Archive for August, 2007

These things keep coming my way.
I don’t know who Ross is. And I have not found my way out of the depths yet. I am trying.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known
defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found
their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a
sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with
compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do
not just happen.”

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, 1926-2004
Swiss-born Author and Psychiatrist


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I got sent the following today. I get sent things  that uplift me, comfort me, remind me of where I am, and what I can be. The learning continues. Thank you.

Do not go after the past,
Nor lose yourself in the future.
For the past no longer exists,
And the future is not yet here.
By looking deeply at things just as they are,
In this moment, here and now,
The seeker lives calmly and freely.
You should be attentive today,
For waiting until tomorrow is too late.
Death can come and take us by surprise–
How can we gainsay it?
The one who knows
How to live attentively
Night and day
Is the one who knows
The best way to be independent.

-Bhaddekaratta Sutra

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One of the first things we discussed after dear little Ferdinand’s passing was, “Should we move?” I thought of how hard it will be to go back to the familiar places and having to answer the same questions abut where is our new baby? But it was R who prompted the question.

Although it was not really to escape. I guess it was an expression of the pain we feel at the place we were in, and wanting to be some place else. When R considered that, he was also thinking of his career that had practically stagnated in the past few years. And maybe we all need a new, fresh start. Maybe.

How do we move through life? How are we guided? How do we know what are the next coordinates? Do we pilot on our own? Do we all have a co-pilot? Who tells us the course of trajectory?

And then we forgot about the moving part. Other things took over. the flood. The car accident. The move back to the valley. Getting life re-established at home again.

And then R asked, two days ago, “How about we sell everything and travel for a year?” I told him, “Sure.” and he asked if I was taking him seriously or not. Of course I was. I had always loved traveling. So did he, though he had felt more exhausted about the idea in the past couple of years. My feet itch constantly. I salivate over places I have read and just have the burning desire to be transported elsewhere. To be in a different space, experiencing a different energy. To switch coordinates. It always makes me feel more alive again. Also makes me think more deeply, feel more deeply, live more deeply, esp after I return to my coordinates of origin.

And then as I plough through the house, trying to clean and organize, I start to think about what I need to do, or want to do, in the coming months. I came across a book about knitting and crochet projects using just one skein of yarn. That’s the type for me, who always start out with great passion and then fizzle off really soon. One skein is all it takes, the book promises. To make gifts of all sorts. And very cool ones too. I think of what I can make for who among my friends. I thought of seeing my friends again. I am not sure when I can see them again. I mean, I do not feel ready. I don’t feel like being social. I can email, I can type. But talk, I don’t know.

I have been thinking how do I know I am ready? It’s not like there will be a “launch date” when I know I can step out of the house and meet people again. I have come to terms to Ferdinand’s death. I believe he was really here just for a brief visit; just to check out this planet before he moves on. D told me he chose me to grow in my love and energies so he can move on to his longer journey. J told me he has been receiving so many merits by listening to all the wise prayers at the temple, hearing sounds and words of wisdom from long ago that stays true and wise for centuries and centuries. This past month saw a lot of prayers at the temple so it seems like he had perfect timing. J said he is so lucky and will therefore find his path to True Happiness. I had the understanding that this may be the reason why he chose me, and my family. He wanted to go to a better place; further, better, happier and brighter. I feel happy for him. And feel honored that he chose me as a vehicle and a vessel. I still feel sad, as I am still a mother who yearns for her child, even if she reads a million times over that her children comes through her but belongs to her not. She understands that as not controlling her children’s lives; allowing them to blossom fully and not to force her ideas and ambitions upon her children. But not in this way, in how it had happened. But I have come to terms and accepted. BUT I am still a mother who misses her baby.

And so I wonder how can I know when I am “ready”. I have no production date, no launch date, no expiry date. I don’t think there are clear boundaries here. no clear coordinates. No auspicious dates. I am not going to wake up one day and look at the calendar and see “This day you move thus forth in sorrow no more.”

So I guess I won’t know… until it really happens and then I will suddenly realize it. Maybe it will be like this.

How funny to travel like this through my journey, not knowing. Weird. because I like to know. This is what breaks me.

