Saturday 5 May 2018

"She's Gone Ahead"

Forty one years ago a 27 years young man met a 28 young lady on a tennis court. It was a potent match. The friendship never started until more than a year later. So in 1977 I thought "well, she's gone emigrated to Canada and I'll never catch up." I continued to live my single life searching for purpose and direction alone. I was wrong then. By a determination to see the other half of the world I caught up. It was only coincidental that I pursued a tertiary degree in a State separated from her by Lake Michigan. Thinking back it seems funny - I didn't really have to chase her, just being nearer to where she was. There was no internet or email and postal strikes were common. When we finally linked up in 1979 she had gone one step further in life - her PhD - a huge life goal that now, looking back, seems insignificant. But I told myself again then - had to catch up. So I did, again. Then 30 years of marriage began with her returning home in 1981, leaving me behind. Catch up! So I did, returning 1983. Then she started a distinguished career. It started small, the research unit part-time while still lecturing full-time in 1986. She quickly overtook my research budget. Soaring ahead we had such wonderful experiences together, traveling, boating, climbing and laughing. But I was trying hard catching up with her social, physical and professional life. Then she eclipsed me. All I can say now is "She's gone ahead". See you again?? when I catch up - whenever and however that will be.

"I've no academic standing, just a lowly painter, but if someone's drowning, I'll certainly save." - Volunteer group of Japanese who painted Sugihara House in Lithunia, in memory of Chuine Sugihara, who was castigated by the Japanese government for issuing profligate transit visas to thousands of Jews facing certain extermination at the turn of the Third Reich.

"See the two soaring cranes pictured in our sitting room? You can be the higher one - I just want to be the lower one but going further ahead" - Miranda 1984, soon after we settled back at Jn Hitam Manis.

Straits Times October 14 2018:
Never miss a chance to get close to those closest to you. They will always be sorely missed.

Thursday 30 November 2017


Those of us who submit willingly to the wife may not begrudge we don't control our life as much as when we were single. On the average we only have half our lives and we live swimmingly along. Call it sheer force of habit, pleasure or just laziness, men often abdicate, or relegate much of our thinking and decisions to the soulmate. Then comes death. Suddenly you get your half back, sooner or later the realization sinks in. I now know that in order for the bereaved to go on, one must take ownership of the half that is returned. It is as painful as it is surreal. This might sound like a riddle to you but getting over a loss depends on how well one gets it back.

1 Dec 2017: All at once you are solely responsible - your food, money, welfare and what else - no more is that someone to turn to do it together.together .

13 Dec: "Loneliness can kill" - that headline shocked me. The article suggests that as much as we need to be on our feet at least half-hour each day we need to also have intimate or close interactions with person or persons. Failing which it is feared that our brain like the cerebral cortex will start to shrink. The downward path to death starts with a weakening of our psychological resistance to illness. Frightening?

14 Dec: Sex and one's need for it is often shrouded with shame and distaste. What is a widow to do? Dirty old man! Is there an excuse for elderly promiscuity? Any wholesome activity for its substitution may not be enough.  But a psychologist clinician has once said that the brain can be a sexual organ (???)

18 Dec: This journey gets lonelier as one by one people you know gets off. She once said in our first letters life is like a bus. As others leave we ride on. Until it's time for us to get off too.

Christmas Eve 2017:  Gender reversal of testosterone and oxytocin deficiency - these are the two factors harming marriages today. I now know this a decade too late. When the wife is eminently successful and the independent leader over the husband, her testosterone dominates and discourages him to depression. And the absence of pleasurable oxytocin doesn't help.

New Year's Eve: The dead and dying year passes and the unknown, fearful or not stands at the threshold. What a wondrous world! If only we're still alive to share it.

