Of tai chi and Nirvana


The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. (Proverbs 65:8)

Kinda cringey affair cos when I reminded my 50-something classmates about dying and someone suggested tai-chi. Well, for one, I cannot indulge in tai-chi cos I was told that as Catholics, we are not supposed to mess with their inner spirit wateva. Heck, it is not actually said to me la, just that tai-chi is that exercise that I see in the early morning where one cannot do a more vigorous one so one tai-chi.

Anyway, I recently took up some breathing exercise call Nirvana. I doubled checked that there is nothing religious attached to it. BTW, I tried reading the Curia (some official letter la) on Christian meditation. It is too confusing for me, so I lost my focus midway. However, Nirvana is explained as this – 14. In Buddhist religious texts, the concept of “Nirvana” is understood as a state of quiet consisting in the extinction of every tangible reality insofar as it is transient, and as such delusive and sorrowful.

Again, that is one long sentence which left me confused too. Whatever, I enjoy the technique of counting my breaths and I do want to improve the way I breathe as it helps not only in endurance exercise but also in singing. Anyway, if you are interested to read, the letter to the Bishops on Christian meditation is found here.

I am not interested in meditation. I can talk to Jesus anytime, anywhere and I do that a lot. So I do not need some magic candle and special time to do so. Plus I do not have the concentration nor time. Give me some vigorous praise and worship and I will get my spiritual high from there. After all, that zeal and vigour are much needed as I am a faith sharer with youths.

church pew

If you want quietness, the church is always open. It is where you can feel close to God when you sit at an empty chapel or in front of the blessed sacrament.

The other current trend is practising Mindfulness. I read an article on Altheia on Mindfulness

Catholic mindfulness is a way to practically trust God more in our lives. Instead of separating faith from the day-to-day of life, mindfulness helps bridge the gap so that we can feel the peace in our lives that should come from having a Father we can trust.

I guess I am pretty much in touch with my inner self and do not need tai-chi la, Mindfulness la, meditation la…whatever la. I just need to write more and process those swirling thoughts in my mind.

Sixteen years on

It has been sixteen years but you are still very much part of the maths. I will never erase the number out of our cosy family.

Vincent Loh Yet Aun
Born : 24 Sept 2001
Heaven : May 1, 2002

Of course, it will be easier to just say I have four sons but I always proudly say I have five. After all, I carried you in pregnancy, I cared for you more than any other babies and though seven months only, that was the longest seven months ever.

I remember a few years back, when I taught Form One, the class students were born in 2001 too. I felt a sharp stab in my heart when I realised that because that’s how old you would be too. It is not hard to imagine what life would be like for you. So, I quickly brushed it aside and accept that whatever had happened, God knows and God has His own plans.

Your little brother is our world now. Not your replacement. Never. Because I am pretty sure your temperament would not be like him. You are you. He is he.

Many times, I do imagine what would you and all your four brothers be like. Then, I quickly brushed aside again because it is merely imagination. Strangely, nowadays I no longer think that much. Maybe because my faith has completely, without a doubt, believed you are in a better place. So, I stop wondering.

Not sure why I choose to dig the old wounds. Maybe because if I don’t write it down, I feel guilty like I have forgotten you, my son in heaven. So, I dig the pain, release some of those tears so that I can shake it off. It feels good, to be able to feel those emotions. At least I know you mean a lot to me still. Enough for me to embrace a new religion that promise heaven and life eternal.

The religion that compels me to keep moving, keep doing till we meet one day. You made Bible real. Otherwise, I doubt I will be such a good Catholic girl. Because of you, I jumped into Christianity.

So yeah, my dear sixteen year old son whom I get to keep for 7 months only. I hope to meet one day, cos the Bible said so. Till then….

Around the island on a bicycle

The only time I ever gone around the island in one trip was back in 1981.  It was with some random guy from another school during my school mates round island trip.  LOL as the head girl who only ride the head boy motorbike back in Form Five, I had to maintain standard and picked one good looking, very tall guy from Heng Ee to go around the island at 17 years old.

The below photo is at Balik Pulau on the way to Telok Bahang.  800 is a iconic location for cyclists.  The 800m is to point that it is 800 m to the Tropical Fruit Farm.  However for us cyclists, depending on which way you are cycling, it is a sign of either going downhill or uphill.  Yesterday was my only second time passing here.  The other time was in 2016 when I took part in CFAL 8.

CFAL or Campaign For A Lane is an annual cycling affair with thousands of cyclists from all over the world and Malaysia.

However, last year, I could finally boast that I had conquered the round island on a bicycle at age 51. Solo. Well not entirely solo because 3,500 riders with about 1,000 ghost riders (those people who never pay money to join but enjoyed the closure of roads type la) also participated la. Well, I did not exactly complete because it was rather late and about to rain so I went up the lorry at the last 20 KM.