We talked of our trip back to Singapore next year for Chinese New Year. The girls are thrilled, esp Valerie. I think they will have a blast with the festive markets, the dragon dance, the lion dance, the foods, the red packets- money! I thought of visiting Ferdinand at the temple… … R thought maybe we can try to wrestle a ticket that has a free stopver in Japan, he had always wanted to visit that land where his grandma brought up her four young sons in times of war. His father still speaks very fluent Japanese. I have been there once and remember this little place about an hour train’s ride outside Tokyo called Kamakura. I went to Japan to try to heal a broken heart and found much solace in all the pretty handmade papers, and in the temples of Kamakura. I went to Kamakura three times during that trip. I told R of the temples, and a particular one with a small forest of serene, stately bamboos. I remember walking through it, hearing a waterfall all the time, and the silence, and looking at the golden light, the green, the golden light, sensing a holiness in the whole place. I then came to a pavilion and saw the waterfall. I sat down and without being asked, someone brought me a large bowl of mocha. I drank it and knew I was healed. And vowed to one day have a bamboo forest of my own.

As I walk down this memory lane, I recall the many white strips of cloth tied to these stands that stood outside every temple. Those are wishes. Students asking for good grades, pregnant women asking for a safe birth; mothers praying for a safe journey for their lost children. I thought of Jizo Bodhisattva ( http://www.zendust.org/jizo/index.htm; http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/jizo1.shtml), also known as Di Zang Pu-sa in Chinese, and of the many Jizo sutras that had been chanted the past month at the temple for Ferdinand. If we go to Japan, I will visit Kamakura again and find that temple again. That was 12 years ago, but I am sure I will find that healing place again. But before that, I guess I have to find my own coordinates within first.

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Don’t ask. Don’t argue. Don’t think. Don’t question. Don’t fight.

Embrace. Lightly. Fiercely. Melt into it.

Life and Death. Same things. One ends where the other begins; one begins where the other ends.

Why is Death so difficult to accept?
Life is easy. You cradle it; you coo with it; you sing to it; you dance with it; you get drunk with it. With Death it is scary. You fear. You curse and swear; you tremble. You cling on with dear life.
But Life is a part of Death and Death is a part of Life.
But we love Life so much we do not want it to end; to be replaced by Death. (Or are we afraid because we did not live True enough and when death knocks, we are simply not ready?)
Even if we have a full load of memories, it is difficult. Even with a long life, it is difficult.
How about leaving with no regrets? Knowing for damn sure that we have lived well, loved hard, cried hard, laughed hard, danced hard? Does it make it easier to breathe the last exhale with absolutely no regrets? Can one leave the world proudly then, saying, “I have lived.”?

Maybe it is hard because I did not laugh and cry hard and did not dance enough with Ferdinand.

Doing yoga again this morning was like seeing an old friend again. Nice, warm, yet surreal. I can rock on my spine again. I can fold my knees into my chest again. I can do poses laying on my stomach again. I can do shoulder stand again. I can do all these, and I feel sadness. Because it is all over. All over now. My nipples are a little sensitive but there is no wailing baby to prevent me from doing 90 minutes of yoga. There is no baby to distract me. I listen to the instructions and think of the words. I try to find my place in the Universe; I try to find myself, both minute, and grand. I try to coax the warrior within to emerge. My shoulders hurt like hell, I sleep badly. According to yoga, the shoulders is where our lymphatic system drain through, as well as all the emotions; that’s why when we are stressed we get shoulder tension; they are all trying to drain out from there, all those bad stuff. My shoulders are so stiff, they feel like brittle leaves. You can just break them off into bits and pieces. I move through the poses with a choke in my throat and a tear trembling in my eyes. I can do it. I tell myself. I know I can do it. Ferdinand is home. He is carefree; he is free. He is flying. He is traveling. Bless him and let him go forth in all his glory. Let him shine in the skies for all to see. He is looking down, so smile.

