2003 – The Year That Was

2003 is a year that will forever be etched in my mind as a year of evolutions. Mum’s illness and subsequent passing on affected me in more ways than one. I suddenly grew up and for the first time, I had to take responsibility and make decisions which I never thought I would make. It is a wonder how fast one can mature when faced with a crisis.

Among the most painful choices that I had to make was to stop treatment and medication for Mum, and the decision not to resuscitate her. Mum knew that her time was up and told me she wanted to die at home. That was her last wish and one which I was determined to fulfil. When Mum sank into unconsciousness, I was resolute in not sending her back to the hospital. I did not want to prolong the extreme suffering she was going through. I did not want Mum to leave in a cold hospital room devoid of the people that she loved most.

It is a wonder how one fleeting moment can totally change my convictions in the existence, presence and absolute power of the Supreme Being we all know as God. I have never prayed as earnestly as I had for Mum’s recovery. In fact, I have never seriously prayed. I have never believed in the all-encompassing powers of God.

Three hours before Mum’s passing, the Prayer Group from the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit came to pray for her. Mum was already unconscious then. Mum was a Catholic and I was not. But prayed I did, in my very own ways, with all with my heart. I have never asked God for anything but on that night, I begged Him to heal Mum with all the sincerity that I possessed. Although I was already prepared for the worst, I still harboured hopes that Mum would suddenly and miraculously recover.

“God, please give Mum back her health,” I silently prayed, amidst the singing of hymns and prayers, “and make her well again.” I vowed that I would become a believer should Mum recover. What I saw in my mind absolutely dismayed me, but at the same time, an unexpected bliss overcame me.

I saw in my mind’s eye the vision of Mum, resplendent and radiating, and smiling. She was being lifted from her bed on both sides by what I believed were angels. Mum never looked better. For a moment, exhilaration swept over me. I have never seen Mum any more beautiful than that. As I opened my eyes, the singing of hymns jolted me into reality. And tears flowed down my cheeks. Deep inside, I had an inexplicable realisation that Mum had already left me. Perhaps that was God’s way of telling me that He had taken Mum into his fold and that she was no longer suffering the worldly pains that had anguished her, and me, so much for the past few weeks.

Two hours later, Mum’s breathing became laboured. Still, I had hoped that it was a temporary distress that she was going through. With the seconds ticking away, Mum’s breathing became more laborious and was slowing down. I kept telling Mum that I was beside her, asked her to do whatever she thought was right, not to be afraid and that Jesus will look after her. I held Mum as she breathed her last breath, kissed her gently on the cheek and whispered softly into her ear, “I love you Mum. Thank you for everything. Do not worry for me; I know how to take care of myself. Go in peace. You are with Jesus now.” Those must be the most heartbreaking words I have told Mum, ever. Mum died in my arms as how she had so lovingly cradled me in hers when I first came into this world.

I fought hard to hold back my tears. I did not want to cry in her presence. I wanted to be strong for her in her final moments. In all honesty, I hoped Mum would go peacefully and not hold back should she hear me cry. As soon as I was out of Mum’s room, I held my Uncle Paul and cried my heart out. I have never been more heartbroken.

In a way, I was glad that Mum passed away at home where she felt most comfortable in. She was surrounded by loved ones, especially her younger brother, my Uncle Paul, whom she was very fond of. Uncle Paul, Aunty Maggie, Aileen and Vincent (Uncle Paul and Aunty Maggie’s children), Aileen’s boyfriend, Peter and Ah Im (my cousin and his wife) and Mr. Tan (our neighbour) were by her side until the very last. I cannot think of a better send off than being in the presence of people who had treasured her most.

Mum’s passing has changed me in many ways. I have become more independent and realised that I am not as disabled as I thought. I could do many of the things that Mum used to do for me. Most of all, Mum’s passing has brought the goodness of God into my life. I have started Catechism under the tutelage of Anne Ooi of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. And to think that I once abhorred all forms of organised religions, especially Christianity. This past one year, I have been transformed from being happily ignorant of what life really is all about to understanding the intrinsic worth of my existence. I have learnt to value each and every day more, to count my blessings and to extol the compassion that God is raining on me.

This is also the time for me to thank all the people who had helped me weather one of the most difficult years of my life. This one year alone, I have made more friends than I had made in the three decades of my life.

I would like to thank Wuan for being there for me in my times of need. After Mum, she is my pillar of strength where I go to lean on whenever I become feeble from the toils of my angst. I would like to thank Rosalynn for her care and concern. You cared for me like a sister, and more.

I would like to thank Peter, my cousin, for always being there. He is the brother that I did not have. I would like to thank my maternal uncles and aunties for their care and concern during Mum’s illness and for my welfare after Mum’s passing. I would like to thank my cousin Anna for her prayers and help during my bereavement. It meant a lot to me that Mum was greatly comforted with hymns and prayers during those last few days.

I would like to thank Mr. Tan, my neighbour, for being there for Mum and me at a time when we had no one to turn to. I would like to thank Soon Leong and his wife, also my neighbours, for the innumerable goodness that they had so unconditionally shower on Mum and me during our times of need. I would like to thank all my other neighbours at Taman Pekaka who had helped me in one way or another.

I would like to thank Jenny Tan, my former physiotherapist, for her concern for Mum, and my well being. She is one of the few people I can call on whenever I need help. I would like to thank Karen Gan and Dato Dr. T. Devaraj of the Hospice-at-Home Programme, Penang Branch, for providing Mum and me with all the support we needed to nurse Mum at home.

