Nov 13, 2015

Growing up with Pa, Part Two

I was a different kid from young. Different in so many ways. Maybe because I was sick, I wasn't allowed to go out and play with my friends. So I stayed home all the time. My sister, Winnie also stayed away from me. If I hurt myself, she gets blamed. Thus we never had sibling rilvary. She gave in to me all the time. I was weak child. I couldn't run or play hopscotch. No ball games either. I could just walk and no one is pushing me, and I can just go weak and fell. 

When I was 4 years old, I had a near fatal accident at home. I slipped and fell and hit against the corner of a kitchen cabinet. I bled profusely. Pa fetched me to the hospital. I vaguely remembered wearing a white dress of a PJ which Ma sewn for me. The white dress was soaked in blood. Ma held me in her arms, seated at the back of Pa's car. The doctors back then told Pa and Ma that I have lost a lot of blood..and I may have memory loss. I couldn't remember things. Short term or long term stuff. Pa was devastated. Ma cried in the shadows.

It was then Pa self taught himself of many literacy skills, of which Phonics was one of them. He taught me phonics from a very young age. He would often repeat himself when he wants to tell me an important fact. And everyday, he prayed for me. *

*I never knew Pa prayed for me. Its a secret between him and God. I only found out last May 2014, when he discovered he has bone cancer. He told me he prayed for my memory everyday, without fail..*

For everything else, Pa taught me to apply logic, knowledge and understanding so I don't have to rely on my memory at all. Thus I learnt since young to try to understand how things work and if I could, I should break something up in many pieces and understand how each part is and thus form the big picture. 

I was ahead of everyone at school. Not because I was smarter. But I studied differently. I saw everything in different light. If Pa wasn't there to guide me, I would have been very different now.

From that, I became an introvert, not by choice but by circumstances. Pa filled my days with literature, Music, Arts and movies. From a young age, he exposed me to all forms of literacy works. From pictorial books(Comics) to Illustrated books(stories with nice drawings) to books with larger print. As I grew up each year, he would introduced books he felt I should be reading. In many ways, he dictated what I should see, feel, touch and sense. Through these, he taught me to see things in a bigger perspective, cast a wider net so to speak. He taught me to understand simple truths, and to read a book not by its cover but to know how an author lives and how that affects his/her writings.

From as early as I can remember, Pa started telling me about Dracula and about Frankenstein. He would correct me if I say "Frankenstein" and quipped quickly saying "Its Frankenstein's Monster". When I started having friends in school, I found no one understands a single word I say. I was often quoting from books I read. In that void of friendship, I resign to my books again. Pa introduced me to poetry and prose ahead of time, ahead of my peers.

Sometimes I seemed to be in a world of my own, quoting famous lines from books or poetry. I never grew up with Barbie Dolls, but I grew up on books like the "Little Women", "The Time Machine", "The Pearl". Pa told me the best way to understand a book was to understand how an author thinks. And how an author thinks is affected by his environment, the place he grew up, the places he has been and the people he has met.

My first horror book Pa introduced to me was Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Soon after, I became immensely intrigued by Poe. I looked and read all his poetry too. Just for kicks, although Pa didn't allow me to.

Subsequently, Pa gave me Dracula by Bram Stroker, Frankenstein's Monster by Mary Shelley to read up. But I loved only Poe's works. And I would challenged myself to read Poe's Black Cat at night, with the head lights off and only a table lamp by my side. 

And the next day I would jump and tell Pa the experience I had reading the Black Cat at midnight. He thought that I was brave..very brave for a kid of only 10 years old. 

When my friends were reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Pa got me into Sherlock Holmes. Pa has read all of the stories on Sherlock Holmes. His best loved story was "The Hounds of the Baskervilles". He made sure I read it and he ask me of my thoughts. And he would shared his.  I could always see a spark in his eyes as he spoke of how witty he thought Sherlock Holmes was in solving this mystery.

When the first black and white Sherlock Holmes series went on TV, Pa would watch it with me. Then he would tell me that the book always tell the full story, a movie made out of it, just highlights certain portions of the book. So he says its best to always read the book first, followed by the movie, then go back and read the book again. 