The meditation part killed me. I was not ready for this meditation for releasing negative emtoions.  I forgot this was the mediation at the end of this yoga DVD.  Reluctant as I was, I did it. It nearly killed me because when I have to think of something that saddened me; something that makes me feel afraid; and something that angers me; and they all lead me back to Ferdinand. I tremble and shake and I feel my breathe being strangled. On a certain level I was also resisting the transformation, because I needed to grieve and mourn some more.
But I do take comfort in it. It is hard; but there is no turning away. I am sad that Ferdinand is gone; but I am glad that he is free; and I know that he is still very much loved. I am sad that he died; but I am glad that he was birthed by me still; and not snatched away at birth. I am sad, sad, sad… but in a strange sense I am glad. But for what? I do not know for certain.
I am afraid for what lies ahead. But I also know there is no way around it. You just continue walking. Rain, hail, storms, blossoms, leaves or roaring winds. You walk. They will whip lines into you and attempt to bend your back. They will warm you and caress you and show you light and grace and beauty. I am afraid but I want to travel on too. Continue on this path of Life; full of mysteries and unknowns.
I am angry for what happened. Yes, I was, and I still am, sometimes. I am angry and I have to find inspiration. I am looking.

“If you can feel it, you can heal it.” So I have to embrace the feelings, and let it transform me, on every level down to the cellular.

“Sa Ta Na Ma”- existence, life, death and rebirth. The ever Universal Truth. I accept it, I do. I am a part of it too, and so is Ferdinand. I told R I guess we have entered a new phase of Life, where we encounter and deal with different things (that are harder), and we need to grow and transform into it. I told him, just like how my grandma will flip the papers to the obituaries every morning to see if anyone she knew had died; or to look at some full-paged obituary and  look at the photo of the deceased and guess at his/her life, and look at the names of the people he left behind. Will I be doing this one day too? I am not sure, but I don’t think so. Death is still difficult for me; I cannot think of it without tearing up, but I accept that it is a part of me, and everyday I walk towards it and therefore I need to live even more fully.

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Someone sent this to me, asking if I had seen this before. Yes, I have, but I did not think of it recently…
It’s just exactly what I need and how I feel… …

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to
new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.
They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints
on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.”
~ Flavia Weedn

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We’re back home. Full of mess and yet also very empty.

But the girls do not care, they are extremely thrilled to be home again, though they did not like that it is so hot outside. We arrived at 8pm last night and they ran through the house greeting their toys and pulling out their dress-up’s and talking and laughing and singing and skipping and dancing.

It was harder for R and myself. We spent the day packing things up at the cabin. R worked outside, and me inside. I sobbed through the house, putting away things we will not get to use, leaving behind two drawers full of clothing for Ferdinand; storing away things and such. I sat in the rocker-glider at one point to rest, and every cell in my body immediately overflowed with sorrow and tears just gushed out from my eyes. Sometimes I hear a strange, whimpering sound and look up only to realize it was myself crying, and I will cup a hand over my mouth to avoid alarming the girls. I do not want to cry in-front of them so much. Yes, I want them to understand the expressions of sorrow, but now, they will say quietly, “Mama’s crying about the baby again. Mama’s crying about Ferdinand. He is dead.” and walked away to allow me my space. This is just so not right.

Everything took longer and it was almost six when we set off. Every sight, every sound, every movement was just heart-aching. I set Ferdinand’s memory box on my lap and just let the tears go; telling myself again that i did not want to be bringing home a box with a bit of hair in a plastic bag and a pair of perfect, cute footprints on a piece of paper. There should have been a seat at the back with the infant car-seat in it, with a baby screaming his head off in protest that he did NOT like the car-seat and wanted to snuggle and nurse. I leaked a little bit of milk. Just a little bit. Just a small reminder that I am a MOTHER. Sophia fell asleep soon, exhausted from all that anticipation and reminding me a million times that she is bringing her thrift-store-find-only-a-quarter doll back home. Valerie was chatty and asking a million questions. I was quiet and R took over with the answers. Just when I was choking to death holding my tears back Val said it was too quiet and wanted some music. R turned on the radio and I took it as my license to sob quietly. R turned to look at me but I just turned away,silently talking to Ferdinand and telling him about all the sights we are passing through, thinking also about the empty house we are going back to; wondering about the heat.

