death by paper cut

{September 7, 2015}   A death in the family

An uncle my family has been close to was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer that had already spread to his liver. This was three weeks ago; last night, he passed away. He was surrounded by his family and siblings and was courageous to the end. Since he came to know of his condition, he has been telling us not to be sad and to remember the good times we had. He got his estate in order and looked bravely towards the end.

What I immediately missed about my uncle though, is not the times we had, but the moments in the future that we will not, and I think he knew this too. He told me last week that he always buys Christmas presents for all his nieces and nephews but for my daughter, he wouldn’t be there to give her any.

Another heartbreaking thought that struck me is his absence at Chinese New Year gatherings henceforth. My uncle is probably the only relative I look forward to meeting at large family events, and now what will be most palpably felt is a hole in his shape, muted and immutable.

I do wish that Emma could have the chance to get to know him. I will let her know though, how much she is loved even by someone who she hasn’t gotten to know. And somehow, perhaps his love through my proxy can transcend place and time to reach her.

As a young child, I do remember my paternal grandmother’s funeral, but only cognitively and without much sentiment. Tonight is my uncle’s memorial service and tomorrow is the funeral at the crematorium. He is the first death in the family that I’ll personally grief for.

Though it will be sad for a while, I will not despair because he didn’t. Though we couldn’t have more time with him than we wanted, he managed to say his last goodbyes and bid each of us farewell in the week leading up to his last breath.

Unlike my uncle, we might not know the day or hour of our last breath, so do live prayerfully, speak peaceably and love deeply. I know he did.


A week ago on 1 May 2015, all I had was the hospital’s baby monitor in the Labour Ward to know that Emma was doing alright. Her strong and steady heart, beat through the night while I awaited her arrival by caesarean section. I was to get some rest before the operation but I couldn’t help checking the monitor every hour or so to reassure myself that Emma was hanging in there. Perhaps hanging on for dear life.

My water broke that night – one month early – which meant that she was to be born premature. By then, this didn’t come as a surprise because a week earlier, the gynae alerted us at what was supposed to be a non-eventful check-up that Emma’s growth had tapered off between 33 to 35 weeks, the amniotic fluid had decreased and most critically, the placenta had started degenerating… too early.

We understood what that meant.

We were to observe the situation for one week and highly likely arrange for the early delivery between 2 May to 9 May. It all hung in a balance – on the one hand it was important for the baby to develop as much as possible in the womb, but on the other hand time was running out because the placenta was shutting down.

The situation forced itself however when my water broke – Emma had decided it was time. With the hospital bag all packed, we calmly gathered some final items and made our way to the hospital.

From the time I was warded, the momentum at the hospital was set by the healthcare professionals. All I had needed to do was follow their lead and trust their good hands. I was given a jab of steroids to clear Emma’s lungs because at this point of time the baby’s lungs are still filled with fluid. The professionalism and attentiveness of the nurses was impressive. Their prompt response to my every need really did help to ameliorate anxiety.

The operating theatre where the caesarean section was to take place felt like an elaborate visit to the dentist. Because I knew the gynae and his medical team fairly well there was a lot less unknowns to fear. The administration of the spinal anesthetic was smooth and I managed to remain lucid the whole time. With her father suited in sterile garb and watching the procedure by my side, all I needed to do was wait for Emma to emerge and cry. Because of the complications of the placenta, we didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately the pediatrician standing by gave us the all clear. Although she was small, weighing a mere 1.96kg, she was doing fine and did not need further observation in the NICU.

Both of us were discharged 3 days later. Our challenge now is to ensure Emma’s steady and continued growth to help her catch up with full-term babies. Every day with her is a new reckoning of her miraculous resilience. I was further informed by the theatre assistant recently that her umbilical cord was thin and small – like the placenta, it was not functioning optimally. In fact, the cord snapped even before the placenta could be removed. We were so close.

Although a wee little one, Emma is very much loved by so many of our friends and family. Her grandparents especially have been unreservedly showering their care in very tangible ways to help her newly minted parents kick-start this journey. For which we are immensely grateful.