When the season ended with the black and white TV, Pa saved enough and we got our first colour TV. Pa and I would spend time watching "Colombo" at night. From a young age, Pa taught me to be selective in movies, in books. I don't have many books. 

When I became a teenager, all my friends are reading Mills & Boon Romance collection. Pa said its poor taste in literature and instead he got me into "Rebecca" and "Wuthering Heights". He allowed me to read The Great Gatsby. Of course, when the movie came out, I went to watch it with Pa at the theatre. The Great Gatsby character was played by Robert Redford. And I think I was in love..not with the movie, but with Robert Redford of course..!

Pa thinks I have good taste in good Actors because he loved a certain group of actors/actresses. He alone introduces me to Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen(late), Julie Andrews. 

You know, I can just write a whole chapter just talking about movies, books with Pa. When Omar Sharif passed away in July 10 2015(recently), Pa was in the hospital. I visited him and told him Omar Sharif has passed away. Pa paused to think, and he said this

"Remember, Ting? Remember the Lawrence of Arabia?"

"Yes, Pa, I remembered." I paused my heart, I cried. I missed all the days I have spent with Pa, over books, over poetry and prose, over movies and talking about the actors, the plot and everything else.


Nov 12, 2015

Growing Up with Pa, part One

My memories  I will pen down before it fades with age and time.

Pa as an English Teacher

I was born in 1963, a sickly child. My sister was healthy and fit as a fiddle. So Pa took it upon himself to care for me since then. We became extremely closed due to that. Pa was an English school teacher in a Chinese secondary school. Where he taught English as a 2nd language. Everyday after school, he would come home and I will greet him at the door. And he would put his files down on the table and instead of going to change his clothes, he would sit with me, with his arms around me and he would read a book with me. Its an old Chinese pictorial book, I remembered it had only 10 to 12 pages. There were words in it, but I couldn't read, not just as yet. I haven't been to school. Then after that, Pa would say "ok, I need to take a bath, and mark the papers". I would be contented as Pa has spent that precious 10 minutes with me. 

Pa would take short naps in the afternoon and he expected me to do likewise. Because of this, its been an afternoon nap I have to take every day without fail, from 3pm to 5pm. I would sit by Pa at his reading table. And I watch him write and he does referencing on books and stuff. Pa would give me a pencil and a paper to draw stuff, and he would tell me how his day went. Half the time I couldn't figure out what he was saying. But something in me knew I just had to sit there and listen. I was never the child who poke and probe or ask too much questions. But I was the child who was quiet, attentive and obedient. So Pa doted on me alot.

When we got our first black and white TV set, Pa would allow me to watch certain shows with him. But he watches all the cartoon shows with me, he  would laugh at all the jokes. When I was old enough for the movies, he would take me to watch all the Disney's animated cartoon movies. I was the happiest child back then. I grew up in the time where most families could not even afford a radio at home, much less a TV or a day at the movies in the cinema. We weren't rich but Pa came from a wealthy family in Taiping, Malaysia. He never had to support his family, and whatever he earns, he gave everything to Ma who help to keep the finances at home. Pa saved his pennies for me, so once its school holidays, he would take me to the movies.

At home, he would watch movies with me. And he would explain who did what, why they did what they did. Its with this, I grew up loving the movies. Pa told me to watch all genres. From romance to crime fighting, to horror and drama. Back then, there isn't much gore on TV or Movies. 

But my most favoured memory with Pa at that young age was when the Circus came to Singapore. Pa brought me to the travelling circus. It was the first time I went to one. It was everything I imagined it would be, possibly more. As Pa used to read to me, of stories and tales about the Circus. After visiting one with Pa, he would ask me how I felt and he told me of the famous Ringling Brothers , Barnum and Bailey Circus. None of my peers nor even Benny knew what in the world is Barnum and Bailey circus. Only me..and of course PA.

And everything I have gone through in my young life, Pa was there always to explain the complexity to me.

When Natasha was 5 or 6, a travelling circus group came to Singapore. My eyes and heart lit up like the lights on a Christmas tree. I bought tickets to go but instead of going there with Natasha, I gave Pa the tickets to go with Natasha. PA was delighted. Because I knew he wanted to relive that old with his grand daughter, he would tell her of the things he used to tell me. 