We got home and unpacked quickly and got dinner on the table. The girls were just too excited to eat. I did not feel hungry. When it was just two of us in the kitchen R said I was so quiet on the drive back, and asked if I would share my thoughts. That was just the tipping point for my tears to get gushing again. He apologized and asked me to finish my dinner and said that it was just as hard for him packing and cleaning up at the cabin. “It was supposed to be one of our nicest retreats ever… …” He said. I looked up to see how tired his face looks, how he seems to have aged and his red, teary eyes. We agreed that we are each dealing with it our own way and acknowledged that neither is having it better than the other. Though, I felt awfully sorry that he did not get to relax at all. I was so wishing he could just get a break from all the stress of work and blah and just enjoy the cabin with the girls, the baby. But it is very strange how Life takes a turn sometimes, and throw things at you that you least need or expect. Ferdinand died; then we had the flood; and then he had the car accident last week. I do not even want to think, do not even dare to think what it would have been if he was hurt in the accident. Yet you must keep thinking there has been a better side to everything, even if overall you cannot help but think it sucks and stinks and is just downright awful.

I think often that no matter what, we still have a lot. Still lucky and blessed in many ways.

It feels hard to trudge ahead, to forge on, to keep going. So we stop often and grieve and shed a few tears and sigh and curse, and look into our hands and think of what we have; and massage our hearts and try to draw strength from each other and try to move on again. Keep on living and just waiting for the pain to slowly slowly go away.

We are home again. A surreal feeling, coming back as a family of four, plus a memory box. Our minds, memories and bodies altered. The girls provide cheer with their excitement and innocence, and of course also a heck lot of mess and noise with their squabbling (and then soon again happy laughter as they make up again after three seconds). R and I just feel old and sick and tired with the amount of stuff to deal with. There is a little seed of hope in our hearts though, just waiting to grow. We want to live again. We feel run over, but we want to get up, somehow. There is no other way. No wonder they say since you are here, you might as well dance.

For some people, Life is very hard from the get-go. So I do not complain. I know I have had it good. So little reason for me to let myself down and just wallow and wilt.

More acutely I feel, Life and Death stands back-to-back. Every second is precious, and sometimes I feel like just kicking myself to get up  and STOP crying!!! To prove to myself how much I treasure my girls as I see them now as two miracles. To not just think they are miracles, but to treat them as such. No more taking for granted. No more manyana’s.

Oh, God, or Life, or whatever I should stretch my arms out to for mercy, please, let me stand up again. Let me dance again, I’ll show you! There is much left in me, I know. Maybe Time needs to move some more… … so I can Love again, and Live again. Coming home feels like coming back to the same point; picking things up again and moving on. We’ll move on… …. out gait having changed as we carry memories of Ferdinand on our backs and in our hearts, but slowly, slowly, we’ll move on again… …

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My dear little Ferdinand,

today you are three weeks old. Although I am not one to hang onto numbers and care not much about them, how can a mother not remember? The first days are always so precious we count everyday as a gem.

Yesterday your ashes were installed in a niche in the temple where the ashes of your great-grandfather and your grand-cousin also lies. Rev. Meow Ee put your ashes into a marble urn; it was a small one, very nice one; mama would have chosen the same. On your tablet is engraved a drawing of you and also two deers; the deers symbolizes Buddha’s first sermon at the deer park, where many animals also came to listen to the wisdom of his teachings. There is a baby white-tailed deer that has been visiting our yard from time to time; it made me think of you; so gentle and so swift to move. Rev. Meow Ee asked for lots of food to be prepared for your special prayers, as he said you did not have enough to eat. That so hurts mama to hear, do you know? To think that you did not receive enough nourishment in the womb, and mama not being able to even offer you a sip of her milk before you set off on your long journey. It just totally tears me to pieces. Your grand-aunt sent me pictures of everything and it saddens mama to not be able to be there for the prayers. I realized that we were not allowed to bring your ashes back home because you died such a young soul; in Chinese customs the elder do not pay respects to the younger and that was why the temple took over the installation of the ashes and the prayers. But know that mama keeps you in her heart forever, and sings to you and prays for your safety and our happiness! In the mysterious place that you are now, you will probably meet your great-grandfather. He died when I was five; he loved me very much and I still miss him. I am sure he is happy to see you. He will be proud of you, for even if I had guessed at your temperament, deep down I know you will be a gentle and beautiful soul. Mama just knows.

