Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Last Dance For Laoma

I am now seated here... a few days after the funeral of my grandmother... trying to remember and make sense of everything that happened in the past week or so...

Tuesday... 21 March was rather uneventful in the morning by any standard... Grandma opened her eyes again every now and then but only a little bit. Her breathing is slower, shallower... The only thing I noticed that is different about her today is that when we tried to move her body to a different side every two hours, she stopped being bothered.

Usually when we turn her, she will frown and show that she is uncomfortable at being moved about but today, she is just "asleep" in whichever position. She stopped making any noises and I saw her lips move... looks like she is trying to chant nam myo ho ren ge kyo...

Seems like grandma is gone but at the same time still holding on... I kept telling her that it is ok to go and that we will take care of ourselves... I asked her if she had anything else that is holding her back and I tried to join with her... I realized I was holding on to her too and did lots of letting go again...

I think also, it seems like grandma felt very bu gan yuan to just leave like that. But as we joined... I think she started to let go of that thinking and emotion too.

By the evening, Ace finished school and came by. I let Max and Ace spend some time alone with Laoma and Max suggested that Ace do a dance for her... so he found some funky music and Ace started dancing... He did quite a long dance.. for about 5 minutes... Little did we know that this will be his very last dance for her.

Ace dancing for laoma...
 After he finished dancing, we decided to make a move as I made appointment to have dinner with my in laws. We havent been visiting them much with grandma falling deeper into the coma and thought we will go visit them that night. We even made plans for S to cook dinner for us on Wednesday and Ace even placed order for all his favorite indonesian dishes.

We went for dinner and went home and went about our daily lives. At around 9pm that night, my sister sent a message to our family group chat and informed us that the Dr came to visit grandma...

The dr said that grandma's BP was very low at 114. He said that if her BP continued to drop below 100, it will be a matter of 24-48 hrs before she passes on.. He also mentioned that her pneumonia has gotten worse and that she will likely take longer and longer and longer breathes till she breathes her last.

I was thinking that Grandma can likely  last a little longer since in the afternoon when we measured her BP, it was 106 and it went up again. My cousin in Australia was due to be home on Thursday and I was thinking perhaps she might just get a chance to see grandma one last time...

But by 11, my aunty sent us a message that grandma's legs have gotten cold and her breathing is more shallow. Her BP reading hit an all time low of 90. That sent us into a frenzy.... Me and Max decided we will leave Ace at home and go to grandma's house immediately....

When we arrived, Grandma's BP had gotten a little higher...

I looked at grandma... and thought that she still seemed ok. Her breathing was as slow and as shallow as it had been when I left her at 6pm in the evening. If you put your hand on her, you could feel the whole bed jerk as she breathed in because that was how much effort it took her to breath and it breaks my heart to see her like that...  As I reached out to touch her feet, I noticed her feet had gone cold. The bottom of her left foot near the toes and near the heel had turned a shade of purple that you only see in people who have froze bite... It was worrying as my second uncle told us previously that usually if a person's feet goes cold slowly to their knees, they are certain to be leaving soon.

My aunty, dad, mum, sis, Max and me sat around grandma and started chanting for her... My cousin, Suan arrived and chanted... somewhere around 12 plus, my mum suggested that Max go home so that he can keep Ace company and so Max went home.. we sat there and chanted and because I had to wake extra early that day to bring Ace to school to prepare for his Earth Day dance performance, I was really tired... we chanted and chanted... and I suddenly woke to realize that I had fallen asleep while chanting... I touched grandma's feet, it felt less cold and the normal colouring seemed to be returning to her feet too..

I realized that my mum, who had been staying over for the past few nights had also fallen asleep while chanting and so my aunty suggested that we all go an take a rest.

We went out to the living room and put mattresses on the floor and slept.

At around 6am in the morning, I heard noises of my parents waking and deciding to go home because they had to get Cay ready for school. My sis had to get ready for work too and so they said goodbye to grandma and left. My sis said that when she went in to say goodbye, grandma's breathing had gotten really shallow and slow... different from how it was the night before...

The alarm in my phone went off at 6.30 and I woke to switch it off but because I was so tired, I went back to lie down again.

But because of the alarm, I was somewhat awake and so a few minutes later when my aunty came out of the room and told D, who was staying over with us, "I think she is gone... I think my mother is gone.." I immediately jumped out of bed and went to see my grandma...

But I noticed that her chest was moving and wondered why my Aunty said she is gone. Apparently my aunty saw her take such a slow, long breath, it seems as if her breath has stopped. But it was the last time I saw her chest move. That slow, long breath, was my grandmother's last....

I was in a daze. I messaged Max and he said he will drop by after he sent Ace to school. I sent a message to the family group chat and so... grandma left us at 6.37am on a Wednesday morning on  22 April 2015.

Ace was lucky in that he met our neighbour who offered to send him to school together with her children. Max told Ace but Ace did not seem to register that grandma has died.. perhaps he is still shocked.

Max and I discussed whether Ace will cry in school as he is usually a little slower to feel his emotions..

I went home and edited another pic that my aunt sent to me. I sent out the two photos I did and asked my cousins to choose the picture they prefer to use at grandma's funeral. Everyone voted for the picture on the right...

It turned out to be such a great choice because this picture was like Mona Lisa's smile... it was grandma in one of her happier moments and she was smiling so happily. Actually, my grandma does not smile often in her life before her dementia... After her dementia, these moments are actually more frequent but as she does not like to take pictures, it is not always possible to take a picture of her smiling. This picture was taken about a year ago and she looked so happy. The picture seemed like Mona Lisa because we realized that no matter where we stood at the wake... when we look at the picture, it will seem as if grandma is actually smiling at us.

Grandma's helper, S, told me that this is grandma's expression when she will say, "If you are naughty, wait I beat you ah..." and then will put her hand on our cheek and sayang us...She used to say that often to us when we were young.. she wil say if we are naughty she will smack our buttocks.. but she never did. Perhaps everything hasnt sunk in yet.

When he returned home, Ace said he did cry in school as he thought about Laoma. However, he called earlier and wondered if he could take a bus to the interchange with his friends. I thought it was strange for him to still be thinking of playing with his friends on this day...

When he came to the place where the wake was held, Ace did not seemed to unhappy too. He stared at me as I cried when grandma's body got sent back to the wake after being embalmed and made up. It was heartbreaking to see her in a coffin and even more so when we were told to call out to her and tell her that she has come back... My mum cried really sadly then because she said only when she saw the body in the coffin did it hit her that Laoma is really gone...

While walking round her coffin to look at her, I cried real badly and the men from the casket company reminded me not to drop any tears onto my grandmother's body. Apparently they will not leave in peace if we do that.

Afterward, Ace was all happy to play with his favorite cousins and they were running about the void deck together...

At 8pm, it was time to do prayers. Since grandma was chanting Nam Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo even when in coma, the whole family agreed that we should hold her wake using SOKA rites. I asked Ace to do chanting beside me and chant for laoma.

Perhaps it is only during this time when he stopped running around that he had time to sit down and really digest the information. While chanting, Ace suddenly started crying... His crying slowly turned into inconsolable sobbing and he cried and cried and cried so hard. I just hugged him and continued chanting. Strangely, at this moment, I felt my grandma's presence behind me. I felt her warm love radiating from behind me, warming up my entire back as if she was trying to console Ace by drowning his sorrows in her massive ocean of love. That is how my grandma is.. though she is a very stern mother to my father and his siblings, she was always nothing but jovial, kind and patient to us, her grandchildren and she loved us so much and always showed her love in everything and everyway she could... After crying hard for 10 minutes or so... Ace stopped and went back to playing.