This year, I celebrate Mother’s Day with Emma turning one week old and surpassing her birth weight by 140 grams. From tomorrow, our new family will settle in a new routine with our day revolving around her feeds, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

3 to 5 May 2015 - Gleneagles 16

{April 12, 2014}   Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Compared to the varied renovation experiences friends have told me about, I think my own experience was a relatively smooth sailing one. We were rather decisive with our furnishing and interior deco choices, the contractor’s quality control is up to par and the time frame was mostly adhered to. There was nothing I had to lose sleep over. More importantly, everyone was so supportive and practically threw things our way especially household appliances.

I’m constantly reminded that the end result is an accumulation of the labour of love of our friends and family and not just a personal project I can claim sole credit for.

Renovation 5 - Hacking

Renovation 25 Living - Progress

Renovation 16 - Balcony

Renovation 18 - Balcony

Renovation 19 - Kitchen

Renovation 20 - Kitchen

Renovation 21 - Dining

Renovation 22 - Dining

{July 8, 2013}   Taxonomy

The thing about childhood memories is how close to the ground everything seemed to be.

I think as a child I hardly looked up at the faces of taller people, at the sky or at the trees. Thus I remembered being fascinated at the saga seeds scattered on the ground heading towards my day care centre. Some were crushed by the passing cars, some were clustered near the drain – a saga seedpod was always a delightful treasure trove. They are very hard, bright red and unlike many seeds that I knew of then, are not spherical. They are compressed spinning tops.

I remembered that my father, when walking me to the day care centre, would indulge me a few minutes to gather the saga seeds. Sometimes, he would even try to shake the trunk of the saga tree to unhinge the seedpods from the branches high above.

I used to store my collection of saga seeds in medicine bottles formally dispensed with tablets and capsules. Not once did I try to think of a reason for collecting them. I just knew that the saga seeds were not all that common, and by hoarding them, I felt somehow wealthier.

These days, I still try to make time to walk in parks and stroll amongst green giants. I do not pick up saga seeds or any type of seed anymore because I am now more aware that I should not interfere with the ecological cycle of nature. I have noticed that I still have the habit of looking downwards by default, so once in a while, I will remind myself to lookup towards the sky, listen out for the cicadas, hear the twigs displaced by my footfall and smell the crisp clear air.

It is now my five year old nephew’s turn to seek his fortune. His treasure for the time being are bottle caps. Helped along with everyone else in the family to expand his collection, he has now amassed a box full of them. It is not only the numbers that he wants to increase, he also enjoys identifying and expanding his knowledge of the names of the beverages. In his own way, he has made sense of his pile of bottle caps by classifying them according to rarity and colour. Now green has taken a new shade – Heineken Green he calls it.

David and his Bottle Caps 2

{June 23, 2013}   Kiddy Photos

You know what they say about the first kid in the family being photographed lots and the subsequent ones not enjoying as much coverage because the novelty wears off? Well, in my family, the reverse happened because by the time my sister’s third kid came along, my mum discovered 1) the smart phone 2) taking photos with it 3) whatsapp 4) using all the above e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y.

We’re not complaining because it is quite endearing. And sometimes, my mum captions her grandson in his first person voice. She is literally making up for the non-existence of web 2.0 when she was a younger mother in the last century.

Mum and I in the 80s

Just born

Mum and her grandkids they were about one to two months old.

noelle @ 29 days 1 (b&w) David and Grandma Frowning Jordan Kang 46 - 1st Month

they all come from the same mold, especially the two boys. in the centre – nephew one, and right – nephew two.

David on Bumbo Chair (2) Jordan on Bumbo Seat, with David

left – nephew one, right – both nephews now

while looking though the archives, I noticed that the niece mastered the smirk at the very young age, and it ever left her.

noelle @ 6 months 1 CNY 2011 by Edward 2

also, I’ve been told that she takes after me a lot.

I do have tons of childhood photos myself. However they’ve yet to be digitised. I should see to it that they do, before the moulds get to them.

et cetera