Ferdinand, my son, I am still trying to understand it all. It is so very hard. I feel as if I am trying to piece together a puzzle except I do not even know what the puzzle is about. Sometimes it seems I am almost getting there, but then things will shift, or I never find the missing piece. Some days also I feel I am in acceptance, and then on some days I simply refuse to do so. I do not know why. Somehow I feel if I say “yes” to acceptance then I am admitting to defeat, but I don’t know defeat to what, or to who. Even your father told me the other evening that it is time that I “let go”. He said he also desperately wants an answer, and he also could not understand, but he kept telling me to think about how things really happened in the best way possible… … he reminded me that you only knew Love, nothing else. I know that too, my baby, and I try to remind myself of that too. yesterday I also told D that I try not to put a “good” or “bad” judgement on what had happened, trying to just accept it, though I also do see many good things. I wrote, “Although I have never in my wildest dreams thought I would labor and give birth to a dead baby, I actually feel honored that I can still bring him out to greet him briefly and his sisters could see him as a whole baby. We could hold him and touch him. During the labor I was checked more times than I liked, and it hurt to have my waters broken, esp not feeling the waters gush out, knowing there were no more fluids, but the birth went very fast and well, I did not tear at all.”

D and I also talked about the loss of innocence, and having fear. I am afraid, my son, I am afraid for the road ahead. I do not feel so sure anymore. This blow is so brutal my knees still shake and I cannot stand. My body still bruised and bloody from the impact and the pain and ache do not lessen with the passing of days. Life is no longer a positive, bright, happy thing. I realize more deeply now Life and Death are really the same thing…. not very far from each other. I also see that life is so terribly fragile. As I research and read and dig around, I have come across millions of problems that can occur when Life tries to prevail, from the minute of conception to birth, so many perils lurk; and then after the birth, it is the same. Human life is no stronger than any other, really not at all. I know now that when I look at your two sisters, I am truly looking at two miracles, as I consider my previous trouble-free pregnancies, and how they were and still are such robust healthy children. These are truly gifts to me that i do not dare take for granted anymore. Is this the gift you give to me, to realize this? Was I too cocky and arrogant before to think that I am entitled to a healthy pregnancy and healthy children? I have also wondered if I have entered a different phase in my Life, where innocence and Believing are taken over by being much more cautious, even paranoid, being a little jaded, and somewhat fearful. Is this how Life is supposed to progress? It can seem like that, but I refuse that path.

I don’t think I have ever felt Fear that way, my son. I try to recall, and I know I was very afraid when i had to go to the hospital to give birth to your elder sister; I was scared to death when they cranked up the pitocin on me and I had no control over my body at all. But even though my ribs were breaking and I felt I may die, there was a point when I took a deep breath and decided that I have to take charge of my body. And so now, I also refuse to just let fear consume my Life. I don’t think you would have agreed. Even though I feel now I have died, and I am struggling to stand up, I told D this: “I feel afraid for what Life has in store for me for the road ahead, but I also know I have to walk it. You have to love, and lose, and gain, and hurt and gain joy, there is no other way. It is a fact of life for me, and I choose to accept it. I feel afraid but a part of me fiercely wants to embrace life again, and yell and shout with joy and dance in defiance. Life is suffering, as Buddha discovered one day; his father wanted to prevent it but there is no prevention for such things. You dare to love, you dare to lose. Life is like that; big risks, big returns. I hear you about not getting hopes up… …. I think this is how humans progress…. from the wide-eyed innocence and confidence and belief to being more cautious, a little jaded…. …. but I want to try to defy that.” And I think, you are going to be that big boulder of strength behind me when I get up and walk again; I know you are holding my hand and my heart then, and you will show me the way.

Do you know, when i cannot sleep sometimes, I will put my hands on my belly. It is something I love to do once I find out I am pregnant. Before the belly starts to show, I feel for the vibrations of Life within when I put my hands over my belly, smiling at the secret that I held within, that nobody will know, at least for a little while. As you grew within my belly, I love to feel over the roundness of it all. Now, as I lay my hands over my belly and remember the sensation and vibrations of you within, and the odd shapes you give to my belly as you squirm around, I feel a deflated, wrinkled belly covered with stretch marks. It only reminds me of the emptiness within, and how you filled me up in all the wholesome way the last months. I miss you, I thank you.

Ferdinand, my dear son, I don’t think this pain ever dulls; but I feel some peace to know that you are at a brighter, happier place. I know you chose a different path, and I am terribly saddened to not be your mother on earth this time, maybe next time! Even then, know that Love transcends all space and that I have an abundance of that for you.

Missing you, and loving you,

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