Dear Mom

It’s hard to believe it has already been a month since you left us. Feels like it was just last week we were all by your bed­side; singing to your favourite Car­pen­ters tunes, feed­ing you meal after meal, stroking your hands remind­ing you we’re around, stay­ing up all night with you when you just couldn’t sleep as a result of steroid doses.

When Dad called me that night you slipped into a crit­i­cal con­di­tion, I froze in utter fear. I wasn’t pre­pared at all. Not now, not this early; was the only thing I had in my mind. I booked the first flight out of Mel­bourne the next morn­ing as Dad flew to KL that night itself.

It was the worst flight I have ever had in my entire life. Eight whole hours of pure agony; com­pletely cut off from the out­side world while all the while know­ing that you might leave any­time, any­time at all. I prayed, and prayed hard, if only you could hold on.

I kept revis­it­ing the day I left KL. You were lying down, with a blan­ket of nee­dles on your body as you were sched­uled for acupunc­ture that morn­ing as part of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cine treat­ment you held on so dearly in hope when West­ern oncol­o­gists waved the white flag on the relent­less progress of can­cer in your body.

Uncle was wait­ing out­side the hos­pi­tal with my lug­gage all loaded into his car. I held your hand and gave you an awk­ward hug all the while try­ing not to bend any nee­dles. I gave you a long, hard look know­ing it would be another six months before I’d see you again. I couldn’t remem­ber what we said, but that moth­erly smile you gave stuck in my head all throughout.

I walked out of the hos­pi­tal doors with a heavy heart, towards uncle wait­ing in his car. Lit­tle did I know my two-week stay with you in the tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cine hos­pi­tal would be one of my last mem­o­ries with you. “Don’t worry about mom,” uncle told me on the way to the air­port, “Live every moment while you’re there in Aus­tralia. Your mom would’ve wanted that.” Every inch of me thought six months would just come and go, and then we’d be reunited again. I was so sure of it.

Eight hours did go by, and soon I found myself run­ning past doc­tors and nurses, hos­pi­tal beds and wards, stop­ping short just before the door to your ward in Pal­lia­tive Care.

You were all smiles when I walked in. I clasped your hand in mine, while imme­di­ately notic­ing the tubes attached to you and your swollen right arm as a result of the upper arm frac­ture you suf­fered from the fall you had back in the tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cine hos­pi­tal. My heart sank.

I remem­ber just say­ing, “Ma.” I know you’d recog­nise me, but you were hardly able to speak. Nei­ther was I, for your moth­erly gaze and that smile you wore was more than enough to sent me chok­ing with emo­tion, tears, and a lost for words.

You were both atten­tive and alert, and had the com­plex­ion of a per­fectly healthy per­son. How you man­aged to pull through the night before; cold, life­less and gasp­ing for air, only God and his grace knew. But the next few days we spent together in the ward with you as a fam­ily, dad, sis­ter and I, was one of the most ful­fill­ing peri­ods in my life.

I’m sure you’d already know this, but we have the most amaz­ing rel­a­tives around. Your sis­ters, despite their hec­tic office hours, braved through the noto­ri­ous KL traf­fic to visit you every sin­gle day. So did cousins and grand­par­ents who fre­quently tagged along when­ever they could. Every day with­out fail, your ward would be filled with friends and rel­a­tives as we dec­o­rated the win­dows and walls with origami cranes and hearts, fill­ing the room with love, songs, laugh­ter and hap­pi­ness all the while try­ing to keep that lovely smile on your face, which really wasn’t hard to main­tain at all. And all these sim­ply wasn’t pos­si­ble with­out such warm and touch­ing fam­ily ties.

This room is full of love,” Dr. Tan would say as he con­cluded his morn­ing check-up on you, look­ing around at all the hearts and cranes on the walls he con­tin­ued, “Can you share some with me? I lack of love.”

