Life is not about the number of breaths you take, but about the moments that take your breath away

Life is not about the number of breaths you take, but about the moments that take your breath away

Sometimes we have to look fear straight in the eye to understand the reality of death. I had a brush with it in a Beijing taxi one cold October night in 1997. I saw it in my mum-in-law’s eyes a few days before she died. Today I saw it in my brother-in-law’s eyes. I can’t describe it …. It’s like you know you are going some place else, first you are scared, then you realize that there’s nothing to be scared of …. And you close your eyes and sleep. And so you die peacefully.

As I sit in the chair in Tan Tock Seng Hospital ward 12C, this truth hit me so brutally hard that I had to sit and get this all down. I look at Ah Kwee, my sis-in-law’s husband, who is now on a machine and has just been injected with some kind of medicine to boost his heart pressure which has become critically low. The doctor has just informed his wife and children to make a decision on whether to give life support if he needs it. And that he might not be able to last through the night ….

Ah Kwee was a jovial, rotund guy. Now he is like a walking skeleton, with only a layer of skin and a tummy that is extremely huge as his system has ceased to be effective anymore. And as I see everyone crowd around him, and at a loss on what to do, a certain phrase hit me ….. Is life about the number of breaths you take? Or about the moments that take your breath away?

Ah Kwee laboured as a driver since young, and never took any breaks …. Now, well, now that he could sort of relax since his kids are like 36, 34 and 22, suddenly, it’s like the air has just run out of him and he is like a deflated balloon. My heart really goes out to my sis-in-law and their children ….

And as I sit here contemplating, it begs the question, how do you live your life? How do I live mine? It becomes all the more urgent that we have to live it now. It’s about the quality, not the quantity …. Not how much you have, but how to enjoy what you have. Don’t wait for the “if I have this much …” or “when I can retire ….”

Because contentment is about the now. It’s doing thing now. Feeling the peace now. So right now, I am going to do what I want to do. To do what I have to do.

Things just fall into place ….. My book about “living a life that transcends your own,” I really feel I know where I am heading to now.

And I pray for Ah Kwee to go to a place where he can rest, and be with God!