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Walking on the beach in the pouring rain

We were soaked in the rain. Willingly soaked. Well, except for the upper half of our body, kept dry because we were protected in hiking-worthy (though we weren’t hiking) rain jackets. Me, in a striking red coloured one. My husband, a cool black. Just the two of us, deliriously happy. As no sane person would wanna be willingly out in the rain.

It was around three in the afternoon. “I’m gonna go walk on the beach now,” I said to my husband. The sky has just opened up to let some tiny drops of rain down. “Ah, it’s still safe to walk. Only a slight drizzle,” I assured myself.

As I strolled along, feeling the powdery-soft sand yielding beneath my feet, the wind picked up speed and played with my hair. “Nice, this is nice”, I thought to myself as I inhaled the salty air.

The sky then opened up more, and the raindrops got fatter. “Maybe I should end my walk now and go back,” I thought.

I walked back. But somehow, instead of diving into our hotel’s beachfront chalet for shelter, I grabbed my rain jacket to head out again. And as if on cue, my husband has the same idea. Thus both of us with rain jacket on, walked out to the increasingly pouring rain. Grinning like idiots.

The colour of the sea changed to grey in a bid to outdo the darkened sky. I scanned the horizon. No lightning, we are safe. The waves rolled high and crashed upon the shore. We stood and stared into the open space. Both in quiet awe. Mesmerised by the beauty and power of nature.

Walking on the beach in the pouring rain

As I licked the salty rain on my lips, my skirt absolutely soaked, I smiled from within. It felt like my soul was satisfied. That miss-play-it-safe-and-sensible has let her soul out to unfamiliar ground to play. I smiled even more with this new knowledge.

When was the last time I’ve done such a carefree thing? Heading out to the beach in the pouring rain. It’s crazy.

Oh, I simply must do it again.

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Generosity, simplicity and free nasi lemak: Our Langkawi story

“Hari ini kita memang tak boleh bagi discount…sebab kita belanja kamu, kerana hari ini kamu sudah nak balik ke KL.”

As we wanted to pay for our breakfast, with a deadpan face, the Malay owner of a streetside warung (small restaurant) that we’ve returned to three times for our meals, said to us, “We can’t give you a discount today, it’s impossible to give a discount…because we are treating you to this meal, as you are going back to KL (Kuala Lumpur) today.”

My eyes widen in a pleasant yet hesitant surprise. My husband and I wanted to return his gift of generosity. “No, no, I protested. We want to bless your business too.”

Placing his right hand on his heart, he smiled and gave us the gift anyway.

Nasi lemak (fragrant coconut rice) with fried tempeh and fried anchovies
Nasi lemak (fragrant coconut rice) with fried tempeh and fried anchovies

As we cycled back the short distance to our hotel, my heart burst open in joyful amazement of their genuine generosity, and I almost cried in gratitude. That was our parting memory of Langkawi. We were there for two weeks of work and travel.

It’s been a few weeks since we are back from this beautiful island. Not a day passed where I didn’t think of our experience there. And of our new Malay friends from the warung.

In fact, on the second day of our return, I received a Whatsapp from one of the ladies there, with a simple keeping in touch message of asking if I’ve started work, “Sudah mula bekerja ke?” “Have you started to work?”

Of which I proceeded to chat and connect with her, fumbling with my iPhone’s English language keyboard which insisted on changing the Malay words to something else.

As I looked at the cute sticker she sent to me, of a tudung-wearing lady making a heart gesture, I smiled in amazement. This is a whole new experience for me. I’ve never really had Malay friends, especially friends who don’t speak English.

And I’m usually more guarded. You know, as in, urbanite-guarded. Often, I tend to stick to the usual and familiar surrounding. Watchful and uncomfortable to go beyond.

But with travelling, it puts us in a new environment every day. Especially when we travel with our bicycles; without a holiday-maker mindset but with an explorer mindset instead. Where we tend to favour eating where the locals eat. And minimise being demarcated to tourist strips.

Bicycling has this fantastic advantage where we can go further, slower, and meet new friends. Even if it’s just offering a smile and a wave—it’s like leaving the fragrance of flowers wherever you go. The giver and the receiver, both blessed.

