Monday, September 12, 2016

Why I've Been Missing....

I've been missing for some time because my mum was hospitalised in July and I went home to be with her. 

However her lung complication got the better of her and after exactly one month in the ICU ward, she passed away on 1 August. 

Yes, you read right. My mum passed away. 

You know how you often grow up always believing that your parents will be there like forever? 

Death seemed so far away because my mum was only 67 years old. She wasn't really old. 

I have friends whose mothers are like in their 90s and play games on the iPads. 

I have friends whose 80 year old mums go to the beach in swimsuits and get a tan. 

I have friends in their 70s who go scuba diving and scale mountains and do all sorts of exciting outdoor sports. 

So you see, it was hard to accept that one day my mum was alive (albeit breathing with a ventilator) and 30 days later, she was dead. She lost consciousness 2 days before she died and never woke up again. 

It was a shock to my sisters and me.

It was totally devastating as we always expected her to get well and get home. 

Unlike all the previous hospital stays where she would get well after a dose of antibiotics in a week, this time she was too weak. 

When I was home in Banting for 19 days (from 1 July to 19 July), I told myself that it was impossible that the antibiotics didn't work. The doctors couldn't believe it. She couldn't breathe on her own due to a collapsed left lung and had to use a ventilator which pumped oxygen into her lungs. She had to have nurses extract her phlegm daily because the bacteria was that vicious! 

Halfway through her ICU ward stay, she had a tracheostomy done - a minor operation to insert the breathing tube through the base of her throat (all the while the tubing went into her mouth and down her lungs).

Still, she couldn't take solid food. For the entire month, she subsisted on a special liquid supplement that was poured down a tube - the tube went from her nose to her stomach. She wasn't allowed to drink water - not even a sip! 

She grew weak and fragile and thinner day by day. And all my sisters and I and my dad could do was visit her twice a day (once at noon, once in the evening) to talk to her and massage her hands and legs. I even had a ritual of my own. I'd go in, wash my hands properly and start updating my mum on the day. She could be alert at times and would try to speak but eventually, she would ask for pen and paper to write. 

She would say things like she wanted to go home and that many people have died in the ICU ward (she had seen the Indian lady next to her pass on). 

To say that the ICU ward is very "yin" is true. It is a place that has no "yang". In the ICU ward, one either gets well and gets discharged or deteriorates and dies. My sister and I would say our respective prayers each time we were with mum. She needed lots of spiritual help! 

I am a big believer in the power of prayers and I felt so blessed because when my friends knew, they too started praying for my mum. One good pal even sent a get well card which I believed my mum appreciated when I read it out to her (though it quoted the Bible and my mum's a pure Taoist!). 

We were there so regularly that the nurses recognised us and so did the security guards. 

I am one of those crazy optimists in that each time I talked to my mum, I told her, "Mummy, you are getting out of this ICU ward soon". I practically willed it. The doctors and nurses were not very hopeful but there I was with my sisters each day, motivating my mum and giving her lots of encouragement. But then again, when are doctors ever hopeful? 

I had not much respect for the doctors because they never really updated us properly. I had more respect for the nurses because they had to do the unpleasant tasks - clean my mum, extract her phlegm, etc. The nurses had more empathy than the doctors. 

When I left Banting to come back to Penang, I had planned to fly back again on 2 August for a week. I told my mum just as much that I was coming back to Penang to settle some things (my book which was in its final stages of edits before printing, my women entrepreneur organisation's anniversary dinner, my own client projects) and then go back to see her again.

It was not to be. 

Nic and I drove back for the funeral (and had a massive argument with the funeral manager) who tried to con my dad out of almost RM28K for mum's funeral. Luckily, we stepped in and managed to control the situation (and get rid of the gangster guy). I almost lost it on the day of the funeral when he kept harassing us for the final payment. But I didn't want to cause a scene in front of neighbours and friends so I just ignored his crudeness. 

My sis carrying my mum's remains in a yellow cloth.
We were on our way from Negeri Sembilan to Port Klang to scatter her ashes. 