This is my Pa, that is one of the reasons when I married Benny, I asked God to make him like Pa, the one who spend time with his kids, the one who would tell them stories and be their friend. The one who held their little hands in his, and the one who adores them to bits.

Nov 2, 2015

This Life

Sigh...How do I begin to write this? Having a writer's block can be a serious thing if your livelihood depends on it. Some years ago, before Dad became ill, life was good. Or at least everything seems to hold at its best. No major dramas.

Fast forward, now..I can't say the same. I believe God prep us into this. He is preparing us for times ahead. He blesses us with good things, happy things and we are contended with life and all that surrounds it. When we found out about Dad and his cancer, our lives turn upside down. Feelings aside, we struggled to keep everything afloat.

A year before the discovery, my sister quits her high flyer job. She stayed at home to catch up on her hobbies which are knitting and crocheting. She needed to rest after working in the corporate world for over 30 years. In that time, she and Dad bonded. Something she never did since young. Dad was never close to her but more with me. My sister was a survival in all things, she was street-smart you might say. But I was the sick child, the weak one. So Dad took care of me since young. And the one he had to protect and save me from everything.

Despite been born of the same parents and living in the same household, my sister and I have different characters, trains of thoughts and attitude of life. I guess its because of our lives, we are made to think differently.

The doctors told us that Dad will not last 2 years. A year and 8 months have past. Do we start counting now? Dad is now bedridden, and unable to get up from the bed for anything. In the recent weeks, he was reduced to drinking water via a spoon, the liquid/water/juices must be mixed with a thickener powder so it flows down his throat into his stomach. He is unable to eat anything solid. When we suggest to liquify cooked food, the doctors say not to give him as his body is conserving energy and will not need food. To date, 3 weeks now (since Oct 19), Dad has not eaten a single meal. However, the doctors allow him to eat ice cream. So now he lives on ice cream 2 times a day or more if he ask of it.

Last week I visited him and he tries to raise his hand to ask me to come nearer. He struggles to speak, so I had to put my head as close as I can to him..he said softly "You don't have to cook for me, ..I .... I"

I told him "Pa, I know you cannot eat anymore. But I have to cook for Ma to eat. If she doesn't eat, she will have fainting spells"

Pa nodded his head with agreement. Yet I saw the spark in his eyes have faded. As if life and hope is gone. So I put my hand on his chest, near his heart and reassured him and kept saying

"Pa, I know, I know"

My sister and I questioned God a 100 times. But its no longer "Why God, Why me?" We question God "Why don't you take him home with You?". We see him suffering daily. Dad lived to eat, not eat to live. Dad lived his life glorifying God, he took up Cantonese dialect on his own to learn to speak it effectively. So that he can preach the Gospel in Cantonese dialect to the illiterate old folks at our church. In Church of Singapore where we worship, Pa was a respectable Brother. For years, people sees me as "Brother Choong's daughter" and as if I have no name..!

I used to be resentful of that. Now, I see this as a great respect for Pa. I have written a eulogy for Pa ahead of time. My sister has already prep the things needed for a funeral. A Good black and white Photograph has been taken for Pa. So when the time comes, we will not panick and will hopefully get things done properly.

Pa wants his funeral to be done in a casket company and to last a day. And to be cremated the next day. He doesn't want us to cry and be sorrowful for too long. He wants his ashes to be cast into the sea. He wants us to remember him in our hearts.

I was tasked to handle all the funeral matters, to inform all of Pa's friends and church workers, of his ex-students. My sister will handle all the doctors and the medical part.

I talk like he's gone..but he is still around. And for how long, we have no idea. In the quietness in the household, in the void that we cannot do anything to ease his pain and suffering, we fuss over the funeral arrangements..a sign of coping?

Pa told us no big sobs and wailing. We can have tears but we should rejoice upon his death when it comes.

So this Life, now if you ask me, do I want to come back again?