Our Langkawi stay has been like that. A beautiful memory of immersion with the Malay community, eating *nasi lemak, nasi campur, pulut ikan masin, speaking broken Malay interspersed with lots of smiles, cycling along kampung road and houses, with cute kids and old folks alike waving and smiling to us as we pedalled passed them.

For the urbanite us, we were in wonder of a completely different environment and lifestyle. The pace; slower. The people; friendlier, kinder, generous with their smiles. Perhaps a simpler way of living—leads to more generous and happier people.

*for my non-Malaysian readers. : ) Nasi lemak: fragrant coconut rice. Nasi campur: rice with a selection of dishes, mini buffet style. Pulut ikan masin: Glutinous rice with fried salted fish. Kampung: village.

Generosity, simplicity and free nasi lemak: Our Langkawi story
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The last time I saw my father

The last time I saw my father, I was about thirty-five. I haven’t seen him in years. My parents separated when I was three. Heck, I could count with my one hand, the number of times I saw my father in person.

On that evening when I last saw him though, he was wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt, cancer-skinny, tall. 

The last piece of memory stored in my brain server was of me, nonchalantly giving him a casual hug. Like how you would hug an acquaintance when you part from a meeting. Nothing to be sentimental about. My father pulled in tighter to hug me back. I still can feel it.

I didn’t know it was his “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, “I want to be your father”, “It’s too late”, “I’m dying”, all rolled into one, don’t-let-go hug.

I didn’t know. Because nobody told me. He didn’t either. I didn’t know then, it meant goodbye for good. It wasn’t a get-together dinner but a goodbye dinner. My brain didn’t register that. My paternal family were there, was my mum there? I couldn’t recall.

The arrangement to meet up started with a phone call from my father’s sister in Penang. “Your father has cancer,” she said. “Can you come back?” she urged.

Did she inform me only when he hasn’t got long left to live? Or did she inform me the moment he received the diagnosis? Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

I went back to Penang. About ten of us met over dinner. It was at my aunt’s Nonya restaurant.

Vaguely, I remember seeing him sitting opposite of me, across the big, round dining table. As if we are strangers. Seated together in one table. Yet with enough space between us to observe each other in a cautious distance.

There were no moments, no talks, nothing to fill over twenty years of gap between a father and a daughter. Just—curry chicken, tao eu bak (dark soya sauce pork), and other Nonya delicacies.

I couldn’t recall any of the conversations at the table that night. It was as if, there’s this programming of me being able to automatically detach myself. I don’t know when I was given this superpower curse. I don’t even have to will it. I just detach.

My heart and my mind, what should be one faculty—disconnected—each giving inconsistent instructions to each other. There would be bleeding of pain and trauma within me, but you can’t see it from my facial expression. It’s like my heart saying to my mind, and vice versa, you are on your own now. Don’t give me the feels. Function, damn it, function!

Story of the last time I saw my father

I’ve never known him. It didn’t occur to me that I wanted to. Nobody told me much about my earlier life. Looking back, I could have been sheltered from history. My young brain might not have been able to understand anyway.

But the thing is, decades later, I still haven’t received the much-delayed white paper of my childhood years.

Where is it? Where’s “Melinda Yeoh’s Childhood White Paper”?

What I have is, if you can imagine, bits and pieces of scribbled information on Post-It notes of my earlier life. My father was a mystery; my growing up years was a mystery.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the chance to go on an archaeological hunt. To dig up unknown pieces of my life. Hell, if I could find one photo of how I look like as a baby, it’ll be good.

I didn’t ask anyone much. When I could have. I mean, hey adults, look at me, I’m an adult now. I can handle this. Tell me. But, I didn’t ask.

I took in whatever pieces of information given to me, stored it in my brain server. I didn’t process it. I just stored it.

For a person who questions many things and loves to question, I asked little information about my childhood apart from what I’ve been given. Received input. Stored. Done. Move on.

The next time I saw my father a few months later, it was seeing him in a coffin. He died from cancer.