I asked him afterward what he was crying about and he said that it was when he was seated down that the reality of the fact that Laoma is dead and gone forever hit him and so he could not help but sob and cry his heart out.

The next few days for the funeral was a blur for me. Ace had fun everyday playing with his cousins. Laoma's kana sun (great grandchildren) ran about the void deck and played all sorts of games together. Age was not and issue and the children.. aged 2-15 just ran around playing games together and really bonded.

All the cousins playing together at the wake...

The adults like us.. hung around late at night when we had to shou ye and drank, talked cock, told jokes. We had long, unproductive meetings (cos everyone wanted to express their opinion after a few drinks... my eldest cousin, Kiat , who is head of "committee" / 主席said no more drinking if we have meeting and my sis said then no one will wanna come meetings... wahahaha)
Our 主席working hard to hang up the towels sent to us...

We shared little known family secrets and titbits about the Peng Family history. In those few nights, we played MJ, had karaoke sessions where we played Laoma's favorite songs for her using the sound system... I must say her favourite teochew children's song sounded a little eerie late in the night...

Grandma's favourite teochew song..

My dad was the only son who stayed up late every night. Partially cos the wake was held at the void deck of his house and his other siblings all stayed far away... I think it was also cos he wanted to spend as much time as he could with grandma... I could tell he was really sad and perhaps cannot bear to see his mother go. After all, they had close to 70 years of relationship... In front of others, he put up a brave front and said things like... She is blessed to live till ripe old age of 91 and that it is inevitable.. but whenever he thinks we cannot see or if you connected to his true emotions... my dad is really just an ocean of sadness... My uncles and aunts were all very sad too and everyone showed their sadness in different ways...

In those days, I often went to look at grandma sleeping in her casket. She really looked very peaceful and looked as if she was just sleeping. I often thought I saw her breathing and thought she might wake up.. Even Ace went to see her once and came running to me saying that he saw Laoma breathe... And then it will hit me that she is never going to open her eyes again...

On the very last day, my cousin, Wee, sent his Lion Dance troupe and they did a Flag performance that was done specially for funerals. It was really impressive and I had never seen anything like this.

After that, we did prayers for grandma... we sent her off on her last journey... While the car park we were walking out of is a familiar place, the whole things just felt so strange, so unfamiliar and so surreal...

When we went to the crematorium, we did the prayers and then were sent to a room. We could hear the people in the next room calling out, "Pa! Pa!" as they cried...

And then, it was grandma's turn... Ace somehow managed to squeeze all the way to the front as he squatted down to look at what is happening. Thank goodness, the coffin was sent into the furnace and before anything happened, they closed the doors. Unlike my grandfather's funeral where they only closed the door after we saw the fire burning the coffin, I feel this is probably a more humane way of doing things.

As I was crying when her coffin went into the furnace, I also felt this buzzing in my head and I felt lots of grace and blessings pouring in from the heavens. Though I was still crying as I was sad to see her go, this made me certain that my grandma IS in a better place now and is holding hands with friends from higher places.. That gave me so much peace and made it less painful and so, I don't feel as sad as I did for my grandfather's funeral.

I guess it is also because I was blessed that in her last days, grandma gave me so much time to be with her and be in service for her.. to spend time with her, talk to her, feed her, hold her hand, help clean and turn her around when needed... she gave me time to tell her all that I wanted to tell her.. she gave me the chance to see her breathe her last (as it was my only regret that i did not see my grandfather's last breadth)

I asked Ace now that he has his first experience with death of a loved one.. how does he see death differently as compared to before.

He said, "Last time I thought that if a person dies, they die lor. We just cannot see them forever lor... But now I know that when a person dies, we actually miss them very very much..."

I reminded him that he has to remember also that when a person goes, they will always be alive in our hearts and it will always be possible for us to connect with them in our minds whenever we want to.

PS: A week after grandma's funeral, I was wondering how grandma is doing and then I suddenly realized that she is no longer with us and that I no longer need to wonder about that or worry about her... :(

Previous Post: Sending Her On Her Last Journey

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sending Her On Her Last Journey

Cousin brought photo albums to see if there were any pics of grandma we can use and I saw this picture from 9 years ago...
 Today is the first day that Grandma was without her drip.

Since Max was going soccer, I asked him to drop me off before he left and I went to her house in the morning so that I could help to care for her and spend more time with her.

When I arrived, I was told my grandma opened her eyes briefly. 

My friend Lency said that it is helpful if  we cherish her and tell her how much we love her.

We spent the morning chanting for her and also talking to her... I told her I am very thankful for everything she has done for me and my family and kept on reassuring her that we will take good care of ourselves and that if she will like to do something or like to go somewhere, she is free to do so and that no matter where she is and what she does or chooses, I will still love her and I know she loves me too... even if the new place she goes, I know she will still be able to be with me as we will put each other in our hearts and she will still be able to watch over me and protect me like she does now and so there is no need to fear and no need to worry. I also reminded her tat I love her very much again and again...

Then I had to leave to bring Ace to his swimming exam.

After we returned, I went to my mum's place to have lunch and then, Max helped sent Ace to his PD meeting and I went to my grandma's.

I was chatting with my aunty and suddenly when she went into the room, we realized grandma's eyes are wide opened! But she seems to be staring into space... so we guessed she could not see much. But as her eyes opened, it seemed her breathing is more laboured.

Everyone in the house gathered round her to chant and my aunty kept reassuring her that she is free to go where she wants and do what she wants to do and that she need not be afraid.

We prayed and chanted for about and hour or so... and then, she seemed to settle down and her eyes closed up and she went back to "sleep". Her bp went down and fever went up and down but we kept sponging her and giving her medicine to keep the fever down as she seems to look uncomfortable whenever the fever is above 38 degrees.

I tried to connect with her and kept feeling a buzzing feeling in my crown. Seems there are some things that she wanted to say that she did not have a chance to say too as I felt uncomfortable in my throat area when connecting with her energetically. So I just kept sending love to her and wanding her.

By dinner time, Max and Ace came over and sat down with Laoma for awhile before we bid her farewell to go have dinner. I thought Ace did not really get to spend time to go out and so I thought can bring him out for nice dinner.

"Mummy, can we go indian food... i got craving for gobi manchurian.." So we brought him to eat his favorite indian food-- Gobi Manchurian.. which is not easily found in the eastern part of Singapore.

While having dinner, Lency messaged me and shared with me more of her knowledge and experience...

She suggested that I join with my grandmother and it is a great time to do so even if her eyes are closed.. "She doesn't need to be conscious. Feel her and feel heaven, and they are the same. You can feel how she has always loved you, and how she will always have an eye on you..." She also said that if I can let her go and go into the miracle, it will be helpful for her and the family...

Lency also suggested that we give my dad more time with her alone to come to terms with it and actually, we have been doing that ever since I saw his sorrowful face when he was alone with her and thought no one is watching...

Interestingly, after I finished Lency's message, I suddenly felt a huge wave of love pouring down from the heavens. I thought it was Lency sending her love and told her so and she sent me a picture of the buddha and gently reminded me... "We are not alone.."

"The more you can keep your focus on your grandmother now, the better you will feel later...Be transfixed on the Absolute! It is right here now with you. It is so holy...."And she said to just keep reminding my grandmother how she is the best in the whole world and how we could not love her more..

When I returned home, my sister messaged me and said that my grandma opened her eyes again... I asked if she could try joining with grandma and I will join with her in my mind... I went into the bedroom and started joining but there were so many obstacles... my son will come in and talk to me...  my rashes started acting up and were super itchy... it just could not concentrate after 5 min...

 When we were discussing afterwards about what we felt during the joining, my sis suddenly said that my aunty asked them to go into the room cos Grandma's breathing was suddenly very fast.

