Somber Start

The fragrance of fresh Jasmine flowers always
reminds me of our grandma
Surrounded by national tragedies, there is no better way to describe the start of new year 2015, but somber.  I stand in solidarity with the nation, sharing the grief for personal losses among those affected by the widespread floods and shocking air disasters that have inevitably touched our lives.  

While the year-end usually spells a time of celebration, rest and relaxation, these pleasures just seem inappropriate in light of the magnitude of suffering that so many are going through.  I fully empathize with them and continue to pray for relief and comfort.  Once again, we are reminded of how fragile life is and how we should never take our loved ones for granted.  At the same time, we must take responsibility for contributing to global warming and consider possible reasons like poor drainage and poor maintenance of waterways that may have aggravated the massive floods in some areas.

Mum and dad on our road trip to USJ at end 2014
Closer to home, our family also had an unusual end to our year.  Our 102-year old grandma suffered a bad fall that resulted in a hairline crack on her thigh bone.  The shock to her old body has taken a toll on her and in the following weeks, her general condition deteriorated drastically.  Nothing more can be done for her and on the doctor’s advice, we are keeping her comfortable with palliative care with the help of a day nurse at home. 

This grave turn of events added to the solemn situation and as days passed, I knew that one of my mum’s deepest desires was to go to see her mother again.  We were in constant contact with Aunty Polly, who is caring for grandma in her home in USJ, to share the events as they develop around grandma and give her the necessary support.  While I was also keen to be with grandma, dad’s general health was also unstable recently and he may not be up to making a trip.  So I had to find the right opportunity to broach the subject and seek my parents’ views on what they wanted to do.

Mum with her mother again in USJ
When dad asked to visit Gelang Patah to meet with an old friend recently, I did my best to fulfill his desire.  While Gelang Patah is only minutes away compared to the 330 km distance to USJ, I wondered if dad was up to taking that long drive.  While grandma’s condition was not critical, she was sliding downhill and I did not want to wait any longer to go to see her.  There was only one way to find out so one day over lunch, I asked dad if he was up to travelling to see grandma – and he promptly replied, “Yes!”

Dad is grandma’s first son-in-law.  I remember years ago when I invited gran to come to stay with us, she was happy to accept but considerate enough to seek dad’s approval before moving in.  At that time, grandma was living alone in nearby Melodies Gardens but there was really no point in going home to an empty house when she was spending a great deal of time with us.  

Mum speaking into gran's hearing ear...
Grandma was my room-mate for several years until my brother got married and moved to his own place, and I shifted into his room for grandma to have my room to herself.  I will always associate jasmine flowers with grandma as she often wore them on her neatly combed hair, tucked inside a hair net.  So each time I smell this fresh fragrance, I will think of her.  She lived with us for almost 20 years and since September 2007, she was with Aunty Polly and her family in USJ. 

From old photos, I saw that grandma was very much part of our lives as she appeared in photos taken at home, at events and at our holidays in Singapore, Ipoh and Cameron Highlands.  We can’t deny the fact that dad got on well with his mother-in-law from the start and later in life, after she was widowed, grandma was still welcome in our home.  In the same way, grandma’s fourth son-in-law graciously opened his home in USJ to her.

On December 30 we left JB in cool and cloudy weather for a smooth drive to USJ and returned safely the next day, the last day of 2014.  Our brief time with grandma in USJ was both emotional and encouraging.  While it was sad to see grandma looking so frail and helpless, it was priceless to have contact with her again.  It was also very sad that grandma was not responsive enough to acknowledge the good news about the latest addition to the family.  The birth of baby Vivienne, my eldest sister’s first grandchild on December 22, changed all our ranks and raised grandma’s rank to that of a lofty great-great-grandmother with the arrival of her first great-great-grand-daughter!

My nephew Andrew with his wife, Valene,
and their daughter, Vivienne
It was bittersweet to see grandma lying down in a room where its walls are adorned by numerous newspaper articles I wrote about her.  She may not be aware but she is a celebrity in her own right, not just the mother of badminton champions but the Real Champion!  

We also met with the doctor again and her advice was both practical and positive.  We continue to keep grandma comfortable as her 102-year old system struggles to cope with the trauma she suffered.   It was painful to see her slipping away but we take comfort that we have always been doing our best for grandma. 

On the last night of 2014, we joined the church for our annual Watchnight service where we reviewed the year that had passed and spent time together in prayer.  There is no better way to close the year than to share a meaningful time in reflections on our blessings and failings, with a renewal of commitment to achieve various goals next year.  As we look to the start of 2015, we do not know what the year ahead will be but we are assured that it will turn out for our good.


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