Archive for March, 2011

I received an email from a sweet family friend C, who excitedly told me that she had found the perfect photo frame wherein she wanted to display photos of my family. She had already fitted in the photo-card we sent out for Chinese New Year this year, and she wanted to use the one from 2009 as well. There are two more slots. And she requested a photo of our entire family, “with mom and dad included,” and finally, she would love to have one of Ferdinand.

I almost wept. In my heart I just repeated Thank you thank you thank you! Thank you for remembering little Ferdinand!

But at the same time a seed of dread was beginning to sprout in my heart. And rapidly its tendrils grew and entwined and gripped and strangled.

I descended into our digital photo archives and scrolled to the dreaded year, then the awful month, and then the most unforgettable, horrible day(s) of our lives. Life spun backwards, screeching at high speed while I clicked and scrolled, my eyes darting here and there, trying not to see the pain and agony, futilely fending off the sad memories, balling up and trying to roll away from the hurt and shock. But I not only saw those images again. I felt them viscerally. It was like digging into my own raw flesh with nails encrusted with raw, diamond-edged salt.

I found the picture, the touched up one. I sent it off.

But not the memories, not the pain, not the grief. Those stayed. And I sobbed.


How funny that I recently again came across W.H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues.” I could never write like that, but I know I wished like that after Ferdinand died. I wanted the world to crumble, for the sky to fall and for laughter to be wiped out forever. Eternal darkness, and floods of tears to never subside.

Some days life feels like the crisp, clear, cheery morning after an evening of raging storm. Raindrops quiver on leaves, birds tweet and butterflies flit.

People like to keep pointing to the rainbow that manifests after a storm. I like to remind them that it came after an ugly, formidable storm. I appreciate and cherish the rainbow, I just never forgot the storm.


“Funeral Blues” (Song IX/ from “Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

~ Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973)


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Have you considered what an irony the title of my new food blog seems? — My Sweet Life.

It is not that my life is not sweet. There are many genuine sweet moments. I just feel it is a shiny, happy carefree woman who has a doting husband and four healthy children, a big bright clean kitchen and a size 4 jeans who gets to name her blog “My Sweet Life.” But when I was setting up the blog I did not have any clever title in my head, and I did not want to wait for a clever title to come along (it may never ever) so I just did it. Strangely that was the title that popped up, I guess because the first few recipes I already had in mind were the sweet stuff.

I had written in one of  my posts there that life cannot be all sweetness, just like our palette tastes not just sweet, but also sour, bitter, salty and spicy.

Some moments of my life are beyond sweet. Others are bittersweet. I know you know what I mean.

The past couple of weeks my heart had been heavy thinking of R’s cousin, N.  N is a very, very sweet lady. When I visited Germany and R’s family for the first time she made an effort to make me feel at home. I could not speak German and so she spoke English with me, even if she had to stop often and think of a word. I know if we had moved to Germany we probably would have gotten along very well and maybe even be good friends. I do not know for sure but that was and is how I feel. After Ferdinand died, she sent a card, several months after. She was the only person on the German side who sent anything. I knew she had given much thought about what to write, and I so appreciate her having taken the effort.

Now, I may need to write her a card, but I am not absolutely sure how I will choose my words.N became a mother three years ago, to a boy born with a cleft palete. That was amended with surgery. Then she fell pregnant with twins. But soon they found out one of the twins had a severe heart condition and will need surgery soon after birth. N had to go on bedrest the last weeks of her pregnancy for various reasons. She had a C-section, and the baby with the heart condition died after birth. The doctors thought maybe the baby had down’s as well. The other baby seems to be doing well but she needed to stay longer at the hospital as she was not recovering well physically.

When R first broke the news my heart just broke for her. Totally broke. Why does her pregnancies have to be so hard? I thought about the things she is going to hear: at least one baby is still alive. You should feel grateful to at least have one baby. It must be for the best. You must be strong for your boys. You need to move on. He would not have lived long with that condition anyway. There must be a good reason for this.

I thought of how N must feel, laying on the hospital bed, her world fallen apart, her heart breaking. I thought of the other mothers I know, who have lost a twin, or babies soon after birth. I thought of all the grieving mothers and waves upon waves of sorrow just washed over me. In aching for them, I was crying for my own heart.

Right now we can only wait till we hear something from N, for they had not sent out any word yet, made no announcements. No cards, no letters. Just waiting. But in my heart and in my mind I had sent flowers and hugs many times over, and fended off all insensitive words she may have had to hear.

Her twins, and mine- if they had not left- could have been born days within each other.

This other mom, from Val’s martial arts school, had her baby safely, about the same time. Tiny baby. But cute and healthy. Born about the same time as the twins.

That mother will never know my story, or that of N’s. But maybe we don’t know hers either.

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