Max had just left to go watch soccer and I asked if he was still downstairs. He said he left but will turn around to fetch me and he did...

When I arrived there, grandma's eyes were still opened. Everyone in the room was chanting or praying for her in whichever mantra they feel most comfortable with... I held my grandma's hand and thought it best to chant and also join with her... When I tried to join with her... there was an instant where I feel lots of love gushing out from her and then after some time... there was this air of sweetness around she is surrounded by sweet sweet love... I thought perhaps some angels or friends from higher places might be there.... Anyway, grandma stabilized down.. but still coughed on off and had shallow breathing... but she looked peaceful and finally closed her eyes again and so we went home...

20th April 2015

 Today, I woke early and tried to edit grandma's picture that we can use. We chose a picture that looked as if she was smiling and had a secret to share. I call it, Ah Ma's Smile... My Aunty says it is her fav pic among all we were looking at.

Among all the pictures we chose though, my favorite was this... Too bad it was blur when i enlarged it... and there is reflection in her specs.

I went to visit grandma after having breakfast with Max. Today is the first day that we will not have nurse M with us and so when it was time to turn her, or change her diaper, I went into the room to help. I helped also to remember the medication timings...

I think she is much weaker today... her breathing is getting faster, more shallow and also weaker. My aunty borrowed an oxygen machine and said Sister Fong, (a nurse) will be coming over in the afternoon to teach us how to use the machine.

Tried to pick out an outfit for grandma's last journey but I realized we did not know which is her favorite outfit. I could tell you which outfits she wore often when I was a primary school kid but as I grew up, I no longer knew or remembered her preferences. It made me sad but I guess we will know when the time comes.

There are now so many things we have to keep track of. Have to track if grandma is still responsive, have to remember when to shift her and which side to shift her.. have to remember to change her diaper...

It seems that everytime we move her around, she will frown, as if in pain. She also opened her eyes in the afternoon and so I joined with her by looking into her almost lifeless eyes... this time round during the joining, even though I still felt a buzzing in my crown, I could feel so much heartbreak and all the pain of letting go... I remembered that if I did let go, it will help her and so I worked on that.

My aunty told me her healer friend said that grandma's soul has started detaching. HOwever, her body has it's auto habitual fight or flight response and as grandma is a fighter, that is what she is doing now.

When I had time alone with grandma again, I told her that I love her very much and she is the best grandma in the world. I am so sorry I did not do more and could not do more but i know she dun blame me and still love me anyway just as I love her... and then I told grandma to just follow her path and dun worry about us... just surrender into the buddha or into the light or into gohonzon.. for there is no real need to fight as where she is going is good, peaceful happy place and that I will love her no matter where she is....

WHen the nurse came, she chatted with me and explained to me this and that cos I asked her many questions. She said tat the oxygen machine is not really very helpful but it is helpful for the caregiver to think that she has done more and has one more thing she can do or give to the patient. She also said reason why grandma pants hard and seem to wince in pain when we move her is cos her heart is already working very hard and in her current stage, any movement as small as opening the eyelids is a burden to her system and means her heart has to work faster.. so we need to give her time to settle down and check if she is ok after a while.. if not, perhaps we will need to give her pain medication to reduce discomfort...

I asked the nurse how long more she thought my grandma could last and she says that without water and food, most people last no longer than 2 weeks and as grandma already lasted one week plus already, we should be prepared... but it is of course best to check with the dr as they will be more familiar..

Through the day, her fever came and go so I sat with her and chanted and put towel on her to cool her down. I used to think it is quite scary to take care of a dying person but I now think this process.. for those alive and grieving is also a great chance to move closer to the one we love when they are departing and that because it is done in and with so much love like how we take care of our babies when they are young, it is actually not scary at all.

I am starting to think that when grandma opens her eyes. she is actually "awake" cos she is quite responsive during those times with little movements. But it could be my 一厢情愿at work. But when we changed diaper for grandma first two times, she frowned and so I told her that if she held my hand, it wouldnt be painful (that is what I used to tell Ace when he is much younger.. hold my hand or let me blow kisses and it wouldnt be painful) and so I held her hand. She looked more relieved holding my hand and I really felt like I was providing some comfort.

In the evening, when we tried to change her diaper again, she actually frowned again and looked like she was in alot of pain... she actually moved her hands and came to search for my hand by herself.... and she held it tight and gripped it tightly. Her grip and her expression were in harmony.. stronger grip with bigger frown... if she let go, less frown.. so I wondered if she is coming to me for comfort on her own. It doesnt matter, I just held her hand and told her it is ok and that it is alright.

Max and Ace came and sat around in her room to keep her company for a while.. Ace held grandma's hand and told grandma about his day in school ad the we went out for dinner.

Sometime around 11 plus, aunty said grandma's BP is very low and she was breathing super fast again. Me and Max were torn whether to visit immediately and Max suggested maybe we can wait and see... later in the night, my aunty said she calmed down already and so in the end, we did not go visit and quickly went to bed so we could have energy to really be with her the next day...

My sis called me and said a friend of hers said the best help we could give a soul that is detaching is to chant and pray for them and so  I think this is what we will continue to do from now on... He said that doesnt matter how we pray or wat mantra we chant or even if we chant next to her or a few continents away... because ultimately, it is the positive energy they will recieve and it will help make the process  of the soul detaching as fast and as painless as possible.

Bliss And Happiness

Ace and Laoma...
Taken about a year ago when we were back visiting from Dubai...

Today, after guitar class, we went over to visit grandma.

As I held her hand, I noticed her hands are not so warm... Her fever has subsided. However, there seem to be liquid in her lungs and she cannot take too much liquid now.

Yesterday, when I visited her, she was able to grasp my hand tight and make noises to tell me... she even scratched herself when she felt her leg was itchy.

Today, when I saw her and held her hand, she could no longer hold me in a tight grip. As I talked to her, she could no longer mumble in response... she only managed to do a nonchalant yawn and also to squeeze her features together in a response...

I thought I did not have much to say to her anymore but as I looked at her, tears started flowing out and falling off my face... As I held her hand, I told grandma how thankful I am of her love she has showered not just on me but also on my family. I told her how thankful I am of her always helping my dad out when I was younger and when I was much older, always helping me out by taking care of Ace as well. I told her that I love her very much and when she leaves, I will miss her but I will put her in my heart... If she feels it is time to go... please go in peace because I am a big girl now and I can take care of myself... I will take good care of myself and I will take good care of my family..... and I will also take care of my parents... she can rest in peace... I know that she will be always looking over us from up there and that I am glad she can be reunited with my Yeye again...

I did not want her to feel like she cannot bear to leave if she wants to but yet, I cannot help crying.. and as I cried and cried, Ace tried to comfort me.. my grandma responded by scrunching her face... I know she must be asking me not to cry..

So I tried to calm down and I told her that I will be ok... and that while I havent had the chance to tell her this, I love her very much and I am very thankful to her.

Then, I closed my eyes and held my grandma's hands and tried to connect with her energetically, to my amazement, all I felt was bliss and happiness... tears started flowing again as I received all this love she had for me and experienced this happiness with her. I am now more certain than ever that my grandma is ready to pass on...

I asked Ace if he had anything to say to grandma. Yesterday he just wanted to say, "I love you.." and today, he spoke in mandarin and said, "对不起laoma,我没有常常来看你。我知道你一定会坚持下去。“

I am so surprised he actually knows the chinese phrase "坚持". It seems that Ace is still having problems accepting that Laoma is going to die soon. When we tried to talk about this topic yesterday, Ace declares that he is sure that Laoma wants to get better and will get better and live a long long life.

When I explained to him again today that Laoma has had a full life and she is ready to go, we have to let her go and she can move on to a happier place... It is possible that holding on is tough for her since she can no longer move or do anything...