This year, I cheated a bit and thought I could almost finish it. But cramps held me back at Copthorne Hotel which is very near the Finish line. But again, up the lorry I went with pride. Cos the other buffaloes in the lorries are all males so yay, another round island trip in one single trip. On my bicycle and some parts had to walk and hobble when my legs cramp.

The above is Pastor Cheah. Back in Feb this year, I had the chance of riding with him on his motorbike as he led a group of Malaysian and Singaporean cyclists through Chiang Rai to the Golden Triangle. In the 11 hours ride, I had learnt a lot from Pastor Cheah. About faith, about God and about doing things. Pastor Cheah said he is coming for this CFAL 9 using his Penny Farthing because he said he wanted to inspire people to ride. He said, “If I can ride a Penny Farthing around the island, anyone with two wheels can do the same.” Pastor Cheah is from Penang but had set up an orphanage in Chiang Rai. His Penny Farthing has no brake, and has no gears. So can you imagine the difficulties? My mountain bike has 30 gears so I cannot say ‘cannot’.

It takes guts and very strong determination. Though I have biking friends, I prefer not to join as a group because I cannot catch up and do not want to slow them down. I met Kumar and our regular Bike On Saturday Sunday (or BOSS) gang. They had gone ahead while I slowly climb the hills of Bukit Genting and Balik Pulau. So I took my leisure ride, feeling nauseous in the beginning stage as I felt sour Milo in my throat. Then, cramps got to me but lucky my threshold of pain is high so I endured that too.

Therefore, I can now look back and claimed that I had gone around the island on bicycle more than I had done with car. Actually I had never done round island car ride before. And I can do it without one handsome looking guy to ride in front. So yeah, another feather in my cap.

Longest 5 days of my life

Five days and counting in the hospital. Even my nails have grown too long. Have not seen the sunlight in the open. Twenty four hours times five days in aircond sort of suck the life out of me. No chance of sweating and maximum number of steps I made is under 1,000 per day.

Of course, I am not complaining but jotting down these. In fact, I am thankful that I took the decision to visit Lam Wah Ee and not the government clinic as I intended to do on Monday morning.

The doctor said I have staph bacteria. They took samples of my urine, sputum, nose and throat swabs on Monday. Lovingly keep those in jelly in the lab and feed those bacterias to find out whats inside me. Like what NHS said on their medical website – Staphylococcal infections are a group of infections caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus. You may have heard them referred to as “staph infections”.

I know a lot about Staph because last time, when Vincent was in ICU, that was the most feared infection as baby like him has no immunity and hence, can die because of it.

I am allergic to bactrium and penicillin and hence, that made me hard to be treated. Although I had five days of antibiotics injected into me, I cannot say I am 100% well. So the doctor kept me in here.

I was also referred to an ENT. And even Mr. ENT agreed that I cannot go home yet. So yeah, another day of porridge for morning, day and night. Glad that I got admitted because if I had been rotting at home, I probably would end up with urinary tract infection which is the most uncomfortable feelings. I could probably get pneumonia and that will complicated things further.

So five days of putting me in bed, eating porridge, humbling experience of being the sick, the hungry and the weak.

Just called my boy and told him he should visit me because it makes Lent mission complete. He can tell the world he had done something good like Jesus asked – The weak, the sick, the hungry, the prisoner (prisoners get better foods than me), the naked (cos I had to rely on him to bring me my clothes from home) and the poor (cos I have only few bucks left after I buy my own lunch extras LOL).

So yeah, God has kept me very cheerful. I have a lot of time to read the Bible, a lot of time to be silent and reflect, a lot of time to pray too. I has set out to be on vegetarian fasting but now, I got more than I bargain for. Though I have some chicken and fish (for protein sake), the rest of the foods are out of my touch. Five days of porridge is my Lent sacrifice. By Easter, I can be proud that I have started on a clean slate with five days (and counting) of solitude, porridge eating retreat. Thanks to medical insurance, of course.

Hospital stay an eye opening and revelation

Monday, I merrily drove myself to Lam Wah Ee as I thought I just need a batch of oral antibiotics to get my thick yellowish phelgm cleared. As a hospital stay expert, with Vincent’s 7 months in ICU here and the son with asthma, I already know what to expect.

So, I dressed for office, message the office admin I will go in after lunch. But oh oh, the MO found that my white blood cells were low (I think). So I got admitted.

At first I felt kinda silly to be hospitalised for a mere sore throat. Actually it is not as simple but I probably has high tolerance. The jaw hurts, the tongue hurts, the ears hurt, the eye even had discharge. The body ache, feverish, chills but all rather mild and I was still ok.

