Life's A Journey, Education's A Marathon

Years ago, my neighbour asked me while looking at my 5 year-old elder boy playing with chalks in front of our house, "Can he spell 'Apple'?"

"No" I replied, hesitating in my heart, heh, I thought I should let him play at this age?

"Well, my daughter could spell it for some time already!" she mocked in amazement. Her daughter was 6.

Goodness gracious! That prompted me to look for all kinds of ways to teach my boy to read. Heaven knows I'd tried ALL ways, I made him memorized the letters in the alphabet, pasted labels naming everything in the house, we sang nursery rhymes together etc. He just couldn't catch it! And the very expensive nursery/kindergarten we'd put him in didn't help much either.

Finally, I found a phonic programme and personally coached him and his younger brother for a year each. Thank God by the age of 7, both could read The Straits Times.

Then came the agony of Primary School. Goodness gracious again! The bulk of school work he had to cope with was unthinkable! It didn't help much when he fell ill frequently; often with headache and tummyache, signs of stress.

Through the years, we'd pumped in so much money, giving both our boys tuition in Chinese and Mathematics. My elder son pulled through his PSLE with an average score that managed to put him in the Express Stream in Secondary School.

My mom has a stroke when he was in Sec. 2. I couldn't at all concentrate on his studies anymore. He was frustrated with his Maths. He didn't like Science very much either. The only delight that motivated him through the drudgery of secondary school years was his NPCC.

Seeing his struggle with studies, I'd often wondered whether he would ever do better in school.

Then in Sec 3, he started bringing home distinctions in 'unimportant' subjects such as ethics, and the likes, you know? Not the important subjects that count in GCE 'O' level aggregate calculation. And being the practical mother that I was, I said, "I'm not impressed, do well in the other subjects instead!"

It was a good thing my son retorted, "You are always like that! You always say this!" Goodness gracious! What did I always say?

I realized I'd only placed emphasis on his academic subjects and didn't give him praise for other things that he did well. Seeing his hurt expression, I quickly apologized, "Sorry, sorry, you have done well in these, I do hope you can also do well in the rest, but you have indeed done well in these too, son. I'm sorry, I shall not be like this again."

Then, things happened. He started coming home with distinctions in English, then History, then Geography, and gaining new found confidence daily. Praise God.

Fast forward to today. He is in SMU second year, pursuing a course in Political Science, perhaps taking up another major in the course of time. He came back last night with a crystal plaque inscribed with these words, "The School of Social Sciences, certifies that (name) has been placed on the Dean's list for meritorious performance in Academic Year 2007-2008". That means he belongs to the top ten in his faculty!

And he has that sweet smile on his face, just like the one he always had years back whenever he came back with good news that he did well in this and that.

THIS is the same boy I'd fret and worried over all these years, since he was 5. My elder son.

Phew! :)

Pss ... tell you about my younger son on another occasion. :)


Growing Old, Growing Up

What is the average life span? Three score and ten? People seem to live longer than that nowadays, unless life is cut short by unforseen circumstances.

I don't want to live too long. Just long enough to see my sons grow up, settle down, perhaps get the chance to tickle my grandchildren a little bit, that's enough.

One of the reasons I'm tired of living sometimes, is ... I'm tired of repeating the same mistakes. There are mistakes that I'll make over and over again, no matter how I've been reminding myself NOT to repeat them.

Creature of habits eh? It is often said, "When you want to get rid of a bad habit, starve it!"

So easy meh?

Well, I must say that by God's grace, I've progressed or matured quite a bit over the years, yet, not at the rate I would love to grow. My former pastor once said, "Some people grow old but never grow up!"

How very true. Gasp! I hope I'm not one of them!

Aaaargh! I wish to practise more self-control, keep my disagreements to myself in the company of others. Cos' very soon, I'll be doing something different again. I pray that this time, I'll do better than to repeat the usual mistakes.

Must remember to keep my disagreements to myself, because most of the time, my opinions don't matter and are inconsequential to the development of events, which usually are beyond my control anyway.

Better grow up.


Life is a Gift

My mind darts back and forth this whole week. I can't rest till I've made sense of what'd happened.

Within two months, I'd lost two friends.