I think he is starting to slowly accept because tonight when we revisited the topic again, he says.. he thinks maybe laoma can at least hold on for another two months.... When I asked why two months.. he said he just thinks she will hold on longer.. if not, then maybe just a little bit longer lah.. cos this month is not a good month to die and today is also not a good day to die as people shouldnt die on odd numbered days..

Anyway, I told Ace that i promised laoma he will dance one more time for her and so, he must dance for her even if she cannot see him... and so, when no one was in the room, we went in and he started dancing with all his might... then when the helper suddenly walked in with the nurse, he got embarassed and said that was the end of his dance.

When I got home, there was a black moth on the wall. I wondered if the moth was my grandfather.. So I asked a few questions while picking off cards from a card deck I use often for problem solving..

- Are you Yeye? - NO
- Are you Ah Ma? -NO
- Did Ah Ma send you here to watch over me? - YES
- Please tell her I am ok and that I will be ok and that I love her. - OK

And the card for OK was actually the LOVE card in the deck, it is one of the 4 special pink cards in the entire deck.

Yes grandma, I know I am loved... :) I love you too!

PS: My cousin messaged me and asked me what is Grandma's chinese name. I called my dad and we were both very paiseh when we realized that we both do not know my grandma's chinese name.. we knew it in dialect as it was her NRIC name but not in Chinese. I messaged my aunty and found out that my grandma's chinese name is 黄迎芳. Gosh, what a beautiful and meaningful name. It means like welcoming a breath of fresh air or welcoming beauty. 

16 April 2015
I had wanted to meet up with my friend for breakfast before going over to visit my grandmother.

Just as I was about the leave the house, my grandmother's helper sent me a whatsapp message where my grandma was making mumbling noises... that sounded like "come, come come.." in teochew.. and then the helper asked.. "Ask who to come? Ask xxx? Ask YYY? Ask everyone to come?" And to all these questions, she gave a very loud and affirmative "Ng!"

And then she told me she even asked specifically for names which she pronounced loudly. Only things is that her eyes were closed. I took that as a sign that grandma wanted to see everyone one last time and so I messaged my cousins and asked everyone to drop by or pray for grandma if they can.

I rushed out of the house and waited for a cab but no cabs came. I was tearing uncontrollably by the roadside and wishing for a cab to come by quickly and finally, a lone cab approached me and I managed to flag it down.

Uncle did not seem to know where my grandma's house was when I gave him the address and I told him I will give him instructions.

"Thank you.." he said.

"No, I should thank you.." I replied.. on the verge of tears... "I am rushing to see my grandma for the last time and I waited so long and no cab came.. thank goodness you came.." I told Uncle as I choked up again. Uncle paused as if he did not know what to reply but I think he understood that I just wanted to thank him for appearing when I needed a cab.

I reached my grandma's house and true enough, even though grandma had her eyes closed and she was mumbling.. sometimes loudly, sometimes softly... Most of the time we could not understand what she was saying but there were times where she named names loud and clear...

Within two hours, all her children and grandchildren came back to see her. As her 4 children came together and stood around her bed in a circle... I had a vision of something like a black smoke lifting up from her body. I was not sure what that was but as she is still mumbling, I guess it is some sort of energy. Everyone thought this is goodbye... She kept talking and mumbling.. sometimes very loudly too. Her hands started waving around too. Once she actually started chanting nam myo ho ren ge kyo twice!

After an hour or so, she started to calm down a little and miraculously, she seemed to look like she is getting better. She moved more, she talked louder and now that everyone is assured that grandma seems to be getting better, everyone went back to work and doing what they should be doing.

I had some private time with grandma and while mumbling, she asked me, "dfsifsdoifsdafsdifsdiofid, ai mai.." which is how she will usually phrase her questions to me when I visited her in hospital when she is in a chatty mood. Her waving of hands in the air, her scratching her nose, her way of talking... all were like what she will usually do on a good day... except... her eyes were closed and her talking was mostly mumbling.

Ace had swim lessons that day and after swim lessons, he came over and while me, Max and Ace were in the room, grandma started to wave her hand around.. I asked if she wanted to hold my hand and she kept taking her hand out of my grip. So I asked if she wanted to hold Ace's hand. Interestingly, when Ace held her hand, she let him hold his hand.. Ace held Laoma's hand in silence and stared at her. I did not know what was going through his mind but after a few minutes, I noticed that his eyes seemed wet... 

"Are you crying?" I asked Ace.. and with that question, tears started flowing down Ace's eyes silently.. I hugged him and told him that there was no need to feel sad because I was certain that Laoma is going to a better place...

With that, I think likely, that will be Ace's last goodbye.

While everyone is hopeful that grandma seems to be stronger, (cos even her vital stats were better), I was also worried this may be what the chinese call 回光返照。

When I reached home, I was so tired I literally fainted on bed. But it was a fitful night. I woke in the middle of the night to check my phone, worried that I will get any calls that will deliver any bad news.

17 April 2015
After the false alarm the day before, I thought it best still to spend whatever time I have with my grandmother and so after Ace went to school, I cleaned up the house and went over to spend time with her.

Grandma looked very peaceful. Her helper said she continued to mumble non stop till 1am and finally stopped. Perhaps she was really tired and finally slept.

When I arrived, she was still "asleep".

My aunty sent me a message and said that her healer friend said that Grandma's spirit, after yesterday's release and also after she has seen everyone she wanted to see, is now finally ready to go. However, as all mortals are fearful of death, she is unsure where to go and so, she says we should all pray and chant for her as we are her family and our prayers are especially powerful...

Whenever we have a chance, we should always remind her that she will go to a better place and that there is nothing to fear as she will go to buddha's pureland.

When I got the message, me, my mother and my second aunty were in the room and so I explained the message to them and the three of us started chanting... I asked for help from all friends in higher places and I could literally feel a strong power and group of people supporting me energetically. When I held my grandma's hand and connected with her however, I noticed that she felt a little sad to be leaving.

My second aunty went home and my dad arrived with some lunch for mum and me. I explained the message to Dad and mum suggested that perhaps we can go and have lunch and he can sit here and chant for grandma. My dad agreed and sat down, held grandma's hand and started chanting fervently. My dad seldom chants. But when he does, it is always fervently, with his entire being.

I had a quick lunch and when I went back into the room and saw his expression, I realized that while he was acting all cool and saying things like "This is inevitable, grandma already had good life... " he was really sad that this affinity and relationship of 68 years is finally coming to an end. Whenever my dad visits grandma, he will call her.. "Ah Soh" (he calls her that because when he was young, he fell sick and she "gave" him to the goddess and he is thus now the goddess's son instead of hers and cannot call her mum) and he will sit there and watch her quietly... the man of few words he is. But he never stopped caring for her in his own way.

I took a picture of my dad chanting and sent it to my sis. She said that when she saw that picture, she couldnt help but tear...

When I had some time alone with grandma later, I chanted and also repeated to her that she can do whatever she likes and if she wants to leave, she just has to follow the buddha. There is no need to fear and that if she is afraid, she just needs to chant nam myo ho ren ge kyo and she will be protected and if she just follows the light, or the buddha or hold the hands of her loved ones.. she will be able to get to a good place.. a paradise where she will be at peace and happy. Strangely, many times after I say this, she will started chanting once or twice. It was as if she heard me.

By the late afternoon, I connected with her again and realized that she is no longer sad... nor is she frightened. I felt my crown buzzing with lots of energy and for a moment, I actually had a vision where I saw the buddha picked her up. But they just stood there and did not move. I feel more assured.