Live it to the fullest, Be Happy with it. All the Good things it Gives along with all the BAD things. Don't hold back anything. Eat the fattest part of the pork, spread more kaya and butter on your toast. Live like there is no tomorrow. And when you are done with it, don't look back and wonder. Don't think about how best you could have lived it or the mistakes you made and how you can un-fault it. Don't, just Don't.

I am not coming back to This LIFE. I have the best. When its time, I'll go as happy as Pa says I should go. Rejoice!

Aug 15, 2014

A Blessing with Dad

Its been a year since I last wrote. So many things have happened in that period of time. I have so much to say but I have so little time for it.

But today, I found a little time to tell you the most important thing in my life now. My dad.

In May 2014, he was hospitalised for a back ache..after MRI scans, tests etc, they found a tumour growing in the lower spine area. It grew so big that it fracture his spine. And found the cancer has spread to his lungs and colon. 

In the initial 2 weeks, we questioned God and blame each other for not noticing that Dad was unwell. Dad has been healthy all these years. A flu, a cough from any of us, he doesn't catch the virus. Being old, at 80 years, his hair is naturally black. Not a single strand turn white or grey.

My dad lived his life full of gladness, of immense joy. He watches us grow, he was there to coach us in our studies, he was there to cheer us up on our sad days. When we met our spouses, he was there to give us his blessings.

When we had kids, my dad help to care for them. He would carry them and fed them. He would bring them out for walks to the market and taught them to touch, feel and taste of everything that moves.

When our kids started pre school, my dad drove them there and back. He would hold their little hands, and if there is a big drain they needed to cross, he would pick them up and hug them and carry them over.

He would read the Bible to them and he would tell them of little things that happen. He would teach them to be kind to animals and would often say 

"if a bird flies into the house. Don't try to catch it. But shoo it out of the window. A bird is meant to be free. God gave them wings to fly. Not to be folded up and kept in a bird cage. A happy bird is one that sings all day long because it is happy to be free. "

that same teaching my dad told me when I was a kid. To this day, I love my pets and they are never lock up in cages. Even my rabbit gets a very big cage by day. by night, he is let loose to roam the balcony, to stretch his legs to jump about and play. 

My dad's illness taught me many life lessons. One of which is to live each day with gladness. And be happy that it brings hope. I do not know what tomorrow brings. Maybe something good or something bad. But whatever it is, I learnt to overlook it. 

I used to be so bothered with what others spoke of me or thought about me. Now I am happy if I can live another day and see dad. Although I am tired, worn out, but seeing him smile ..that's the best present I can get.

I remember as a kid, my dad would spend all his free time with me. Because he was a school teacher and would have enjoy the same school holidays with us. He would take me to the movies, to the circus if it comes to Singapore or swimming and he would read to me all the time.

My dad loves anything American or British. So he would take me to watch all the American movies. He loved Red Buttons, Peter O'Toole, and even John Wayne..! When we got our first black and white TV back in the early 1970s, we would stay up late and watch Columbo which was played by the late Peter Falk. I remember all those days..watching shows on a black and white TV with Dad. 

Now he spends his days at home..reading the bible, going for short naps through out the day. With the occasional visits from church and family members.

My dad taught me to appreciate the basics of life..the minimal mechanics of simple things. So that I will remember it all the days of my life. Somehow along the way, I forgotten about it. 

My dad will be 82 years old this 30 August 2014. And his hair is still jet black. He has no worries about life and things. He sees every day as a blessing and worries not. As he often tells me what the Bible says 

"Look at the birds in the air. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. And you know that you are worth much more than the birds. 27 You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it. " Matthew 6: 26, 27

His insights on life taught us to live one day at a time. And everyday its a blessing that we can still have him by our side, to share and love him all we can.

So in turn, I tell my cousins, and even my love their parents and to care for them in their autumn years. While you can, and don't wait for things to happen then ring them to say Hello. Even if you are far away, in another country, it doesn't cost that much to pick up the phone and call them just to ask how they are.

I wrote a letter to my dad..but I have yet to give it to him. Since he stop getting treatment for chemo, his memory of life and things improved. I would rather show him how much I appreciated, respect him and loved him in the things I do for him everyday… a letter cannot pen down all my love.