Due to your brain con­di­tion and lack of energy for speech, you were slow and remained mostly quiet — in speech. But one of my fond­est mem­o­ries of you dur­ing those days with you was the lit­tle nods and expres­sions you’d make when­ever we’d try to com­mu­ni­cate or ask you some­thing. There were times you’d mut­ter hilar­i­ous single-replies that sent every­one in the ward into laugh­ing fits. You’d greet every vis­i­tor with that gen­er­ous smile of yours and even occa­sion­ally with a soft “Hello.” when­ever you felt a lit­tle better.

Mom, such pos­i­tively is what you instill in oth­ers with­out much effort, even when you’re the one who is bedrid­den. Your spirit and willpower is with­out a doubt, the strongest in any­one I know. No one I know has the capac­ity to pull through six years of such a dam­ag­ing dis­ease with­out a sin­gle com­plaint. But you did.

When doc­tors took you off steroids later that week, you fell into a deep, serene sleep. That night, aunt cel­e­brated her birth­day with all of us in the ward in front of you. Every­one was there, grand­par­ents, uncles and aunts, cousins and all. You were so tired you slept through the whole party. Pho­tos of aunt cut­ting her cake with you sleep­ing away in the back­ground still bring tears to eyes to this day.

You never really did wake up. We never really found out how con­scious were you. You did man­age a sip or two of milk the next morn­ing with your eyes closed. But you looked so serene sleep­ing away all day and night we felt it was bad to wake you up.

You were deep asleep when you took your last breath.

It took awhile for us to notice some­thing was amiss as you spat out water you failed to sip on. We started call­ing out to you, shak­ing fran­ti­cally for you to wake up.

I ran out to the nurse’s sta­tion, chok­ing with tears and dis­be­lief, stam­mer­ing at a bunch of nurses, “My mother. Breath­ing.”, I swal­lowed hard, “Stopped breath­ing. Please, come!”

It was the 9th of April. And we were all by your side.

With six years of can­cer under your belt, it was a mir­a­cle you were in lit­tle or no pain at all.

Your wake was unlike any other. Not that I have attended one before, but close friends of yours came up to us say­ing there was def­i­nitely a joy­ous air sur­round­ing the oth­er­wise solemn aura of funeral par­lours. “I wouldn’t worry about your Mum now,” Aunty Gui Li told me and Shuyi, with a slight smile as she gazed towards you.

It was like a grand finale of a the­ater play; where all the cast make a grand reap­pear­ance on stage and when we’d feel a tinge of sad­ness upon know­ing that the show has come to end.

Char­ac­ters of the sto­ries you have been telling us of your child­hood; your adven­tures with high school friends, of your pop­u­lar­ity among boys in school, all showed up in real life. Peo­ple we’ve never met before walked up to sis­ter and I, “I sat beside your mother way back when we were in Pri­mary One,” a for­mer class­mate of yours would tell us, “You should know that she was an amaz­ing friend to me.”

Mom, Melbourne’s such a lovely place. I wish you could see the things I see, go to the places I’ve been. It’s a whole new world out here, and I’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things. I had been look­ing for­ward to you com­ing, wish­ing I’d be able to show you just how beau­ti­ful Mel­bourne is. But that’s okay, Dad and sis will still be com­ing over after my finals and I’m sure they’ll very much enjoy their time here.

Dad’s at the height of his career. His efforts in his field are start­ing to gar­ner atten­tion through­out the coun­try. Some­thing I’m sur­prised that it hadn’t hap­pened sooner, given how ded­i­cated and metic­u­lous of a man he is. You know him bet­ter, Mom. After all, you’re the one who chose him.

Shuyi’s doing great, too. She’ll be doing her A-Levels really soon and frankly, nobody’s wor­ried about her given her track record in aca­d­e­mic suc­cess. I see a lot of you in her, Mom. And and that only means she’ll be shap­ing up into a fine young woman by the time she com­pletes her stud­ies in the UK.