As I was seated there, I was looking at the quilted blanket that was laid out in front of me. It brought back so many memories. There was a piece of cloth from Grandma's curtain in her old house, a piece from my aunty's pillowcase, some pieces from her old clothes, some pieces from clothes she made for my dad, some pieces from clothes she made for my deceased grandfather.. and even some pieces from the PJs tat she made for me when I was young. Each piece of jewel was a treasured memory of my childhood. 

Grandma started "waking up" in the afternoon and started mumbling... albiet less frequently than before and also in a softer voice than before. Her actions were far and few in between and while she still moved, the lesser resistance showed that she is getting weaker. ONce when I was chatting with her helper, we made a joke and laughed.. I saw grandma's stomach vibrate as if she was laughing with us.. when I made another joke later in the evening, she even made some sounds tat sounded like "hehehe.." It was like how she will laugh when I joked with her when I visited her in hospital.

It was my mother's birthday and so in the evening, my sis bought a cake and we lit a candle and sang happy birthday in grandma's room so that grandma can "join in" the celebration.

I felt good at the end of the day because I was feeling more and more bliss and happiness when connecting with grandma as the day drew on... also because I felt close to her again and was thankful I had so much time with her today.

I am really thankful towards Max because he had been returning home early to wait for Ace or fetching Ace from school so that I could spend time with grandma.

I went to bed that night, tired but happy and nevertheless still a tad worried of the phone ringing in the middle of the night.

18 April 2015
I had wanted to bring Ace out as it was a Saturday today. But aunty told me in the morning that grandma's breathing was sometimes laboured... and I thought, it might be better to bring him for breakfast and go spend time with grandma after that.

Today is an important day. Today is where the last of the doctor's prescription for the drip will end. 

You see, grandma is blessed. Under normal circumstances, she WILL NOT be given a drip prescription at all as patients who return home usually do not get drip unless they have a professional nurse at home.

Grandma got the drip because the consultant doctor in charge at the A&E that day was someone who actually knew her. He was a counterpart of my Aunt's boss and has spoken to my aunt before.. he also visited her a few times in CGH when he was free and helped provided suggestion to her treatment options. So when he saw grandma and spoke to her doctor and my aunt, he approved the drip, picked the up and stuffed them to my aunt.. saying that he will give them permission to take these home. The nurses were so upset they actually got the sister to come and take a look. But as he was consultant.. which I guess is big shot in the hospital... the sister said to go ahead.

On top of that, my aunt's boss whose father had a few nurses had one spare nurse since he was away on a trip. The nurse agreed to come over to help out for the next few days till the father returned home on sunday. She even cancelled her off day on Sunday to specially come and help as a show of support.

Now that the drip prescription is ending, the doctor will be coming and giving his suggestions for what we can do and we are going to have a family meeting with the doctor at 5pm.

When I arrived, grandma was still sleeping in the room. She seems to breathing hard and so the nurse propped her up a little and that seemed to help. But she started having this gargling sound coming from the throat not long after. We are not sure what that sound might be. My aunt says that it could be phelgm but it could also what the pallative care personnels call the death rattle...

Apparently, when people are about to die, they lose the ability to swallow their saliva and so there is this gargling sound or choking sound which can be heard as early as three days before they leave.

Thankfully, the nurse changed her position a little and the gargling sound stopped. She looked peaceful once again.

Today, I noticed that she has little movement. She looked like she wanted to lift her hand but had no strength. Her head was warm to touch as well. When I chanted to her or continued to encourage her to chant along and assure her that she will move to a better place, instead of chanting aloud, she only moved her lips like she was chanting. When I connect with her energetically, there is lots of buzzing in my crown chakra and it felt like some download was coming in. It is not the same blessing feeling i was used to it was something else... but it is certainly getting stronger and stronger...

My aunty messaged me and said her healer friend said that grandma's physical body has started to detach from her body and that grandma is no longer fearful.

I was glad for grandma. But I was having problem staying in the room as I started to sneeze terribly.. my old problem of a sensitive nose acting up.. I was super tired and I was feeling terrible. In the end, I just sat outside in the living room to rest while I chanted in my heart.

Ace said a few words to laoma and started playing by himself in the living room. He was really happy when his cousins arrived and he had more people to play with. 

The doctor examined Grandma and had a discussion with us afterwards.

He started by introducing himself and explaining how grandma got to this point she is today.. starting from the day she fell. He paused before giving us our options and asked if anyone had any questions.

My uncles started asking questions.. everyone was concerned with whether grandma will wake up and whether there might be a miracle. Dr said it is unlikely she will and if she will, she will only be able to open her eyes and nothing more. Plus she is suffering from a chest infection now and is also having fever..  it is likely she will recover if we treat it but it will likely recur due to fact that she is lying down all the time.

We now had three options. Option one will be to send her to hospital to get everything treated before we make any decisions.

Option two will be to put a tube through her nose down into her stomach and we will also be able to feed her medication and also food to sustain her life...

Option three will be to pull out drip and catherer so she no longer feels any pain and alleviate/manage whatever discomfort or pain she might have the best we can through suppositories and also through other modes of care.

"Before you think about what choice to, I will like you to also think about this.. if she were to wake up and be clear minded for only 10 minutes. WHat do you think she might say or want.."

Actually, we discussed this the day before when me, aunty and my mum were chatting. If it were grandma, she would have said, "Forget the hassle.. I don't want to trouble anyone!" Plus when she was a young 50 years of age, she already told my mum she doesnt want to die a long, painful death but prefers to die quick and easy if she is every sick. I shared this and all my grandma's children unanimously agreed that grandma will like to choose option 3 and that we will all vote for option 3.

My uncle asked the doctor what is his opinion and Doctor explained also that the tube down the throat was not meant to be used as a way to extend the life of coma patients but to save lives. It is a very unpleasant and painful thing and there is risk tat tube may puncture the lung too. Many times, a decision was made to do that because family cannot let go.

With that, the doctor ended the meeting and said, "That is a very good decision I can tell you... I will now remove her drip and everything else.." It was heartbreaking and I couldnt help but tear... My sister was crying too...

"Don't cry.." My eldest uncle said to everyone. "Grandma had a good and long life and has a large family.. she is blessed. We have made this decision out of no choice but for her sake. We should not quarrel about this aftewards and we should be united.. That is what she will have wanted... we shouldnt stop seeing each other too and should make effort to meet at least once a year..."

Though I agree, I couldnt help but feel heartbroken at the thought that this time is goodbye for real... Doc says she can last no more than a few weeks and I am not sure whether to hope for her to last longer or shorter.

When I told grandma's helper S, she teared... she has always been close to grandma and obviously loves her very much too. But I guess she understands too that this is inevitable...

I asked one of my teachers and friend, Lency, how I could help grandma along in her last journey and she said, "What I notice is just how close heaven leans towards us our loved one is received. They are still very much with the family in those first 40 days. Just cherish her and tell her again and again how much you love her. It makes them so happy to know you know you love them."
Tomorrow, when I see her again, I will do just that.Ah Ma, 我真的很爱很爱你。

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Last Goodbye To Laoma

If you have been reading my blog, you would have known that we have been visiting Laoma often in hospital because she had a fall and broke her hip and had to go for surgery and rehabilitation afterwards.

The other day, we were given the good news that Laoma will be due to return home on 16th April and when I met her OT while visiting her, he said tat depending on her mood, she actually can walk 200 meters far with two people holding both her hands as support and we were absolutely delighted.

I still remember that when she got admitted to hospital and we visited her, I was filled with guilt. Cos when she was there, she looked so lost whenever she cannot see her helper. She kept holding on to her hand even though we were her family. It was a good reminder that we should perhaps do more for her...