To each day it brings, my sister and I learnt to live it with so much joy and happiness. I am also thankful for my hubby Benny, who stood by me in my time of need. And my sister and also my brother in law Francis. My dad may not have sons, but he gained 2 when we married the men in our lives who not only took care of us, but also took care of them.

So everyday, IS A BLESSING.. And God sees to it that we are so so blessed and we are so thankful for it.

ps we do not know how long he will be with us. With each day, we count our blessings. 

Nov 12, 2013

To Have and To Hold

12 November 2013 : Today marks the 25th year of my life as Mrs Benny Lim. Benny never wanted us to celebrate our anniversary for reasons he believed that if you chose to marry someone and to love her for life, then you better wise up and do it daily. Why pick a day to remember her or to give her flowers or bring her for a meal?We learned over time to show love, concern, care and kindness to each other every day. Some days we get it right, some days we frowned at each other. But each day, we closed it with a bit of contentment. Sure, there were days I wanna strangle him for making me upset and some days he was just downright angry with me for reasons I couldn't give in to him because I am typically a woman who thinks she is always right.

On the eve of our wedding, my mom took me aside and told me what is expected of me as a wife and a daughter-in-law. She says to me :

"Ting, don't be so bull-headed, such a spoilt child. Once you are married, your duty is to serve him. Not to be his servant because a servant works for money. 

But to be with him, for him and by his side. 

Whatever you do, you must always think that your actions will affect him. 

When you go out with him and eats with his friends, never speak up unless you are spoken to. 

Never walk in front of him, but always be by his side or behind him.If he comes home late from work, you are to stay up and wait for him. 

Make sure he is fed before he turns in.If he is tired, let him rest and don't disturb him."

But Mama, that's a slave, not a wife! 

 Then my mom told me "in everything we do, we do for the future. If you plant a seed and it grows, you must nurture it daily, pull out any weeds that grows around it, pick out all the worms that tries to eat the leaves, water it, and soon you will get a pretty flower. So with our husbands, we as their wives, have to do the same. As God has instructed us to be. Be the wife the Bible talks about. Sure, you will not go wrong.As it has been written."In the beginning of our early years, it was easy to be that 'slave' like wife to him.   

Over time, when our girls came into our lives, with work, housework, almost seems impossible to be the wife like it was said in the Bible.Some days I swear I could just melt and die. Some days I was overwhelmed with just the normal things we go through each day. There were heated words exchanged. We are definitely not that perfect couple. We have our faults and differences. In the way we saw things that needs done, right down to how dishes are to be washed, cleaned and kept away. In the ways how we should educate our girls. Yet each day, I am reminded of what my mom told me. And I would go back to God and ask Him to teach me and to show me how to be that perfect wife to him.In all my days as his wife, all I could think of was "how can I be better to him? How can I please him?" It was never the thoughts of "Why can't he give in to me? Why can't he be nicer to me"   

Its in my wildest dreams that should a day come I became my own boss, then I wished he could stop work with others and work with me. And when he does that, he would be my boss and I would be his assistant.And so, in 2011, he quit his job, swallowed his pride of working in a high profile job and work alongside with me. Many who knew me, thought that we are that perfect couple. Well, to be perfect, you have to work on it.25 years and still counting. We are definitely not perfect, still work in progress you might say. As God has intended us to be, on the day we swore to family and friends to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer and till death do us part.   

"Till death do us part" was Benny most hated words/phrase. He told me years ago : "Let's do everything together, go everywhere together. So if some thing unfortunate happens, we go upstairs together too and no one gets left behind."   

If you have  wondered why my mom called me a spoilt child. Well, she is right about that. My mom spoiled me since young. I never had to help in household chores. Or learn to cook or bake. In the early dating days, my mom told Benny that I was the youngest child and utterly spoilt. Marrying me would mean alot of expectations and adjustments on both ends.  

