I wonder if you can read this. It is not really possible, but I like to believe that you can. So here I am writing this letter to you, hoping wherever you are, you can hear what I want to say.
I miss you.
I don’t have to say it because I know you know how much we all miss you. You have been gone for 4 years now, and sometimes I still hear you calling my name. For that brief moment, I instinctively turn towards the imaginary voice, often greeted by a cold blank wall. The second then passes as quickly as it comes, and I am zapped back into reality.
After you lost your battle to cancer, I had an ephiphany about life; that we will always be remembered by the memories we shared with others. These memories captured by different individuals reflect on how we have somehow made a mark in someone else’s life. I can’t say it definitely for anyone else, but you change my perspective in life. If you can be strong and persevere through hardships, why can’t I? If you can be selfless, shouldn’t I at least try?
Because we love you, we each go through the process of loss and grief, individually and together. The first stage is denial, my refusal to believe in the news of your passing. You have your last breath when I am abroad, and I am trying to make sense of everything that happened. Is it real, or is it a dream that I will wake up from? Since I am not home when it happens, I do not see you through your last stages of battle – how the cancer has significantly deteriorated your physical strength, until you eventually become bed-ridden. I do not see the hopefulness or the helplessness in your eyes. I am, in simple terms, emotionally detached from the pain that those close to you felt.
The anger stage comes quickly after, as I am mad at everything and everyone, myself for not being there in your last moments, you for losing this battle, and the higher power for allowing this to happened to you – one of the nicest people I know. Why can’t you take someone else instead? I catch myself wondering one night.
The brief anger stage is soon replaced with the bargaining and depression stages, a self-defense mechanism that envelopes one’s mind from the painful reality. Several days after the news, I expressed my feeling in this blog post titled “What’s Left but a Memory” which was eventually password protected.
“Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it’s somehow my fault. If I think of you more often, if I’ve reply your texts more often, if I put in an extra prayer or two at night, if I have not forgotten about the fifteenth day of lunar calendar, if I pay more attention to little things, if I have been nicer to people around me. Even though logic shows that it can’t possibly be my fault, no matter how we see it, so tell me this: why do feel like it is?”
For the longest time I feel numb, that and wondered why I should even bother in human connections if we are all going to die eventually. And eventually (and thankfully) I snap out of this illogical stance and finally deal with the last stage: acceptance.
That you were simply not here.
The thing about you leaving is that we don’t get to make new memories together and I could only rely on the old times. What if, say, fifty years down the line, I begin to forget you? What happens then?
The first memory I have of you is you laughing contentedly, which is pretty good. I am probably 8 years old then. You are going to make a butter cake and I am adamant of being part of the process. So, you assign me the task of sieving flour into a mixing bowl – a simple job that nobody could possibly screw up. Except that I could. When you have your back turned, I carelessly knock the bowl off the kitchen table after sieving, sending the fine flour flying and landing all over the kitchen floor. A huge mess. I remember feeling so terrified that large tears starts streaming down my face. You turn back to me, and realize what I have done. Instead of being reprimanded as expected, you laugh, and laugh, and laugh. It is a good day, do you remember?
Despite partial hearing impairment, you shine in so many things that I could only be half as good; baking, sewing, cooking, and simply being a good person. The first year without you, I heard Chinese New Year wasn’t the same. The cookies and cakes you made every New Year have been carelessly taken for granted. Store-bought cookies just don’t taste quite the same, but the relatives have to settle for second best.
We connect through the simple love of baking. Because of you, I learn to bake. I want to bake, which is ironic because I do not have a sweet tooth and have hardly been a big fan of desserts. But baking is your thing, and soon it becomes part of mine. Mum and I finally start to use the home oven for more than just toasting cheese on bread.
If there is one thing I never regret, is that I did say my proper goodbyes right before I left for UK, two months before you left. My last memory of you is literally you waving and wishing me a safe journey ahead. And even though I don’t have dreams of you, I know that it is more than enough.
A response to Daily Prompt: Make it Count