My husband and I arrived at the funeral parlour around 8 pm, having driven four hours from Kuala Lumpur.

I remembered where we parked our car. About 500 metres away from where the parlour was. I got out of the car, the gravel ground felt unstable beneath my feet. It was dark. I squinted at the garish fluorescent light at a distance.

My brain wasn’t thinking. Guess what. Automated mode on.

I walked towards the funeral parlour, to my father’s side of the family, all I hardly knew. Greetings after greetings. Smiles. I peeked at my father in the coffin. More solemn greetings, smiles. And I took a seat at my aunts’ table.

My aunt asked me if I’d like a beer. Sure, of course, I would love a beer. Did I get the liking for beer from my father?

When I finished half the can of Carlsberg, I walked over to my father. Peered down at him, still don’t know much about this dude who’s supposed to be my father.

And of all the things I could have said, without thinking, I said this in my heart, “Well. Cheers to our first and last beer together.”

Then, my automated detachment mode failed.

That’s the instance when my heart and mind stopped going in the opposite direction. They connected; they were one.

I felt my heart’s cry and there’s nothing that my mind can do to act otherwise. My eyes went wet and warm. And I felt the pain. The pain I’ve never knew existed. A loss of something…someone…I’ve never had—a father.

Barely 2 minutes later, the automated mode was quickly repaired and engaged full-on. Stoicism won. I walked back to join my aunts. And finished the remaining half can of beer.

p.s. For those of you who need an ending to a story, or who need the moral of a story, there’s none I know yet for this story. It’s something I’ve allowed to surface from my soul, to allow God to deal with. And to share with you who’s reading this.

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Photo by Tom Bailey from Pexels

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I thought my mum would be healed from cancer

Three months after I joyfully accepted Christ into my life, I received the shocking news that my mum was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

But I was confident that she would somehow be miraculously healed by God. On top of that, just three days after her cancer diagnosis, my mum accepted Christ in her hospital bed. So I thought that God has a plan to use my mum’s life powerfully once He has healed her!

That didn’t happen.

After a draining 14 months of fighting the disease, my mum left me, just a month before Christmas. What used to be a robust, chubby and full-of-life body became a frail, underweight and lifeless shell.

I don’t understand why God didn’t let my mum live longer than her 57 years on earth.

Four years after she is gone, I still wish that my mum & I would have the chance for a great mother-daughter relationship, now that, through Christ’s love, I know how to love her better.

But, in my pain, I seek comfort from knowing that with her salvation through Christ, she now has eternity with God. No more tears and suffering. Thank you, Lord.

Every sickness, every weakness, every fear, and doubt and shame; every burden, every hurt is overcome in Jesus name.

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Still missing my mummy after two years

Dear God,

You’ve answered some of my silliest littlest prayers like, “Dear God, help me enjoy the process of this dreaded grocery shopping and housekeeping.”

In my immature way, I wished and wished my prayer of letting my mum be with me for much longer, be traded with the rest and be answered instead.

I wished that she has the chance now to enjoy a better daughter. We would have such a wonderful relationship now that I’ve learnt how to love.

But Your ways are a mystery. And it’s beyond my comprehension.

The only comfort is that I’m assured that mummy is safe with You in heaven. Two years free of earthly pain, suffering and sorrow.

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Of heaven and my mum, the angel

Today is Christmas Day. It’s the day when Jesus is born.

It’s also the 1st anniversary of my mum’s baptism.

A month after my mum has gone home to the Lord.

I wonder how heaven is like?

I wonder if she can see us from heaven?

I wonder if God appoints her to be an angel in heaven now?

But she must be. I think she is an angel sent down to earth many years ago and now her job is done.

For how can anyone love so many people unconditionally?

How can she be so ever forgiving to her mother who abandoned five of them when they can barely fend for themselves at ages 6, 10, 16…??!!

How can she give so much love?

How can she sacrifice so much without asking for anything in return?

How can she do all these if not for love?

And Christ is love. And forgiveness. Therefore she must be an angel sent from God.

I wonder if I can still say sorry to her for all my wrongs.