We eventually hired our own Taoist priest from Negeri Sembilan for the funeral rites and cremation rites. My mum was cremated three days after she passed on. Her remains were scattered off the sea at Port Klang on a beautiful day. 

At Port Klang, after scattering her remains at sea. 

Still, we've had a tough time coming to terms with her death. On one hand, as the priest says, she has gone on to a better place and is no longer suffering. On the other hand, my sisters, dad and I have been in a daze because suddenly mum is no more. 

She isn't there to nag my nephew and niece about bathing. 

She isn't there to quarrel with my dad over petty issues. 

She isn't there to make us our favourite curry puffs and Nyonya acar. 

She isn't there to watch Wah Lai Toi all day (we've since terminated her Astro account). 

She isn't there to have 1-hour phone conversations with.

She isn't there to complain about dad. 

There was also an element of the occult which I believed in. A spiritual teacher said that there were 7 people on her side of the family who wanted her dead. We don't know why. Even when a Christian friend prayed for my mum, she recalled seeing a vision of a man who was trying to suppress my mum. She called me worriedly and asked if I knew of any man that would want revenge. I had no idea. My mum was adopted and was the only child of her adoptive parents. 

The final photo we took with mum as a family this Chinese New Year.  

But I can tell you that my mum started getting chills in the middle of the afternoon some 2 years ago. She'd wrap up in thick clothes at 2pm and told us all she was very cold. Due to this, she refused to go out with us to the malls anymore. She said going out made it worse. This off and on chills and fevers made her very depressed. 

When we asked her to visit a doctor, she'd refuse and self medicate. Or if she did see a doctor, she wouldn't complete her course of antibiotics properly. She throw half her meds away or leave them in the fridge. 

We encouraged her to see a temple medium, if only to prove that there was nothing spiritual bugging her (or offended any spirits). Since I wasn't with her, we don't know if she took the advice of the temple medium. 

When I did manage to get to a temple, I met a medium who told me directly that if a soul is departing, there's nothing you can do to stop it. He had met my mum once when she went to see him, just to ask about his schedule. He remembered her. Strangely, I had never met him with my mum but he seemed to know who I was talking about. 

The night that I spoke to him a thunderstorm was brewing and rain was falling. The whole atmosphere felt creepy and weird. Yet he was kind despite his piercing stare. I started to cry right in front of him, a total stranger I had never met. (He reminded me of a Datuk Kong. He could very well be a manifestation of a Datuk Kong trying to give me some advice.)

It was then that I knew that my mum was going to die.

That's a feeling of all the air sucked out of you. Of a huge hole in your being. 

And there was nothing we could do for her. 

Not even my optimism, encouragement and motivation. 

So there you have it. 

I am still trying to come to terms with the grief and sadness but life has to go on. 

One of the reasons why I continue to blog as Soup Queen is this: let us all have good health through eating right. If we all had better health, we would live longer lives. 

Until today, I still don't know why mum didn't recover. Was it a hex or was it just a sign of weak health? 

I shall leave you to ponder. 

But you know what? I discovered that my mum's passing made me more fearless. I've seen death conquer two people in my life - my grandma and my mum - and it makes me more aware of living well, living strong. These days, I'm a lot stronger inside because nothing shakes you up like the death of a loved one. There is nothing more intense than death; ridiculous clients or stupid remarks or toxic people don't even come close. 

p/s: Two weeks after my mum passed on, I picked up a book by psychic Richard Lawrence called Gods, Guides and Guardian Angels. It came to me at the right time. His book answers a lot of questions about death and dying and where do souls go. I felt a lot calmer after reading his book and believe that there are things we do not see but that doesn't mean we cannot understand. 

Plus before my mum passed on, I gave her the Forgiveness Mantra to read. I encouraged her to forgive and I think that was a balm to her soul. (The website for Pranic Violet Healing looks a little on the suspicious side no thanks to its awful web design but the stuff is legit. Forgiving oneself and others is a powerful gesture indeed.) 

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