In her first two weeks in hospital, grandma had various lucid moments. She will ask where is Didi (her second son) and if Ah Hiong (her eldest grandson) if he has eaten. Sometimes she asked for my dad and there was once, her helper said she asked for me too.

Out of my grandma's 8 grandchildren, only myself and another cousin were not working. And due to proximity, very often, the job of taking turns to care for her... or rather, just keeping her company in the hospital fell on the following people... Her helper, my youngest aunty, my mother, my cousin Mei and me.

Very often, these sessions, during those early two weeks were bonding sessions for me and my grandma. One of my teachers told me that when people fall sick, it is a sometimes a call for help and what better way to respond than bond!

Often we will talk about the past, about what she used to cook for us, what we used to do when we went to her house. Grandma is also somehow suddenly lucid and will mention that so and so doesnt visit her often (which is true).

Once, Ace danced for her in the ward and she told him, "You don't stay here you cannot dance here.." Hahaha.. Another time when he danced for her (because he did not know how else to communicate with her), she asked who is this boy and why is he like a girl..

Sometimes she will do funny things like fold or crumple her clothes and say that she is making gao deng guay...

Another time, she would point to the TVs in the ward and say to me that this place is very big and that is why there are alot of people here...

Sometimes, she seem to go back to the past where she ran a provision shop... and she will tell me that this item costs $50 and that item costs $1 and kept reminding me to buy something...

During new year period, she even kept talking about cooking food.. perhaps it reminded her of how she will be bz cooking for us during new year for every second day of the CNY, we will go to her house to gather.. when she was younger, she cooked. But as she got older and her Alzheimer got worse, it became a potluck party...

But after that first two weeks of being chatty, she started to get infections very often and will be sleeping very often when I was there with her. During those times, we were happy to bond just by holding hands. It seems my grandma always slept and rested better when someone was holding on to her hand. Her grip was always firm, strong and warm... like how she is...

One time, while she was asleep and we were holding hands, I used my other hand to prop my handphone and checked facebook. When she woke up and saw me holding my phone, she smiled and said to me, "Shall we throw that away?" I was pretty amazed and found it really funny. By then words sometimes failed her so while perhaps, she may not mean it literally, I got her meaning loud and clear and put away my phone.

She was always happy to see children and always reached out to touch them and say they are good boys and girls.

In her very mindless state where she is just the way she is without any mask or defences, you could tell grandma is a generous person. When she is given food, she will always ask Ace, ask me or even ask her helper if we wanted.. or sometimes when given good food, she will eat and when there is a little bit left, she will insist that we eat it despite us telling her that we have eaten and that we are full. She was always ready to share.

After her operation, she was greatly weakened. She suffered from chest infection often and breathing was often labored and difficult. We found out later that it was because of an aspiration issue where food will go down the wrong pipe and leak into her chest and got that resolved and finally, she was ready to be discharged to go into community hospital.

I still remember the day I went to fetch her to bring her over to the community hospital. She had been sleeping and resting and was a little grouchy... Then I told her that we were going away.. we were going to "eat wind" and she was suddenly happy to get up. Before she left, a young nurse I had never seen before ran to her and said, "Ah Ma!" the nurse put her hands around her face and chest and seemed to be sending her blessings and love and my grandma laughed a hearty laughed. Alzheimer made her able to communicate and bond without saying anything.

She settled in quite nicely in the community hospital in her first day there. The speech therapist came and cajoled her nicely to test if she can speak or swallow properly. She laughed at their jokes. My uncle came and visit and it cheered her greatly as well.

One of the Filiipino nurses asked grandma, "What is your name?" (The nurse confessed later that it is the only hokkien phrase she knows...) Grandma replied, "I don't know..." And then the speech therapist asked her... "Who is Ng YF?" and she absolutely beamed and asked, "How do you know me.. how do you know my name?" She was so happy someone remembered her name!

However, the rehabilitation exercises made her tired. Subsequently, whenever I visited her in the late afternoon or evening, she will be sleeping or having her eyes closed, opening only for a second or two when we called out to her.

Or I will kenna dagger stares from her. Apparently, the lack of fluids in her diet made her skin dry and she often scratched. If we tried to stop her and hold her hands, she gives me a dagger stare and looks away, her mouth in a pout, her mood turning black because she did not get her way and did not get to scratch. Then I will try to hold her hand and tell her, "Don't be angry lah, I hold your hand and don't let you scratch because you might bleed and it will be painful. I don't want you to get hurt.." But she is not easily placated...

Or another time, she was sleepy throughout. She kept closing her eyes and as she had not eaten much, I was tasked with feeding her some ensure. I will rouse her by saying "Coockle doodle doo.... time to wake up, ah ma!" And she will wake and smile and I will feed her some ensure off a small cup. The 250 ml of ensure took me a whole good hour to feed her. I was so proud of myself!

When LKY died, I remembered thinking how lucky that my grandma, who is also 91 managed to battle infection after infection and is still with us. I made a mental note to be even more appreciative of her presence and to move towards her and bond more with her.

But things did not really go the way I expect it to...  Right after that, I made two visits... both which ended with her being angry at me for stopping her from scratching herself. She will pout and turn away from me to face another side...  Instead of bonding, I was unable to reach out to her!

Then, her mood suddenly seemed to turn for the better. She was engaging and happy for a few days. On her happiest day, her three sons actually visited her together and while she cannot remember them, I think it still unconsciously brought her immense joy.

Last sunday, it was my turn to take care of grandma for 3 hours. Ace said he wanted to go with me but when he found that it was 3 hours, he changed his mind and so I went alone.

When I reached there, my uncle, who had taken the first two hour slot said that she was in a pretty good mood sometimes when he told her she is pretty (she loves to be told that). But sometimes will be a little sleepy and grumpy.

At this moment, she woke, stared at me with suspicious eye and refused to talk to me. When she started scratching herself and I held her hand, she got upset and turned her face over to the other side and refused to look at me. When I tried to hold her hand, she pushed me away did not want me to touch her.

 I was thinking why others had the good fortune of seeing her in good mood but not me... but I decided that perhaps the best thing to do was to chant for her and send her love...

Grandma fell asleep and when she woke up, she asked me.. "Who are you? What person are you?" (li si di diang? li simi lang?)

I told her I am her granddaughter, Joo. And since she is teochew and I am her grand daughter, therefore, I am teochew too.

That seemed to click and she put her hand on my shoulder and arm... and kept petting me there as we chatted about the same few topics we usually talked about. It seemed strange to me at that time that she usually merely holds my hand but that day, she kept patting my shoulder and arm and said, "It is ok, go... It is ok, go..." Thinking back, I think she was trying to comfort me in advance..

Anyway, we talked our only trip overseas together... it was a trip to Genting with my cousins, aunty and parents and it was a trip to cheer her up after the passing of my grandfather.

We talked about how during holidays, we will go to her house and stay and she will cook for us, how every morning before she went to market when we were staying over, she will ask us what we wanted and we will always say cai tao kway and soy bean milk and she will buy it. We talked about how she made the best dao yew guay (soy sauce chicken) ever... We talked about how it is my regret that I did not used to know how to cook and now that I do, she is no longer eating solids and will not be able to test my cooking.

While we were chatting, she kept telling, "Nang di ji dao, wu tang jiak, wo tang ng, lua song eh.." (We are here and we have food and can sleep, it feels shiok) I assumed she meant she is in a very happy place now.

Then she looked tired and fell asleep. I whispered to her that I will go buy a drink as I was thirsty and went to get myself a drink and when I came back, she was awake and grumpy again. She did not want to talk to me or look at me... perhaps she was upset when she woke and could not find me.

I held her hand, touched her and told her I am so sorry. I am back her now with her. She fell asleep again.