But God has a way to tell me Dont Play Play. The girl next door had been admitted to ICU for five days just because of a cold (pneumonia I suppose) and she had tracheostomy. According to her grandma, the doctors told them that they didnt know if she could make it. Tracheostomy is when the doctor poke a hole in your throat, and stuff the pipe to help you breathe. In normal circumstances, they will intubate you, as in open up your mouth with some spatula and shove the pipe down.

I know all about ventilator, intubation and stuff from Vincent’s long ICU stay. So I know how serious one can get from just an infection. So I felt much better and less silly to be warded for just simple infection. It was like wow, Lilian, you do not want that to happen to you, right??

 

So, that girl left and one old lady came in middle of the night. I heard she lost consciousness during her sleep. So she was warded next to me. But midway, she had seizure and the nurses rushed into my room to give her suction and oxygen. Again, Vincent’s mom know all about seizure, SPO2, pulse, BP etc.

Kinda of deja vu for me. But here, something connected to me. What happened to the old lady was so sudden. Now I understand how my mom had died. 20 years ago, she was warded for a bad cold. After we ensured she was all comfortable, we went home to sleep. I was 7 months pregnant with David, my third son.

Next morning, we woke up to the news that mother had died. Dying was never in my mind at all. She was taking care of my two older sons. The night before she even told me what to do with Michael who was about 4 years old. Michael was extra clingy for some reasons and insisted my mother who had a cold to go to the school van to carry him down. I suppose he as a child had the premonition.

I was 7 months pregnant and probably, by instinct I held back some emotions as I do not want to get into distress. Plus at that time, I had to deal with mother’s two favourite grandsons, age 6 and 4. So, I was the strong one in the family.

I remembered I went to Loh Guan Lye or is it Adventist, heck I cannot remember now to see the doctor why mom can die just like that. At first, my husband and I went to the morgue because I wanted to see her myself. Strangely, no matter how we asked for directions, we never got there because we couldn’t find the morgue.

I guess its the divine way of shielding me the pregnant woman from going into morgues. Anyway, later on, I had been to morgues many times, even for strangers. Guess God has a way to use me.

So, we went to see the doctor because I demanded a closure. The doctor explained that the virus went virulent and mother had a sudden collapse. She never had any medical problems. The doctor said her whole body just gave up. He said if not, part of her will be paralysed as she stopped breathing for a long time and her brains stop functioning.

Today when I see how sudden the old lady turned for the worse comforted me that yeah,things happened. Nothing we can do about it. The old lady is now lovingly cared by the children in a special unit. May she recovers soon.

As for my mother, I remembered telling my distraught siblings and nephews and nieces that probably that was how my mother had wanted it. To be quick and not to burden us.

This hospital stay also humbled me. I used to have first class private room stay. Since none of us use, hubby told me he will pay less premium for medical insurance and reduce to twin bedded. When he asked me, I said ok lah, not that we will want to be hospitalised. Yesterday, I had forgotten and thought I would be having a single room. But I guess being here with another person had revealed to me some things that I had kept in my memories.

Old people health can just deteriorate really fast. Simple cold or infection can lead to death or near death like the woman who is probably in her 30s. So treasure life, live it, love fully and never regret.

A weekend well spent

This morning, I was almost in tears when I read some of the affirmation notes from Form 2 & 3. I was touched because they had written really sincere feelings. Never expect these from them as I was expecting cliches stuffs. I am glad that I had taken my time to write each a personal note as well.

It is now almost 9 pm and I finally get to rest my feet, tucked in bed in my aircond bedroom. I still have to go dry my clothes, ie transfer the wet ones to the dryer. Two batches more to go. So not entirely the ‘I am free for the weekend.’

One of the girl said how I have continued to talk to her though I am no longer her teacher. I am glad the students know that when I said I love them in class, I really mean it. When I assure them I am open, and never take me as their mother figure, I also mean it.

After so many psychology and counselling courses I attended, I know that I cannot fit into the mother-figure role because I am not the regular woman. I want the youths to know that I don’t use the same benchmark other parents use on them.

Often youth faces problem because of this parental-child issues. I take pride that in the past, youths and young adults who faced problems did turn to me. So yeah, when I read the affirmation notes from the 14 and 15 years old, I know they don’t see this aunty with expectations for please thank you but like I said to them, Life sucks, deal with it.

So, this weekend was very hectic. On Saturday, I spent 9-5 in church and managed to share about Growth with the youths. Then, I rushed home and went for cycling at night.

I am glad that someone threw me into the deep end of the ocean a while back and now, fun rides like last night was just a simple cycling. That’s how I deal with life, find the most difficult one and just jump in and stay afloat. He now declared I am a veteran rider.

That is a big boost of confidence to me. Next Sunday, I have triathlon which involved 800 m of swimming, 24 KM of cycling and 7 KM of running. Now that I am certified as a veteran rider and I had achieved 21KM, the riding and running do not scare me. I just need to remember to keep my sugar level high.