Esther, mother of my elder son’s best friend, died about 2 months’ back. She died from cancer “of an unknown source” at the age of 52.

She didn’t want to die.

“What'll happen to my son? I’ve pampered him since young, is he mature enough to take care of himself?” she asked me. (Her son is 22)

“What'll happen to my mom? I’ve cared for her to the best of my abilities. I gave her a good life, the best food ... Non others care for her as much as I did, who'll take care of her when I'm gone?"

She didn’t want to die.

She wanted to fulfill her filial piety, and watch her two children grow, get married etc… She couldn't let go of life.

But, she died eventually.

Esther had been a person with quite a temper (I heard). Yet in her last days, I was privileged to witness her courage and love.

Despite her great discomfort, she was kind to the nurses and enquired about the well-beings of all her visitors. In fact when I visited her at the hospital, she expressed her concern over something that had happened to me recently. I was really touched.

It is not easy to be cheerful and considerate when you are sick, much less if you are dying from a terminal illness. And if you are not a calm person by nature, it’ll take much more effort.

I appreciated Esther’s testimony. When her pain intensified, she asked the nurse for a morphine injection. She didn't want to distress those around her. She said in pain, “I don’t want to show my ugly side.” I admired her, this sister whom I hardly know. If I ever have to go through such a trial, may God give me the strength to be a blessing to the end. Every minute counts.

PC, my former colleague, died 5 days’ ago. She jumped from a building. She died from unknown reasons.

She didn’t want to live.

PC, a gem of a friend, forever kind and forgiving, she was the first to extend her friendship to me when I was new at my job.

She had troubles of her own which she refused to divulge. She suffered from depression and no one knew. She had been planning her suicide, and in the midst of it, still paused to do me a favour which I’d asked for without letting me know. She left a note at her work place, listing all the unfinished errands. She left a note to her friends and police, indicating that her death was by suicide and no one was to be implicated. She left a note to her family, listing all the repairs that need to be done in the house, a semi-detached, saying that the mortgage had been paid and they are free to sell it or continue to live in it. She also apologized that she didn’t do enough to maintain the condition of the house. She reminded them to switch off the fans every night. She left another note to apologize to someone for choosing that particular day to die, which coincided with that someone's birthday.

Can you grasp the essence of her character?

But she didn’t want to live!

Life held nothing desirable for her to hang on to. She simply gave up . She'd quitted life.

When one is suicidal, one is not trying to escape from life, but from pain. But no one picked up her distress signals, she covered them well. She only told me she was worried about many things. She asked me to meet her (to bid farewell), but I was worried about things in my own life and declined!

Among all forms of death (from sickness, accident and suicide), suicide pains the bereaved family the most as they can’t seek closure to the death.

The delusion that plagued a depressed person is that he/she will never recover from the depression. This is not true! A depressed person will eventually recover if he/she seeks help.

Is a cup half full or empty? Perspectives affect choices. Our perspectives are affected by our physical and mental well being. I believe that if PC would seek help, she would eventually recover from her depression, see her problems in perspectives and handle them wisely.

When we are physically sick, we can't do our work. When we are mentally sick, we can't think straight. PC made the wrong choice.

I attended PC’s funeral yesterday morning at Bright Hill. We waited for about half an hour, the hearse finally came. Someone exclaimed, “They are here!” I turned around, and momentarily misconstrued the statement to “PC is here!”

PC’s photo hung in front of the hearse, her smile that always warmed my heart… It really looked like she was coming towards us. I almost responded in my heart, “Hi PC!” Then I saw it was her hearse. Her body inside, how mangled could it be?

She is now ashes ...

We lost her.

I drew many lessons here, like, make time for your friends, count your blessings, life is short etc. But the main lesson is this: LIFE IS A GIFT, TREASURE IT!

I couldn’t react much when I was with all the other ex-colleagues at the funeral. Everything happened so fast! Now that I'm alone, I can think. I didn't realize PC had made such an impact on me. I cherish her friendship. When I pause to recall her supportive smile, tears well up. I'm beginning to feel a sense of lost. I know I will never encounter another fine soul like her.

Things that are seen are transient; things that are unseen are eternal.

After loosing two friends within two months, I’d met up with two other friends on two different days, and spent time with them. It WAS good catching up.

Life is a gift, treasure it!