When she woke, she was affectionate and chatty again. She asked me where is my uncle and I told her he had gone home. I asked her if she wanted to drink Milo and she said ok and so I slowly fed her some. When there was a little bit of Milo left and I told her it is the last bit, she gave me to and kept saying, "You drink... you drink... You don't have, I give you.."
Ah Ma drinking her favorite Milo
I showed her the pic I took of he drinking milo and she was so fascinated when she moved her finger acrossed the screen and the picture got enlarged, she could no longer see her cup of milo. "Boh liao!" She exclaimed in a pleasant surprise... like a little excited kid who discovered how something worked for the first time. I minimized the picture and passed the phone to her. She moved her fingers and the purple cup of milo disappeared again. It was like a magic show for her and her eyes lit up with wonder!

As we chatted, she talked about wanting to go somewhere... I asked her where she wanted to go.. she said to go buy something... and then she started touching my face tenderly... like how I have seen her reach out to touch children... she patted my face, my hair and continued to chat with me and tell me, "You can go.. you can go..." before talking about other things with little meaning. I did not have an inkling what she meant then but I think I do now..

She got tired and fell asleep. Then next time she woke, she was very quiet and did not want to talk. The sky was dark and it looked like it was raining.. she kept twitching and I thought she is perhaps cold and put on her cardigan for her...  She stopped shivering and twitching but started scratching again cos maybe the cardigan was rough on her skin...

When it got warmer, I removed the cardigan for her and held her hand. As she had Milo, I let her continue to sit upright and seated next to her, I put my head on the bed next to her head. She woke, saw my head right next to hers and smiled and then we started chatting and laughing again. It was the closest I have felt to her in a long while. It felt like we were lying down on bed together and chatting like we used to when I was very very young.

In her lighter moments...

She slept again.. and when she woke, she asked me where is Ace. I told her he was not here cos he was studying and we started talking about how she used to help me feed him, change diapers when Ace was very young and she asked me, "Do you know it was very difficult to feed him?" And we had a good laugh about that. I promised her I will ask Ace to come and dance again for her and she smiled. 

We talked about how everyone came to visit her because we care for her and love her.. I told her how thankful I was for her care when I was young and told her that now I am grown up, it is my chance to take care of her and love her...

In my heart, I was saying how nice that I get during this slot to bond with her again.. and not just to give her love, but to actually be able to feel her love for me again. I remembered thinking that I have to blog about this cos this session is extra special... I remembered thinking how lucky I am to be back here in Singapore to be with her again.

She slept and all of a sudden, she started moving her hands in her sleep.... she put her hands together and she chanted.. Nam myo ho ren ge kyo.. nam myo ho ren ge kyo... nam myo ho ren ge kyo...  she fiddled the mini u shaped pillow I put on her hands to calm her and went back to sleep.

When she woke, she was grumpy again. Her face was a stonewall of no emotions and she did not want to talk. When it was time for me to say goodbye, she was still grumpy and I just said goodbye and that I will visit her again.

Little did I know, that will be the last time I can talk with my grandmother.

A day later, she suddenly suffered a stroke and went into coma. As the option of brian surgery is complicated, painful and dangerous and her chance of waking for the coma is slim, we have decided to bring her home and find pallative care for her. We have decided to bring her home to die.

When Ace heard about this news, he burst into tears and cried inconsolably... He kept asking why god is so unfair... "Is this a joke, god? This is so not funny ok!" He kept repeating these phrases and cried and cried and cried himself to sleep. It will likely be Ace's first experience of having someone in the family pass on.

Today, Grandma is finally home in her house. When she came back, I held her hand and told her she is home.. she gripped my hand tightly and held on while mumbled something. I take it to mean she is really happy to be back home cos afterward, she seem to fall into sleep.

I had a chat with my aunty and we were discussing our options and whether grandma will wake up from her coma again. Chances were slim and she said simply, "Grandma is just coming home to die.." and she teared. At that, I teared too.

We talked about how we both feel grandma is in a peaceful and happy place and that she is ready to go based on the indication she has given us. Aunty said her friend who does energetic healing says Grandma is ready to move on and go... she also said that grandma is a strong woman whom, if were to be born today, will be a very strong and successful business woman. I made a mental note to remember this the next time I feel weak instead of empowered.

My aunty said I should inform my cousins to tell my grandma any last words they might have and after I did that, I thought about what last words I might have. After giving it a long and hard thought, I realized that I do not have any last words for her for all I have wanted to say to her, I have already said to her that fateful sunday during our last conversation.

I told Ace that Laoma is ready to go and that we should let her go. But he still firmly believes that she wants to get better and that she WILL get better. It is very difficult for him to understand that if grandma is ready to move on, so should we be ready to let go...

I am still sad but as I grief and cry, I am slowly letting her go.

Ah Ma, if you think your time is up and that you no longer want to be in pain. You can go. You can be with Yeye again. I will take good care of myself and my family. I will take good care of my father and mother. I will remember all the love you had for me and pass it on. I will remember all the happy times we had and keep you forever in my heart. I love you... Thank you...

Ace's Swimming Exam

Ace went for his swimming examthe other day and it was sort of an eye opener for me:) haha...

When they arrived, all the students were gathered together and the ones who have not been having lessons in the pool they were tested in were asked to go into the water and do a test run so that they can familiarize themselves with the pool...

But Ace is no stranger to this pool for he spend many happy weekends learning how to swim here with Mr Lok..

Do re mi.... They are numbered 1-10 and Ace is number 2... the first 5 get to go first for the actual test...

But as I was watching them queue up, I realized a certain boy within the 10 actually had a massive hard on and he was wearing tight fitting trunks like those that Ace are wearing. He looked much taller and bigger than Ace.. maybe he is 12 or so... and initially, I thought it could be that he was seated down and so the trunks was made of thick material and so it folded by itself.. But when he stood up, it was still there...

Then I thought maybe he stuffed his swimming cap there but no wor... I just wonder who or what he is staring at to give him a hard on cos no pretty babes or wat around lor...

Ace is off to a good start.. item one on  his test.. swim 100 meters...

Getting ready for item 2... they have to track water float and move their hands around.. Ace says it is called sculling... It apparently helps you keep your head above water..

Time to put on their t shirt and shorts for the third item on the check list... to track water with clothes on...

This is where something else interesting happened..

One girl who looked to be about 8... took a long time and fiddled a long long time with her shirt and so everyone went ahead without her..

At the end of the test, the coach told her mother, "This is the problem of having too good a life.. Next time, please let her learn to put on her own shirt and let her practice that more..."

Apparently usually when we have lessons at the condo's swimming pool, parents can sit by the side mah.. so everytime she has lessons, either her mum or helper will be with her... and so when she is asked to put on  a shirt, she will run to them and they will help her... so she doesnt know how to put on her own shirt at 8 years old!

It is pretty amazing to me that an 8 year old cannot complete what my son could do on his own at 3! All the more amazing that the parent has not given her the chance to learn to do so...  I am guessing she must be a princess at home..

I was chatting with grandma's helper, S, and she told me at her previous work place, her employer's daughter who is 12 needed her to bath her... I think these parents really need some parenting lessons and learn to give their children a chance to do things for themselves...I think since we cannot protect our children forever and thus it is only right that we prepare them to do well, if not better, than us in life... by giving them a chance to be responsible for themselves :)

Go, Ace, Go!!!

Then he has to swim with the clothes on, pick a ring up from the swimming pool floor and pass it to the tester..

Next, have to swim with the vest..

Test completed...

And he.... PASSED!:) woo hoo!

Previous Post: Chef Eric Comes To YNPS

Chef Eric Comes To YNPS

The other day, Ace told me that Chef Eric will be coming to do a cooking demo in his school..