However, the swimming part still worries me. I need to calm my mind and imagine my imaginary coach telling me 800m is only 8 U-turns and just U-turn without trying to flip. Now, I U-turn by standing straight and then, lurch forward.

So, I got home from the cycling at night, about to sleep to prepare for a morning ride with some friends. However, work fell on my lap. And again, Sunday is a working day.

An extraordinary working day because it was one whirlwind of the mind and fingers working while coordinating with a team of colleagues. I am so glad everything went well and I am proud of being able to save the world, once again LOL.

Passing by the Batu Lancang market, I decided to play the domesticated housewife and went marketing. Cook whatever I fancy eating and that turned out to be five dishes. I am amazed how I can cook so easily, so fast and so tasty. Must be my good Hainanese genes.

As if that is not enough, I even went to Zumba. Yesterday, before the cycling, I also jumped in to Zumba. Now if I heard Zumba music, I must start jumping LOL.

Zumba has done great things for me. Without it, I wont have the muscles and staminas to do other things. So yeah, it is going to be a killer week because I got to complete my work as I am going to Langkawi on Thursday till Saturday.

Sunday I am going to jump into the pool and trust God. Just like how Jesus told Simon (or is it Peter? Hmm….) to get down from the boat and walk on water, or is it walk from the beach…hmmm…I am so bad with Bible stuffs but never mind, I have faith that whatever things I do, God is with me.

I choose you (John 15:16)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Eerily, everything screams that God is real.

I made up my mind to go for our Cathedral’s 13th year dedication tonite at 8 pm on Jan 20. Thirteen years ago, I did not join in the huge celebration when our church was upgraded to become a Cathedral. I was on bed rest. I was pregnant with Matthew and was going thru RCIA (a year of soul searching and learning before one can become a Catholic). My previous pregnancy ended at 28 weeks due to placenta praevia (the placenta detached and I bled).

Then when I had Matthew, I had pre-eclampsia where my blood pressure shot up sky high. So I had to be on bed rest. He was born 36 weeker. Anyway, I never like huge celebrations and all the rituals. So I didnt miss much. I get to ponteng RCIA as well LOL.

This morning, I was a little emo. Then, all was ok. Then, when I got to church, I saw the awesome cross beaming in the dark sky. So I took a photo. When I was about to get into church, I decided to be nice and held the door for some elderly folks to enter as the door is very heavy and they had walking sticks. Four of them. Slow slow walk, so I decided to post the photo.

And I just blurted out that I was there because of Vincent. And I knew if there is that moment when God asked me to choose if I would go through the same pains I had gone thru having given birth to Vincent and only to lose him, would I do it? And I had said to myself before, I would. I would go thru the pain because it was that 7 months when he was alive and the months after that when I grieved his loss, I learned to live.

It was Vincent that I turned to Christianity and the belief of resurrection. It is only after Vincent that I had Matthew and treasured my role as a mother and the preciousness of our children.

By the time I finished typing my FB status, uncles all gone in, after thanking this Jaga Pintu Lilian. I was totally emo by then at the entrance hymn. My tears splashed on the pew but it is ok. Cos not many people in the church. What do I care, anyway.

Bishop Sebastian celebrate mass. I love Bishop Seb cos his homily is short, short, short. And I could typed out whatever he said in my Note on my phone. Nevermind that I could feel people cursing I am playing with my phone, but again what do I care anyway.

Bishop Seb talked about the five arrows on his coat of arms. Love, Truth, Beauty, Freedom , Sacrifice. He wants us to remember these 3 things – discipleship, mission and mercy. Be Missionary disciple of mercy.

The reading on David fighting Goliath gave me new perspective. No longer it is the kid’s bible version but I see myself as the young, ill-equipped David who fought with the assurance that God is with me.

And oh boy, had I fought with all the demons and tyrants and nonsense through these 13 years. In the church, out of the church and everywhere.

Maybe the difference is I dont get to actually chop off anyone’s head like David did to Goliath.

Anyway, after fighting back the first torrential tears, I was ok. Then, the lyrics on Everytme we eat this bread hit me. It was John 15:16. That was my deciding moment. 13 years ago, I was hesitating if I am going to be baptised with my four sons because frankly, I dont like Christians. I was struggling if I can stand this life as a Christian. And John 15:16 told me that I didnt choose Christ, Christ chose me.

Then, at the closing hymn, my dam broke again. “May these tears be turned into dancing” And I was like…oh man….you think the tears are easy tears? No…it was the hardest tears. But heck, I did overcome.

It is only some days, which are very rare nowadays that I could cry. And I could laugh too.

Glad that I didn’t ponteng church today. Cos the dedication meant a lot to me as it is always the celebration of having Matthew. He is going to be 13 years on Feb 28.