I would like to thank Pauline Ng for being more than a friend. We have not met yet but I have learnt so much about life from you. You have also taught me about friendship and what it really meant. I would like to thank Anne Ooi and Adel for giving their time in showing me the way to God. There are many paths to God and with their guidance, I hope I can walk all of them.

Last but not least, I would like to thank those who had left messages of support and encouragement in my blog and guestbook. I cannot put a face to your names but I know all of you have a heart of gold. I would like to thank those who have helped me, those who have enriched my life with the little kindness that they had showered on me. My life is better because of you. Thank you. Here’s wishing you all a productive and blessed 2004.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Minion to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

9 thoughts on “2003 – The Year That Was”

  1. A beautiful post. I have been dismissive of the new year, choosing to ignore the significance of the date. But in that I have forgotten that there is much to be thankful about of the past year. I hope you have a wonderful new year ahead of you, Peter!

  2. I hope you have a wonderful year ahead, too, Prema. Despite everything, last year was a blessed one. God may have taken Mum away but he also gave me many many beautiful friends. You are one of them. I count my blessing everyday to have people like you sending good wishes and encouraging words my way. Thank you.

  3. there was one day.. it had been two years since then.

    i had just finished a tiring day at school. my dad came to pick me and my brother up and he was unusually quiet. dad said my mom went for a checkup. he took me into the clinic where she was..leaving my brother in the car. i felt..weird. i sat down in the living room and my dad told me mom might be sick. she found a lump..my heart sank. i don’t know how to describe it to you.. but it hit me.. so bad.. i cried right there in the waiting room. my dad told me not to cry because we weren’t sure of it. he told me not to tell my brother..

    my mom came out of the dr’s office. they said the results would be in in the evening. we watched tv.. and we talked about it.. smiling and watching astro while drinking tea. a call came in. mom spoke on the phone.. as soon as she put down the phone.. she cried. i knew what that meant. i ran and hugged my mother so tight … i cried.. my daddy cried.. my brother.. didnt know…but eventually did..and even he couldn’t take it.. i couldn’t take it. i ran into my room… i cried.. for days.. barely eating. barely living. and spm was just around the corner. i thought my world had ended.. everything was downhill.. even my dad.. then one day i thought to myself.. why was i crying? mom is gonna be alright. we should be there for her. we should be smiling for her. we had hope. we went to kl where my mom was reffered to one of the best doctors in Gleneagles. She was operated on and doctor said that with the size of that lump, it was amazing that it didn’t even spread. a miracle they called my mom. i was never more happier in my life.

    i have matured over the years with the many things i have gone through. i have learnt that with what He takes from us, he gives us just as much..just in different forms =)

    you too sir are blessed.. hehe..you have Wuan beside you every step of the way.. not many are that lucky and it seems to me she is one helluva lady. i read your post and it made me look back..it made me smile how beautifully one can write… i’m sorry i posted a long comment here.. altho i should have blogged about it.. but it isnt something i would want to blog about.. but something i wanted to share with you.. 🙂

    may 2004 and the years to come bring you prosperity and happiness. Happy New Year Peter!!!!!! =)

  4. 2003 have been a very diffcult year for many who have to grieved their loss ones as a result of SARS (here is HK). Peter, you are blessed with opportunity to be with her when she left. It is something of a blessing for all. I am glad you could expressed yourself through the website your feeling,etc. I griefed 3 years ago when I created http://www.emelaka.com in remembrance of my mother who departed suddenly. My kind aunt also left suddenly in 2003.

    Lets start the year with what we still have. Good health is one of them and peopel we love. Happy 2004 to you and your virtual supporters!!

  5. Natasha,
    I have read and re-read what you wrote many times. Your pain during those uncertain times is one that I can profoundly relate to. There were tears in my eyes when the memories of those last few months with Mum came pouring back while reading your story.

    I am happy to know that things turned out well for your Mum. When things like these happen, there is a lesson to be learnt. When we are on the brink of losing someone we love dearly, we wished we could have done more to love her and tell her how much we appreciate all her sacrifices.

    You, Natasha, is being given that opportunity. I am sure you now treasure even more every moment with your Mum, and your family, after that incident. Sometimes, it takes something like this to make us realise how important family can be, when otherwise we would have been busy with our own affairs to appreciate the things that are dear to us.

    And yes, Wuan is a wonderful person. She took my burdens and made it hers. She took my sorrows and shared all my pain. All things said, she was always there for me. I am surrounded by angels. I am truly blessed.

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story with me. It may be a long post, but it just shows how much compassion you have. We may be strangers in real life, passing each other without knowing it, but in here, you are a friend indeed, one that I treasure. Thank you.

    May this new year be filled with happiness and contentment for you and your loved ones.

  6. TK,
    Sharing my grief through this site really does lessen the pain. I have virtually the whole world taking bits and pieces of this untold sorrow and turning it into love and compassion, and friendship.

    Happy New Year to you and here’s wishing that 2004 will be a better year for you and the people of Hong Kong.

  7. Spit,
    I do not know if I found God or God found me. I was one who never believed in a greater power. I had been ignorantly agnostic for the past three decades. It is a wonder, almost a miracle, that one single moment can totally change my spiritual perception and make me acknowledge that there indeed is a God who is looking over us. Suddenly, everything is so much clearer.

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