I have lost count of the number of people who have asked me how I am going to spend my Chinese New Year. The answer invariably was that I would let it pass by quietly. That was exactly what I had planned. There were too many reasons why I would have preferred to be alone.
Many things have happened lately and not the way that I had anticipated. I do not celebrate the advent of spring anymore simply because I live alone. Decking the apartment in all shades of red for a few weeks is not my idea of merriment. I dread festivities because of the memories it would invoke. I would really have appreciated moments of solitude hoping that the days would zip by speedily and the festivities be over soon.
Man proposes, God disposes. Just two days ago, Uncle Paul called me to say that he was coming with his family and asked if there was any place for them to bunk in. They arrived from Melaka yesterday evening and my apartment has been a hive of activity since. Adel had also intimated to me that she and a few of the Secular Franciscans would love to come and celebrate the occasion together with me. My neighbour Soon Leong and his wife have also invited me to join his family in their reunion lunch tomorrow.
How am I going to spend my Chinese New Year? With all these good people of course! I will enjoy their company when they are here and appreciate my time alone when there is no one around. Nevertheless, the Chinese New Year will never be the same again without my parents. The atmosphere of those days had faded away a long time ago.
Change has come and has caught up with me without my realising it. Things may never be the same again but the seasons will continue to come and go. I will either have to adapt to the evolution of time or wither away with it. Choices like these are sometimes difficult to make when things do not look bright at the other end.
This is a beautiful morning. I woke up to a cool breeze. The sun has not gotten too harsh yet. It is all bright and cheery and so difficult not to be infected by the good spirits that is prevailing. It is such a stark contrast against the gloom that had hung over me yesterday. I thought about yesterday and the events that had unfolded since I left Dr. Liong’s clinic came rushing back in an unending torrent of despair.
What could I have done so wrong within those six months that could have caused my creatinine level to leapfrog to such a critical level? I have been cautious with my diet, counting the portions and all. Yes, there were times that I indulged but that was far and few in between. I have to keep a strict diet from now on. Indulgences will have to become a thing of the past.
Again, thoughts of death clung on to me, infusing into every cell in my body. I am not afraid of death itself but the process of dying. I fear the suffering, not of my own but the people who have to suffer along with me. I can fully relate to seeing death slowly eating away a loved one. I can relate to the feeling of helplessness and futility. The impotence of those moments was an absolutely traumatic experience.
I have been thinking about all the things that I have yet to accomplish. My time here is getting shorter by the day. I thought about Wuan and I wept. We had promised to grow old together. We had promised to still be holding each other’s hand and still be as loving even when we are into our sixties and seventies. I had promised to look after her to the best of my abilities. She had devoted so much of her life to me. She had made my life so much more meaningful and made those depressing moments easier to bear. She had been patient, understanding, and most of all, a faithful companion beyond compare. Of all things, I worry most for her.
I pray that God give her strength as He had always given me for us to surmount this uncertain period together. She had been really worried since I broke the news to her but Wuan being Wuan did only what she knows best – to cheer me up despite her own anxieties. She had always been concerned for my well-being and took the trouble to learn about my problems and adapted her lifestyle to accommodate me. God has truly blessed me with an angel of a friend. And I pray that He will continue to bless us and allow us to spend a little more time together than He had intended.
I thought that my life in Penang was monotonous. I did not realise that it can be even more ho-hum in KL. Wuan wakes up at 5:45am to cook my lunch and goes off to work while I am still in bed. I do not get to see her until around 8:00pm when she gets back from work with our dinner. I am home alone throughout the day, surfing intermittently and enjoying the sight of the little patch of unkempt greenery Wuan calls her garden. Since moving to an apartment, which incidentally is close to the hills, it is not often that I am in such close proximity to so many different types of plants.
Outside the compound, beside the road, the frangipani tree shows off her unmistakable maroon blooms. Heliconias, lilies, cannas and a magnolia tree straddle the fence. The pomegranate tree stands tall with its solitary fruit hanging ponderously by the tiny twig holding it. Several bamboo shoots peer out from behind. Birdnest and staghorn ferns look out of place in their pots and hanging on the wall. There are yam plants, ginger shrubs, cekur and pots of adeniums.
Adeniums – two of those I brought for Wuan when I came to see her for the first time five years ago; another two when Mum and I visited Wuan a couple of years later. Mum had a garden full of these adeniums, also known as Desert Rose or fu gui hua in Chinese. These are the only remaining four that Mum had cultivated from seedlings. The rest she gave away when we moved, including six lorry-loads of other garden plants.
This solitude has given me an opportunity to reflect on things away from the familiar confines of my apartment. There are just too many distractions at home, too many memories and too much lingering grief to keep a calm mind. There are memories here too, like the adeniums and the crystal tree Wuan displays prominently on top of her television. Mum had helped me choose that clear quartz tree. It reminds me very much of Mum and brought back beautiful memories, precious and most cherished.
Wuan had been trying to get me to come for a long time. Somehow, I always had something to do. I am glad I made this trip finally. Being away from the comforts of home has posed some challenges. It has also opened my eyes to the kind-heartedness of strangers. Their sincere smiling faces while assisting me along the way from Penang to KL tells that there is hope yet, especially after the indescribably sad catastrophe in the region. The monotony here is just a little price to pay for regaining some clarity of mind and to be reminded of the beauty of humanity.