11 Jan 2018: Half awoke, I thought she would walk in the door as before, after a long trip overseas. But no...shes gone.

The little joys of life are not missed until you are bereft of them. The company of friends and food, soft oldies playing in background, shrieks of children at play or the yelps of excited puppies - how have they all melted into nothingness. Even the rites of Christmas, the quaint atmosphere of New Lunar Year, once were necessary tolerances, aches in memory.

10 Feb 2018: If I had known that I will live the most vulnerable years of life alone without my wife I rather might not had married her. But then there are others who had to endure their spouses all their lives to old age, instead of treasuring the companionship. Such irony.  Food for thought. For everyone, married or not.

So be thankful for the beautiful memories, accept your present state as the best and making out the greatest we can be. True or am I kidding?

14 Feb 2018: So in 3rd century Rome St. Valentine spread love among Christians, not necessarily lovers which only became vogue in 14th century England. And chocolates? The cocoa effect is a modern discovery whose trading stocks might be suspected to date to the saint.

5 Mar 2018: Just had a brutal week. When you have to face life alone any tragedy feels so hapless. Had to face a burglary alone.

15 Mar 2018: How do you shake off a groggy sense of loss and the doom that death is now coming for you? There must be sunshine one day...

17 Mar 2018: Pushing 70 and the passing of people in their eighties, some in the seventies, I came to the grim realization that there's only 10 precious years left in life. Even more precious with each day. How can one be brought not to live these years in despair and gloom, in the midst of disasters, no matter how grave?

20 Mar 2018: People. When distressed and alone you need them to stay alive.
The most severe trial of your life plummets the soul for survival. However disturbing an accident or robbery, you will not succumb, because you've gone thru the worst - the death of a very loved one.

"Gratitude even in times of overwhelming adversity - you'll find great strength" - Yutaka Sado,  conductor

"Live a life that compensates for the sad fact of our mortality" - Tsuruko Hanzawa, Chaji practitioner

6 Apr 2018: By God we have what we want and only so. Life with your spouse or family, a pleasure that extends to old age are blessings from Him. Your deepest and most cherished pleasures, creature comforts - they only exist when given to you. But most of all God gives the Spirit of Life, Hope and glorious eternity. The unquenchable Spirit of renewal and promise.

22 Apr 2018: Swimming among sharks - when you grow old and alone you start to lose parts of yourself that kept you going as a human being thru the years. Losing job (identity), health (independence), care (protection) and love (well-being) you trundle along alone and vulnerable. All the more to network.

May Day 2018: Finally..finally it dawned on me - clear as day. Since the cataclysmic stroke on 01.11.2011 inside me I was like a child in panic mode. I grabbed on to anything for support - like the helm strings of Jesus as He walked away in the crowd. Since then everyday I was frantically holding on to Him - anything that will pull me out of grief and loss - anything that can help me see the Sun again, anything that will throw out the darkness and gloom of Death that visited me so closely. But in my frenzy I'd forgotten that seeking God is a relationship - not a constant childish hanker for relief and escape from distress. Sure anybody will respond if you seek him hard enough. But for me I'd forgotten the Face of Hope, the reassuring smile of Peace - the healing touch of OK. So impatiently I'd started to doubt and fume and complain - even shout disbelief. Then more troubles. Now I know the motive for loving your God with all your heart, mind and soul. That motive is His protection, care and Love, despite ourselves. I wish I'd done the easier way - talk to a Person, pleading and praying. Instead I'd yearned for magic or a charm that could suddenly promise relief. Maybe relief will still come but we've missed the personal God.

Next: "Gone Ahead"

Wednesday 5 July 2017


It is a wonderful part of the day. Little did I knew that the death of our loved ones can transform us like the coming of dawn. Birds still sing full-throated and flowers still bloom in droves. A new day. A new morning. Takes away the horrors of the night and dreads of yester-years. To live to the completion of our lives - fully, whatever it takes.

7 Jul: But life must be rebuilt - from scratch.

"As the dogs look to me as their universe so I look to God as mine - The Restorer and Sustainer"

Two goals for an aging warrior: a). Frequent meditative introspection to slow down and restore mental health and b). Adapt to physical change, which may certainly come suddenly or gradually.