So what did I do to please him? You must know that in my family(aunties, uncles, cousins, etc), they knew I can't cook or bake. During family gatherings with pot luck, I would get KFC or Pizza Hut deliveries. That's me! I have really big shoes to fill in as  Benny comes from a family whose parents are good cooks. He grew up on teochew cuisine, simple home fare meals. I can't even figure out what it means to boil water to cook instant noodles, let alone make soon kueh. :(So a year before we got married, I started practising and honing in my cooking skills. I would go to my mother-in-law's house and would try to cook there. Because my mom would kill me if I mess up her kitchen. And my late father-in-law would come and poke around and watched me. Most of the times, he would just barged in and cook and Benny would argue with his parents to stop telling me how things are done and let me do everything myself.When we finally marry and we got ourselves a flat, I would struggle at home and sometimes cried because I burnt the rice in the rice cooker or the soup too salty because I over-boiled it. I will forever remember our first anniversary in our new home. 

All I could figure out back then was instant noodles in a soup base using the packed ingredients. I tried to cook an egg but its over cooked. The chicken was under-cook so blood was oozing out. Benny tried to please me by smiling and said "the soup is nice, the chicken is like Hainanese Chicken, so its okay". Then tears rolled down my face because I can see that he is trying very hard to please me. So that was how our tradition started..and so he told me "

We will NEVER celebrated our wedding anniversary but always to love and care for each other daily. All the time"And I swore to myself from that day onwards, I will learn to cook. And to cook anything he wants and likes to eat. No matter how far fetched or how difficult that dish may look or seem, I will try to figure it out.

So what you see of me today, the so called any-how cook and still look pretty on a plate, that's LOVEA good 4 letter word. For all these years, Benny did more for me that I ever knew. He always tell me "you tired? then we go ta-pao(take away) tonight". When he says that , I know what he wants. Its home cooked meals, any kind, any simple fare. Even though its just soup and rice, that's good enough for him.When we open the retail shop in 2009, I asked him why..because I am not into retailing and have no knowledge whatsoever. And he said to me "You are resourceful, quick witted and has a good marketing flair for culinary stuff. And I have at least 30 years of retailing experience. Together we can rock this part of the world with our mad-skills. Plus, I want this shop for us, to grow old together, to be like last time when we use to see each other."Its not the same with being married and stay in the same house and you see each other every day. With us working together, we had our set of differences emerging. My bull-headed ways seem to get into his ways too. He was so used to be at the top and ordering people around. It will  take time for him to mellow down and to take a step back to work things out.Trust me, it wasn't easy. We prayed about this, put the matter to God to fix for us. And God showed us the Bible, and taught us that if its LOVE we have for each other, then we learn to do things together again.Ok, I am still spoilt. And I still want to win. ALWAYS! But if I needed him to be with me at work, then I have to swallow my own pride, my ego and all of it and step back. And being the first to admit its my fault, brings out the best of someone too.     

Marriage is not something you swore to God or a piece of paper contract you sign and sealed. Marriage is something you need to work on it. And if its 'torn' up somehow, you need to get tape to stick it back. You need fix it as and when you can. Not when its all torn up and crumbled and beyond repair.I have always want to love someone and when I find that someone to love, I already told myself, I would do anything and everything I can to make him happy that he chose me..and only me.For Benny, I made a drastic change to my lifestyle, my character just to suit his needs.And everything I have done for him, in turn, he returns it back to me double fold.So to many who visits my blog and read the occasional story here and now, Love is not something you heard of or read of or gossip about. Its something you want for yourself, something that will keep you happy and joyful but you need to work on it and keep it. If you don't, it will 'run away' from you.As I look forward to the next 25 years, each day I know and I breathe the joy and the love Benny and I have sworn to give to each other..May you be blessed too..

Apr 28, 2013

When the dust settles

I was to write about something else a few days ago.  A testimony by my hubby Benny Lim. But this supercedes everything now. I shall write about the testimony on another day.

With a heavy heart, I penned down my thoughts, my feelings and my tears for a dear family friend whom we affectionately address her as Aunty Chu Gim. Who recently passed away after a long illness. She was my Aunt's best friend since her high school days. As far as I can remember, I would always see Aunty Chu Gim in all of our family parties, gatherings and festivities with the family.  And everyone greeted Aunty Chu Gim, asked about her, and of her daughter, Ru-Shin. 

