to Australia for grad school at the University of Sydney, another impulse of mine. With the little time I have left, I juggled between finishing work, putting my life of 6 years into boxes, making arrangements in Sydney and meeting friends.

Last Sunday, I told my friend Art that I’m leaving and it would be nice to see him. This man being a troll told me we can meet 3AM at Burger King (open 24 hrs). Perhaps he didn’t know who he was talking with. Of course I agreed and he suffered from his own trap! It was an amusing experience though, meeting at 3AM! Like, who would do that? Although what started as amusing ended up to be embarrassing for me, having to meet his mom at his house who must have been thinking what kind of a woman would allow a meetup at a wee hour.

I left his home at 6AM and walked to Benchasiri Park. I guess about an hour walk can only get you numb for a minute. And then a pang… wrench.

Benchasiri Park, Bangkok

Benchasiri Park, Bangkok

It was when it started to sink in that I was leaving, for real. I’ve been living life on the edge; always going beyond my comfort zone. Thailand has become a comfort zone and this was probably why I decided it’s time to leave, among other reasons. But why has it become this hard?

I guess it’s because my spontaneity has led me here, a country where I had a life all by myself away from the shield of my family; a country where I battled with my own demons; a country that opened my eyes to a vast horizon; a country that showed me the beauty of imperfections, the possibility of new beginnings. It’s the country where I met the person who makes saying goodbye the hardest.

Want to be spontaneous? For once, try to let go of fears and just go somewhere for some adventures. All you have to do is identify certain places or countries you want to visit, check and book cheap accommodations HERE then off you go. Oh of course, once you find cheap places to stay you also have to book your flights if you need to fly. Enjoy the uncertainty!