Wah, not bad leh, schools in Singapore also have alot of interesting events. I wonder which of he parents is linked to chef Eric:)

Anyway, Ace said that he came during recess time and he demonstrated how to cook Ipoh Hor Fun.. since he is a vegeterian and cannot try... and this takes up too much of his play time.. he ran away after watching for a while:) wahahahahah

But they were all given packets of Ipoh Hor Fun... and then, two of his classmates said they did not like to eat this and did not want it.. and so he says he will bring it home..

So he brought home three packets of Kang Kang brand Ipoh Hor Fun.

I thought dun let it go to waste lah.. so I went online to search for recipe and then tried to make it lah:)

Tadah... my vegeterian version:)

Not bad hor:) I made this a few times and later, when I got better at it, I could even do drop egg:) Max and Ace both say it tastes very nice ;)

But leh, after eating it a few times, Ace asked me if i can use the hor fun to make something else instead of the same..  He say eat until sian liao... wahahahaha...

Previous Post: I Feel Like I Am In Prison!

I Feel Like I Am In Prison!

A few days ago, on our way to school, Ace was telling me that these few days have not been too good for him because he keeps getting scolded in school again..

When I asked him for more details, he says that he does not want to talk about it because everytime he talks about it, he will feel very upset and angry. I told him I respect his wishes and left it at that.

And a few days later, I asked him about it again and he said he is not ready to talk about it.

So last night, before bedtime, I was chatting with him and I brought up the subject again. I told him that I respect that he might not want to tell me about it.. but I am just talking about it again because I want to remind him that if he ever wants to share more, I am always ready to listen.

So he paused to think, and decided that he will tell me... And so his story goes like this...

A group of NUS students came to his school and conducted some sort of special music lesson for the children. So other than the NUS students, one of their school teachers stayed in the music room with them.

They were singing songs and asked to try different ways to express the song with feeling. The NUS students asked them to sing the song, If You Are Happy And You Know It... and instead of clapping their hands, they were asked to scream. The NUS students said they have to scream in such a way that their scream will show FEAR.

And so they did a test run and so Ace did a scared scream.. which is a loud scream and to him, is a pretty normal scream since he is used to dramatics. His school teacher in the room said he was screaming too loud...

So the NUS student asked them to try it again and reminded them to do it a little softer. So Ace did the scream again.. but a little softer this time... and they completed the lesson. But he noticed that during this time, he teacher kept pointing her phone at them and took pictures of them.. and she seemed to be pointing her phone at the children she has singled out for scolding previously during the session...

At the end of the lesson, the teacher singled out a few children and asked them to see the music HOD and Ace was among those singled out. Then leh, the music HOD gave them a scolding.. cos apparently these children were talking and not paying attention in class. Ace was wondering why he was singled out since he was paying attention and was not talking when the HOD suddenly said to him, "And you, Ace, I heard you were going crazy!"

Wham bam! My son same as me... 最讨厌被人冤枉 .. so he was really hurt because in his words, "Why am I being scolded for doing something that I was asked to do? Why am I being scolded for following instructions well?"

And I think he was really upset that the teacher said he was "crazy"....

And it seems even his friends noticed that he was unfairly scolded.. his friend E, after the scolding said to Ace, "It is so unfair... why did the teacher scold you.. she scold me, ok lah, I deserved it, but why did she scold you when you did nothing wrong?"

I asked him why did he not stand up for himself and tell the teacher that.. "What for, if I say anything, my teacher will just give us more scolding and I will just get into more trouble.. But I feel really sad and felt like crying.." he said.

Actually, I also felt that the teacher's response was inappropriate. If the students are asked to scream, why should they be penalized for whatever they feel "frightened" should be expressed. They should accept whichever expression of a frightened scream no matter what.

Most importantly, as a teacher, everything you say really means alot to students. How can a teacher say that a student is going crazy? She could say he screamed very loud and ask why he was so loud.. but why did she use the word crazy?

I asked Ace if he will be ok if I sent an email to the school to feedback. He says he wants to let it slide but he says if the teachers do it again, he will like me to feedback to the school.

Then Ace started to get really upset and said that he really doesnt enjoy learning from the teachers in Singapore.

"They make everything so not fun! Everyday, all they do is to scold us... use threats and use extreme words like.. threaten to tell our parents, threaten to punish us to stay back in school till 7pm.. How can they keep threatening us?? How is that different from someone who kidnaps your child and say..."If you dun give me money.. I am going to kill your child!" "

I asked him why Ms R in Dubai was strict but he doesnt mind.

"Because in Dubai, even the very strict teachers always scold us for a reason... here, the teachers sometimes scold us and scream at us for no good reason... "

"You know mummy.. even the nice teachers... who are funny.. when they are angry.. they really scream and shout so loud at us... and threaten not to talk to us...or to report to the principal... how can they do that... you know mummy, studying in Singapore, I feel like I am in prison!"

"I feel so sorry tat you had to feel this way in school.." I told him while giving him a hug...

At this point, he started to cry and then he asked me, "Why do Singapore teachers talk like that?! Don't they know that we students also have feelings and our hearts will be hurt when they talk like that?!"

Then he continued, "Did you know. even the fun teachers I had.. even XX, even him.. even he talks like this!!!" he said while crying.. and he gave me an example of what one of his teachers said..

I asked him.. from the example, it seems the teacher was talking to someone else and threatening someone else and not him.. why does he feel so strongly about it...

"Because mummy, we are all the same! We all got eyes and nose and mouth... everyone is the same.. we have the same organs.. ok..maybe boys and girls a little different when it comes to organs.. but we are all the same... Even though XX was talking to YY and I dont really like YY, YY is still the same and I dun wish for anyone to talk to YY like tat too!"

So I gave him a big big hug and told him I hope he feels better after sharing what he has been keeping in his heart.

When he was cooled down, I explained to him tat perhaps his teachers did not use the best strategy but it is not so easy for them here in Singapore because they have to face so many students and also the quality of students here and their background is different from the international school. The amount of parent support is also a little different so I hope that given time, he will be able to forgive his teachers.

But I do feel sad when I heard that this is how he feels about the teachers in Singapore.

Today, he asked if I could go fetch him as he was going for a dental appointment... so I went. As he was taking quite long, I was seated outside...and I observed a situation where a group of students had returned from a swim lesson..

One girl apparently pulled a dangerous prank on her friends and she kenna a very fierce and loud scolding... plus punishment of having to write I will not xxx the next day... what is more, one teacher scolded, the other by the side also scold some more..

I couldn't help but wonder how the girl will be treated or taught if we were in Horizon school. For one, I know in Horizon, this scolding would have taken place one to one in a private place...  and instead of a I will not xxx, teacher will have a talk with her about why what she did was wrong and dangerous and she will be expected to write an apology letter during break time.

Ace and I have been reading Totochan-The Little Girl At The Window as our bedtime reading and I couldnt help but feel envious of the students in Tomoe school that the female protagonist went to. How I wish a school like this still existed and that Ace could have a chance to study there.

Anyway, my observation is that Singaporean teachers behave how most Singaporean parents will behave and Dxb teachers behave how their parents will behave. Perhaps the difference in reaction is rooted in a cultural difference. But I think it is also rooted in a lack of confidence of the adults in Singapore to use any other way to guide their children other than threats...

Anyway, mental note to self-- less threats, communicate more. I am aware my son is moving to a new chapter in life and old methods to communicate with him may not be feasible anymore. But still, I was surprised at his outburst and the very intricate thoughts that he had about the issue... Hope Ace feels better soon and learns to take things in his stride. Changes in the education climate here will take place I feel but will take time:) I think when I have a chance, I am going to ask him to list the things he like about school so that he can put his focus on happier things:)

Previous Post: Gado Gado