I remembered asking Mom who is this lady? Mom told me this and I remembered it till today, she said :

"This lady is Aunty Chu Gim. She is Aunty Aileen's best friend from school. And our close family friend. Whenever you see her, you must go and greet her and call her "Aunty". Remember that..she is a part of my family now"

Aunty Chu Gim became extremely closed to me in the recent years when her only daughter, Ru-Shin was to get married in November 2009. She wanted to bake the fruit cakes for the wedding, but due to ill-health, she was unable to. It was always something she wanted to do.

So she called me one day..sometime early February 2009, just after Chinese New Year that year. And she asked if I could bake the cakes for the wedding. And she said I don't have to decorate it, just baked, packed into little favour boxes to be given away at the Church reception. 

To me, I felt such an honour that Aunty would ask me to bake the cakes. And I wanted the cakes to be decorated for photo taking. Not just to give it away. Aunty Chu Gim told me this :

"Gina, is it possible for you to cut down on sugar for the cake? Like a lot,  a lot and a lot? Because I am diabetic now and I have many friends, family who cannot take too much sugar too."

I don't know what got into me...I just said "Yes, of course. Anything for you, Aunty" and I said it in a gusto and a smile on my face. 

After the phone call, it sank in that I have no idea how the cake would be or how it will be without sugar??? I spent several weeks, to months figuring out how the cake would be, how it will taste like. I googled for sugar free cakes, and most are yucky looking or tasteless. After all, while many of the family friends can't take sugar, the rest of us can. So it has to be a cake that "one size fits all".

I sat down to pray and I ask God to give me the Knowledge, the Wisdom to figure this out. And to give me the strength to bake and build a 3 tier Wedding cake for Ru-shin's wedding and also to bake 500 little cakes to be packed into the wedding favour boxes for the guests.

By His grace, I figured it all out. Baked, decorated and delivered the cake to the wedding. 

I remembered seeing Aunty Chu Gim at the entrance to the chapel, she was so happy to see me and she told everyone by pointing at me, saying I was the one who baked the cakes, did the wedding cake..I think I wanted to go and hide somewhere.. It was my First time..baking, decorating a wedding cake. I have no idea how the guests would like the cake or not or whether the cake would come crashing down. 

Aunty Chu Gim also ask for a favour, that I set aside some 200 more mini cakes, all packed so she could bring to Taiwan for her family/friends as soon after the wedding, she's all packed to go. And again, without hesitation, I agreed. But during the wedding reception, the 200 mini cakes went missing..and I was wondering how come the guests took more than their fair share of mini cakes.

We figured that our so-called well hidden mini cakes were removed by mistake by the catering staff who could have thought that these are extras for the guests.

Aunty Chu Gim was a bit upset, I could see..and I quickly ran up to her and say "Don't worry, Aunty, I would go home tonight and baked a new lot for you. I still have the Cointreau-soaked cherries at home"

Because of this wedding, Aunty Chu Gim kept in contact with me via email and sometimes via SMS through the phone. And her emails to me were always about food..about asking of a particular ingredient or where to get it. It was always in her heart and mind and soul to cook, to bake for her family, her loved ones. 

I find her to be the most endearing person. In all our family parties, she was very much a part of our lives. Mingling with all of us as if we are related. We have grown so accustomed to seeing her, uncle Look (her hubby) and Ru-shin that if she didn't show, we ask Mom if Aunty is coming.

In the recent years, Aunty Chu Gim suffered a stroke and sms was forwarded to each and everyone in the family. We set aside time, to sit down and pray for her recovery. And always without fail, we would enquire about her well being and the elders(my aunts) would visit her at the hospital. When she was discharged from the hospital, Aunty Aileen would visit her and tend to her basic needs. 

For years, Aunty Chu Gim was very much loved and adored by all of us. Of late, she suffered a stroke, sometimes mild, sometimes a little difficult. But in the recent months, her health deteriotated. Christmas seemed awfully quiet last year. Aunty Chu Gim was in and out of the hospital. But most recently she stayed there longer. 

All my aunts visited her as much as they could. In the last 2 weeks, she was put on the life support system in the ICU(Intensive Care Unit). 