"Surviving babies grow up and leave me behind and that's great. Only those who didn't remain with me." - Ikuya Ueta, pediatric surgeon

The response to "What's the meaning of your life?" will surprise you - its meaning is clear when you're prepared to face the end of it.

25 Jul: Can't believe it. Still in recovery from the shocks of last 5 years, slowly starting to think & feel normal - to get hold of my mind again.

"Master your feelings without wavering, and follow the path for you to the end" - Shiro Masuda, Master carpenter
"Eat and enjoy, it is your wish to the world that you want to live another day" - Hajime Yoneda, Master cook

25 Aug: Happy birthday! You'll never be older than me again 😥😚😃😅😉😍.

It was a surreal dream - met her and her mother together in their heavenly bodies. So young and new both so cheerful. The only word to describe them - young again!

1 Sep 2017: It will be 6 years from the fateful Thursday. Only memories now. The worst one can do in an estranged life is to wander aimlessly like a disembodied spirit. The mind must be uplifted by whatever means. To quote CS Lewis on his mother's death, "all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared...there was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk..."
When I decided to marry I didn't realize all these were not vouchsafe. The emptiness still assaults every morning. I cannot sing with any conscience that "God is good, all the time." How?, when the terrors of separation from your closest love turn off the lights in every room.

10 Sep: Today I discovered that to overcome abject loneliness God must be in my heart - not just seeking Him at church or fellowship with believers. We thot keeping busy will blot out the empty space, but no - it's who do you replace in the void that's real.

18 Sep: First her stroke, then one by one the dogs failed heart-broken. Then the lonely struggle for recovery that never came. Finally her lungs failed. When will the process of desolation end? Even self destruction threatened with the accidental death of the most stalwart dogs. When will grief end?

First my parents.
But I accepted their deaths because they're older.
Then my friends.
But I accepted their passing since friends come and go.
Then my dogs' grim days.
But I accepted their shorter lifespans.
Then my wife vanished from earth without a final word.
And I struggled with it alone.
Finally it'll be me.
And there'll be no one left to accept it.

21 Oct 2017: "Itch habe genug" - from Bach's cantata Feast Mariae Reinigung (1727) of Simeon the elder. For most of our lives we carry the burdens - out of duty or probity. But at some time or other, like Simeon holding the newborn Christ in his eager arms, say that we've lived long and have enough.

27 Oct 2017: There're so many things I had wanted to do with Miranda, but I  didn't know that she'd leave so quickly. Today I'm told that to live on with our departed beloved we should build on our memories. I still remember lots of it - treasures.

12 Nov 2017: Since her absence I face demons. The evils of giving up and constant discouragement. But I'm reminded of her life so filled in time and space that there is never any option to quit. Climb every mountain, fork every stream- keep climbing until your last breath.

17 Nov 2017: The dragonfly always moves forward and never retreat. Those who live for the moment lives forever.

20 Nov 2017: So now there's the devil of widowhood and the deep blue sea of death which some may say is better. The latter is further from the truth. However the pressure to fight loneliness is fraught with pitfalls. Each day is ticking closer to the end and life is ever shorter. So I remind myself daily to proceed with caution. A widower attempting a reset is like a rocket making reentry.

"I'm still not ready to walk alone. But that I walked at all on this perilous journey...depends in a large part I received...for 30 years as one leans on a towering tree of the forest" - Philip Yancy 2009, In the Likeness of God (p23-26)

<End of post> next -- Ownership

"They also serve who only stand and wait." - John Milton (1673)

Monday 19 October 2015


There's nothing more to report Miranda's recovery so this blog ends. But we the readers live on. At the beginning I resolved that this catastrophe or any other personal tragedies not remain so - maybe we can turn it into a positive blessing to our lives, So what can I or others learn from a sudden death of a spouse? These sleepless nights many what-ifs floated in my mind.