Don’t worry about us, Mom. As you can see, we’re cop­ing fine. We take com­fort know­ing that death is just the end of one life, but the begin­ning of another; a begin­ning of some­thing more.

Some­times we’d grief or cry, but that’s just us try­ing to adapt to that void; lit­tle things we’d come across on a daily basis that inad­ver­tently leads us to be reminded of you. You were, after all, our mother. And there’s no deny­ing a mother’s place in a child’s heart.

But Mom, though you are no longer with us, your spirit and legacy will live on.

Mom and us

Happy Mother’s Day, Ma.

by shenghan in Life on 8th May, 2011 at 5pm, Sunday, May 8th, 2011 05:08 pm GMT +8



That didn’t take long at all. Seems like it was just yes­ter­day I was mulling over a day like this. For many, day of reflec­tion. A day of res­o­lu­tion for some. For those in the job world, a pub­lic hol­i­day from the heav­ens.

2010 was a wild, wild ride. Where do I even begin to describe it. I orig­i­nally planned a mega-post look­ing back at the year, blow by blow, and to end every­thing with a blast. But as always, things got ahead of me and that post-to-be never came into fruition. All year long post ideas came and went. At times I’d won­der if blogs are still rel­e­vant now with Face­book, Tum­blr and Twit­ter tak­ing over online self-expression. Yet here I am, back in my old liar, fig­ur­ing out how to make up for my most inac­tive year in blog­ging yet.

I thought I’d updated when I got myself a new phone back in May to replace my 3-year-old W810i.

Danbo and the Legend

Then I thought I’d show off my lat­est addi­tion to my arse­nal of lenses: the amaz­ing Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM in October.

Danbo and the Sigma 30mm

In Novem­ber, I fig­ured I would update about my awe­some, spir­i­tu­ally enrich­ing trip to Japan.

Motomi­ta­maza, Atami with relatives

Then in Decem­ber, I had planned to churn another mega post to depict the mega flop that was our Mecha­tron­ics Sys­tems Design project: a Rubik’s cube solver robot.


This was eas­ily the let­down of the year. So much hope and effort was put into build­ing this that we couldn’t accept fail­ure; nor could we see it com­ing. But our final demon­stra­tion was a flop, and writ­ing about it now still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  Nonethe­less, along with team­mates Wil­fred and Kheng Shin, build­ing it was great fun and despite every­thing MSD is still one of my favourite sub­jects yet.

Rubik’s cube solver in action

2010 though, was so much more than what I had hoped to blog about. But as they say, ‘What hap­pened in 2010, stays in 2010′.

I almost for­got how it’s like becom­ing a Face­book wall zom­bie; enslaved by reply­ing to a bot­tom­less pit of wall post­ings com­ing in all day. And get­ting sore thumbs from all that tex­ting. But on a day like this, you wouldn’t mind.

For today’s the day I turn twenty-one.

Good­bye 2010; Happy 2011!

by shenghan in Life on 31st December, 2010 at 11pm, Friday, December 31st, 2010 11:58 pm GMT +8


Bytes: Post mid-terms and thoughts

Just fin­ished a string of mid-term tests when it dawned upon me just how we study these days, summed up best in the graph below I cre­ated cour­tesy of graphjam.


Nuff said.

P/s: Happy triple-10!

Edit: On sec­ond glance, I thought ‘Right after test’ does not make much sense now — why would any­one still study right after a test? At least as dic­tated by the Malaysian Edu­ca­tion Sys­tem, that’s down­right dumb. A bit of ratio­nale into why I thought so: I know a lot of us who would linger right out­side the exam hall after we’re cleared to leave, dis­sect­ing every ques­tion and that’s where I usu­ally realise how I got ques­tions wrong. And a lot of times mis­takes made at times like these are the ones that stuck.

babbled on 10th October, 2010 at 7pm, Sunday, October 10th, 2010 07:01 pm GMT +8 8 Comments

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