I count my blessings everyday..but my biggest regret was not visiting the hospital to visit Aunty Chu Gim and telling her face to face that I will be here always for Ru-shin and for her granddaughter, little Claire. So she could be at peace and not worry for them.

It was also during this time my hubby was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and the doctors suspected that he may have Tuberculosis as he has blood in his phelgm. During the crucial week of Benny's hospital, the other half of my heart felt torn because I couldn't visit Aunty Chu Gim. I had to open the shop, I cancelled all my classes, and rush up and down to the hospital to be with Benny..and still have to go home, kept the family informed all that has happened. My mom is worried sick for Benny and I dare not tell her too much. 

I cried on some days in the shop..and in the still of the night, I also cried. I cried out to God and ask Him to give me Strength, and Peace..

When God healed Benny, my first immediate thoughts were of Aunty Chu Gim. And without cause or reason, I knelt down and prayed to God for Aunty Chu Gim. I don't know if I have some lingering virus/bacteria from Benny's pneumonia, and I don't want to risk it to visit Aunty at the hospital too. 

Now I look back, I wish I kick myself now..I should have just show up at the door where it leads to Aunty Chu Gim's ward..even that, I think she would have sensed my presence and I could tell her all I want to tell her.

When Ru-shin announced Aunty's passing on 25th April 2013 on her Facebook's timeline, I cried in the shop. The next day, they held the funeral wake at a local casket company. 

When Benny droved me to the shop on 26 April, he ask me about how Aunty Chu Gim became a part of our big extended family. And when I told him, he said 

"Take the afternoon off, I will run the shop myself. You go and visit Aunty for the last time. And to give your love and support to uncle Look and to Ru-shin.."

I went to the wake that afternoon, Ru-shin seemed composed and she tried to hold back her tears. I ask to see Aunty..and Ru-shin lead me to the coffin where Aunty was laid to rest. When I saw Aunty, I couldn't control myself, I burst into tears, with loud sobs and I hugged Ru-shin..

I told Ru-shin everything, of how our families came together as one. Of all the days we prayed and loved her mom. And I told Ru-shin my regret for not being there for Aunty.

Ru-shin said to me 

"Aunty Gina, mom was really very happy when you baked the cake for my wedding. And it was so successful that even after the wedding, my friends are still asking me "do you have cake left?". It was the cake that mom loved and she said it was very delicious.."

"And I think I would like to bake this cake every year and eat it to remember her because she liked it very much. You fulfulled my mom's wishes to have a special cake for me..That I think is the best gift. She knows you cared. Even if you couldn't visit her, I know she knows it in her heart"

Ru-shin also told me that her mom planned the entire wake of how it was to happen, what clothes she was to wear, what kind of flowers to be used, how long the wake should be and she also wanted a water burial after cremation. Because she didn't want Ru-shin to worry and wondered how mom would have wanted things done. 

This is the Aunty I grew up knowing..the one who cares and feels for others. Whether it is someone so close to herself or just a family friend. When my mom was hospitalised, Aunty Chu Gim came and prayed with us, and she cried with us too. Every night, without fail, Aunty Chu Gim would visit my mom at the hospital too. And she would say her prayers for mom.

I told Ru-shin that I would write my blog about her mom. And I would find old photos of her in our parties..but now I decided not to post photos as its private. But I would write about the eyes of someone who grew up loving her over the years.

This brought me to be reminded some many years ago as a child, my dad told me this:

"When its time for me to go, find a good singer to sing this hymn "In the Sweet By and By" Because its a beautiful song for the one who has just passed away and for the living to tell them they will meet again, on that beautiful shore. As Christians, our life on earth is not the end of the journey when we die, but its only the beginning of another journey. Until that time comes for you to go, I will meet you at that beautiful shore.."

This Blog entry is Dedicated to Aunty Chu Gim, Uncle Look, 
Ru-shin & also to Little Claire. 
May God bless them and keep them, 
in His loving arms forever and ever, AMEN!

And Aunty Chu Gim, I will meet you at that beautiful shore. 
Love you always, Ting Ting