Why only today do I long to be nearer and closer to treasure this blessed soul when she was around?

How can I redeem many years of neglect from now onward?

Maybe there will be others in the routine and busyness of life have gotten into personal neglect of each other - could there be an insight to gain and work on henceforth?

How can I honor Miranda and her values instead of regretting the past.

Are there any mirandas out there? Can we value them more? Can their soulmates make them happier now when she's around?

Will this be useless in this blog? Should this discussion continue? I am not sure. But I am trying to heal and the empty void is big and getting heavier. I need help. Maybe others too in future.

"While she was alive I fasted and wept, thinking who knows? The Lord may be gracious to let her live. But now she's gone can I bring her back? I will go to her but she will not return now to me. And David got up, cleaned, worshipped and ate."  - 2 Samuel 12: 22-23 (adapted)

Postscript: It has been cathartic to write "Private Thoughts" during the darkest days of my journey - now released from embargo. God used writing to keep me off the edge of insanity. Even now in the process of bereavement I've kept the personal struggle going in its update. One has to muddle through the woods of deep personal separation. Hopefully one day I can look back thankfully to have made it. Maybe others too.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Four Years Hence

                                           "There are no U-turns in the highway of life."

The surgeon remarked that nobody in their right mind should expect a comatose to suddenly wake up and walk after 2 years. But I take heart in the word "suddenly". So we should be thankful that she did gain some wakefulness since then. I sometimes ask myself: What if I'm the one sick and she's taking care of me? She would be still traveling the world for BTI. Her question would be "Now what can I do with Kian?"  But my question for these past four years is "What can I do without her?"

4 Sep 12 noon: Chest still congested - her breathing harder due to weakened lungs as a  result of catching that flu bug.

7 Sep 9 am: Losing control of her better right eye. Amazing the effects of seemingly harmless flu infection on a sick person. Hope she gets better

15 Sep 9 pm: She did get better, except for the croupy cough. However spasms has now reached her arms (good sign?). Her arms were the least progressive to recover. Then the lazy eye - like a bedraggled doll with a disconnected right eye.

23 Sep 12.30 pm: Her throat irritation persists - probably the haze effect, even in the air-con.
Did anyone see it coming ? (Photo credits to MGS annual reunion group)



1 Oct 10 am: The groans have returned but the haze still a problem for the throat. She's chugging along.

10 Oct 10 am: Breathing still laborious but there're other problems such as blood circulation. Humans are not meant to sit all day.

13 Oct 3 pm: Since she caught the flu months ago her signs have regressed. Eyes have been mostly closed and legs were no more active. Surgeon said it's the usual atrophy of stroke.

14 Oct 8.45 am: Miranda has gone home.
^^  ^^

End of blog. <Pillar restored>


A most gentle soul, generous and kind to a fault, always so sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, brilliant and sharp. And her persuasive convictions belie her gentleness. I am so privileged, often undeserved,  to share her 33 years of life.

Thoughts from all your condolences and messages

As her absence lingers on with a heavy empty void, words of your condolences hit home - that even though her journey to death seems like a failure, now it has all been worthwhile. To endure the dark days of her survival and restoration - the almost horrendous first few hours of hemorrhage, the long dreary nights and days of alleviating her discomfort and coaxing her back to the world while watching her tremendous assets slide downhill gives me an impetus to continue living. When all this wake is over let it remain as a treasure our remembrance of Miranda's legacy never to give up whatever dreams yet unfulfilled - be it personal, for Singapore or for society as a whole.

Above all, with compassion, startling kindness and generosity. The human qualities that endear Miranda to all. She's been an example to me ever since I knew her. Keep the flame burning...

