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!



Be with people who know what they have, when they have you!

Some thirty years ago, when I signed on the dotted line with SF, there was this decision we made to live with his parents. Of course, there were his two sisters, of marriageable age, but, sigh, very, very, not attached. And so, things fell neatly into place …. The kampung house they lived in was only to be demolished and they had to live in a flat, so SF and his elder sister applied for a 5-roomer and we moved in. I loved my parents-in-law. My mum-in-law was really sweet …. She cared for me like she would her daughters, brewing all sorts of nutritious soups for each one of us. We spoke in Hokkien, even though she was Hainanese-Cantonese. My sis-in-laws did their own thing ….. Then along came my three girls, and we were all one big happy family.

Today, as I write this, I wonder. I am grateful to both of them. My girls grew up with them and I could see they have nurturing instincts. Don’t all of us women? They loved my three girls and yes, though, sometimes I felt that they interfered a lot … By being too overly-concerned and too much of a worry-wort ….didn’t help too that one had a syndrome of “learned helplessness.” Then things changed when my Mum-in-law contracted cancer and my brother decided to meet his Maker … All in three short months. Scary, isn’t it?

Things went downhill, really downhill 😦 My mum struggled with depression. I struggled with depression, (I am writing this while having lunch in SQ278 heading back to Singapore from Adelaide, where I spent a glorious 8 days just being a mother, friend and teenager to Paulina, so forgive me if I sound too energized and upbeat!) Eight again, man, that’s my signature number, and yes, gotta invest in 0278 coz my luggage, which weighed 27.8 kg went thro. And My baggage allowance is only 20kg!

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, depression. It’s scary, and I lost 10 kg in 2 months …. It’s like you feel everything is dark, you wake up and don’t want to do anything, you just want to close your eyes and sleep …. and right smack in the middle of all this turbulence …. I had just taken over Janus Education and became managing director, instructor, marketing, administrative officer all rolled into one! Talk about family togetherness. I think all of us were struggling …. And none of us figured out what to do … I am not plugging my book, in fact, I am plugging it shamelessly 🙂 🙂 find out more in my latest book, Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! Ooh! This is so deliciously riveting, the orange, the sparkling …. The food I mean, nothing else. And of course, my book!

Okay, forgive the deviation. It’s hard to talk about it. But I discovered writing about it is so therapeutic … We live under one roof, but we hardly ever talk! Don’t know why, don’t know if it’s coz we have different outlook about life but hey, I lived with them for 19 years until 2003, then we moved back together back in 2007 …. But we hardly ever talk! So everyday when I get back, I’ll go to my study room, which is Pam’s room, and do my own stuff. Used to bug me …. Wonder why we became this way (strains of Cliff Richard’s We Don’t Talk Anymore 🙂 ) but yes, I wonder. But I guess if this didn’t happen, I won’t have time to write, to read and of course, to travel on my own! Yes, I think both my sis-in-law are good people, but too hemmed in by rules and conformity and fear of death. God, everyone fears death, which is why we have to live now! They are enduring life. They have to embrace it! C’est la vie! There is so much to be thankful for!