Or is it unnecessary to do so in heaven?

I know I’m forgiven. Both by Jesus and by my mum. But I really just want to say, “I’m sorry”. That I repaid her sacrifices with ungrateful things I had done.

I wonder if she had a great party in heaven today since it’s Christmas?

Is she sleeping on soft, fluffy clouds?

I wonder if God’s voice is the only voice I can hear or I can, too, hear her voice?

I wonder and wonder, will she be my mummy forever and ever when we meet one day in heaven?

Abba Father, your answers?

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What my mum’s cancer taught me about faith

It’s been 3 months plus since my world crashed upon learning of my mum’s advanced cancer.

Day by day, I learn to cope.

Day by day, I grow stronger.

Day by day, I learn to trust in Him.

Day by day, I pray.

Day by day, I learn to surrender.

Day by day, I learn to let go of guilt and despair.

Day by day, God is teaching me the meaning of life.

Day by day, He is guiding me to see what’s important.

To cherish each and every day.

To not sweat the small stuff.

Less complains. Complain… for what??
For what, when minutes are ticking by.

Day by day, I learn about perspective.
What is important.

Pride is not.
Ego is not.

Selfishness is not.

Who’s right, who’s wrong is not.

When our perspective changed, we find a lot of things are merely small stuff held tightly in our heart; hardening it, gripping our lives. Click To Tweet

At the back of my mind, I know that whatever happens next, I can’t really prepare for it. I don’t know the outcome. I can’t control the result. I just don’t know.

And that’s life.

Life is such that you can control the planning and do whatever you want, but you can’t control the outcome.

You can have the best counsellors and psychologist on earth, but when all is broken, faith is all you have. Faith is all you have to keep looking up, and walk one step, and the next.

The moment I realise this is the start of my journey in learning to let go of things I can’t control.

Update: After 14 months of battle with cancer, my mum who accepted Jesus as her God and Saviour, went home to be with Him. I still miss her so much. But I’m greatly comforted by the fact that I’ll see her again in Heaven.

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3 sms & a funeral

June 15th: My biological dad passed away early this morning. I’m going back to Penang this afternoon…kinda blur in my head now.

That was my SMS to three friends.

Now I’m back in KL. It was certainly a heavy trip to say the very least. But with huge meanings.

I re-learnt the meaning of family, love, forgiveness, friendship, support, sacrifice… and that my late father also listens to The Carpenters as I do.

I’m very glad that everyone got together after so many years. I’m happy to see my Ah Kong, Ah Ma, aunts, cousins & mummy sitting together… didn’t know my family is so big! For all my life, I’m the only ‘Yeoh’.

June 16th: My text message to a friend:

Appreciate your call. I’m ok. Kinda weird coz things r surreal, not logical, suddenly all families bk 2gether. So sudden. He is well-loved by all his siblings. My aunts r loving ppl. We look alike! I’m glad we had the chance2 meet last mth when we knew abt the illness. I hug him4 de 1st time, didn’t know it’s the last.

That’s life.

You won't know when it will be the last chance in life to do something. Click To Tweet

So for what’s its worth, I’m doing all I can to be a better person, and let go.

Let go of so many bondage that is weighing me down in other areas of my life. The ‘should’, the ‘must’, the quest to be right…

It ain’t gonna be easy, for Miss Control Freak to make like a jello and go with the flow, but I’m going to do what I can.

June 17th: Have u ever attended funeral with alcohol? I just had. 1st & last cheers of beer with my father. Finally started2 break me. But I held on. I hope 2mrw is not tough.

Now, I know where I got my beer genes from. (Sure, blame it on a dead person).

What nearly breaks me that night was the realization that we never sat down to clink our beer mugs together, and I’m doing it on the eve of his cremation.

On the actual funeral day, I had to lead the funeral procession as his only child. I wept silent tears as my head was bowed going through the prayers, drops after drops after drops.

Although kinda confused, there was a sense of peace through the sadness when I sat through the prayers for him, lead the procession, and watched as his coffin was wheeled into the cremation area and the metal door slides down.

Is that it?

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