Thursday 2 July 2015

Cheering the Right Brain

"Oh dear I can't find your left ear!  Don't tell me the surgeon...", I exclaimed as I struggled to plug the left audio on her. She gave a faint smile. These days there is nothing much to do except to cheer her up as just looking at her deformed head can depress you. I also found that care giving out of coma must always find new activities - just like a child developing her faculties all over again. Take music and humor - they are universal that a vegetative state might even relate. Music have been known to make plants and cows happy. Then there is a need to promptly help moving the bowels at consistent times of the day. Important to re-develop primitive functions of living. Becoming creatures of habit again is so vital to our cognitive well-being. I'm hoping the posts can become more cheery. Despite the truth.

15 Jul 6 pm: Probably entering a difficult phase - she's groaning often out of frustration and there's absolutely nothing one can do or even understand the words. Sometimes I try to avoid her because it seems harder to stay and feel hapless. Even the maid had to sleep in the hall to escape the nightly complaints. But so nice to see her doze off - sometimes up to 24 hours.

25 Jul 2pm: So the prolonged periods of sleep and stupor is due to hydrocephalus, a potentially damaging condition of excess brain fluid. Now watching and pray that the shunt will do its work of balancing the flow. Had previously reluctant to have the VP shunt inserted.

14 Aug 2 pm: Two weeks of chest congestion after catching flu. The medical review today threatens early bronchitis. Could be fatal if not watched for infection.

25 Aug 9 pm: She had always been remembering birthdays of family and friends organizing dinners and gifts. Have a happy one today! Miranda!

31 Aug: Still visitors should be protected from her coughing and chest congestion.

<End of Post>

Saturday 28 March 2015

Tough Love

"Have we given our all against a relentless storm? Have every oarsman broken their backs as they strained  to steady the stricken ship? On and on the endless days riven against rocks, bitter wind and biting rain. The spirit tested to submission by the giant waves, but unyielding to the last breath the tempest must be stood. It must pass and we will overcome." (YKT - Collected words)

"Go on - cough it all out!", she stated firmly to her father retching away in his last days. Those days were triple duty for her - starting a new Institute, lecturing and teaching at the University and shuttling back and forth caring for her father at the convalescence center, besides friends and church. Then when he expired there was visible sadness but she turned to me saying softly it was probably best for him. She would even do the same for my mother! Over the years we survived at least half a dozen dachshunds - all equally dear as children to her. One time Hucky was slipping away age 20, being unable to recover from a festering wound. "Hucky, if you have to die, please let it be this week, because I'll be traveling soon..." That night Hucky expired in her arms. Charis, Sweetie, Sassy, Strauss, she had never let anyone go except in her arms. Then she'll say to me, "Death seems so final..." But everyday I keep thinking - what next can I do for her? How can I make her move her eyes and head? How can her weight transfer be improved during physiotherapy? She doesn't like to stand so can the maid, who is a shoulder shorter, do more to stand her (she's dead heavy), or where else can I take her around the house? I understand a team of doctors, specialists and other luminaries met regularly how to keep Singapore's icon (LKY) going as long as practicable. But for Miranda I am the team. When things are left status-quo, she will surely slide downhill. Comfortably lying in bed is her worst enemy - limbs and lungs weaken with lack of use.Then someone might wonder whether does Miranda really need all these? I do.

 2009: Pi was the "smartest" dachshund on this side of the globe. Her death in August affected her visibly in 2011. Infected by dirty water.
1 Apr 2 pm: This blog is about her - but I am sustained by prayers how to keep a sane mind. Really kept by the concern and prayers of many who read this blog. Inexplicable sadness makes one want to hide in a cave forever. God must not intend for us to have prolonged sadness. His plan for eternity is quite the opposite.

18 Apr 10 am: Getting stronger and harder to resist her tone during physiotherapy. But she must have given up trying to speak. Maybe later.

30 Apr 6 pm: She will look at you if you speak - she had never been able to engage her eyes before. But with no feedback you cannot tell whether she understood you. Only then will the rehab hospital admit her. Even the speech therapist will be doubtful of her swallowing.

31 May 12 pm: End of Post, No changes until the Next post