Thursday, September 1, 2022

Hope on a Promise

Dear Michelle

It's been 3 years... and I know everyday you still try to find some form of sign or clue that Philip is around.... 

With that breeze that touches your face as you walked on the streets, could it be a kiss from Philip?
It could be Michelle, but really that's from the bus that is driving past.

Or that random 3 year old boy who stopped and turned round to smile at you, could it be him?
No my dear, he was actually looking for his mummy behind you.

The sun is out after the rain, you are hoping to find a rainbow to tell you that Philip is fine.
Not today Michelle... there's no rainbow but he's fine.

A song, a dream, a child who has cancer, his name in random wine bottles or even a person who would listen about what you can share about Philip (sorry to the strangers who would have to listen to me when I share about my 5th child 😅)... I see everyday that you still try hard to hold on to anything that can keep his legacy alive. 
To others, these attempts may be futile, but I know deep down you are desperate and grieving.

Exactly a week back, I was there at your evening stroll with Daniel. Maybe you had a little too much sake, maybe it was on the topic of gratitude, or maybe it was getting closer to 1 September, either which, I was there when you cried. 
I heard you asked why did I need to choose Philip, why couldn't I spare him, why did I choose you to be a testimony.  

For the past 3 years, I see you and I hear your cries and I know your pain.

You brought Simon out to the park today with Daniel. I saw Dan putting him in the stroller without strapping him in, while you and Kyra ran ahead of them. In Simon's excitement to want to catch up with you, he stepped out of his stroller and fell. He scratched his elbow and head and let out a loud cry. Daddy carried him and placed him in the stroller, but that did nothing to stop his cries until you picked him up and kissed him. His wound remains, but he felt better. 
I hope through that you will remember that while your wounds may remain, I will be there in that moment when you hurt, carry you up, kiss you and tell you everything is going to be fine. And for that moment, it will be enough.

You see my child, I never needed you to defend me when my creation gets mad at me. Nothing you say will be enough for them to understand the situation and I never had in mind that you would be a testimony or defendent for me. I am glad that your choices and response did, but this was not why Philip's life on earth was for 6 months.

Continue to walk with Me. Continue to trust and continue to hope... not in outcomes or in how you want it to be done, but in Me. Unless your hope is in Me, you will continue to be disappointed and let down every single day.

Draw on the Me when you need strength, lean on Me when you need to rest, cry to Me when you are helpless, come to Me when you need to be carried. 

In the midst of your grief, you will learn where you have placed your hope. You may not know what tomorrow brings, but trust me and count on my promise and nothing else. Live life day by day without the need to know what will come next, not because you don't have the right to do so, but that would just drain and rob you the joy of living. 
Have unconditional hope in Me and hold Me to My promise that I will be there with you every single step and way. 

Pick up your cross and follow Me. Have faith in Me, my child, have an unwavering faith. It may not be in your lifetime that you will see My plan, but I promise you that all wounds will be healed one day, all tears will be wiped away, the dead will all rise and all mysteries will be understood. But until that day comes, take heart that even though you will feel the pain and hurts in this world, I have already overcome this world.

Unlike the hope the world gives, your hope has a name - Mine.

Take heart, my dear child, take heart, for I am with you through it all.

I love you.

God.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Hey God... It's Me.





Hi Father,

It's Philip's birthday today. Interestingly when it's the birthdays of my other kids, I don't really talk to you about their birthdays, just this one special child.

5 days old

I remembered the day after Philip's first major surgery, Dan and I visited him at ICU ward to check in on him. He had so many tubes coming out of his body that it was a pain to watch. I never took a picture of that thinking that I didn't want to remember him in that state, but ironically, I soon came to realise it will never be a choice since I won't be able to shake off that image of him in my memory. Philip was conscious but he had this perpetual frown on his face. It was as if he was saying to us "Why did you do this to me?" or "Why didn't you stop them from doing this to me?"

And while I was laughing at his choice of expression then, it must have been to him that we have failed him as parents. Something I am sure You can relate to many times a day. "Why Lord, did you allow bad things to happen" or "Why Lord did you allow me to suffer?" 

I wished I could explain to Philip then why we needed to do the operation or even do any of the surgical procedures, unfortunately, there was no way of us explaining to him why things were such. Our understanding capabilities are of a different level. And today as I went for my run, I realised for those times I questioned why, it was not because You did not have the answer, or that You were not present, it was because there was no way you could help me understand why.

Last Sunday, Dan shared that the phrase that struck him was from the second reading, "Where, O Death, is your sting?" And while it reminded him that life on earth is temporary, it's significant events like these that reminds me the sting is in the memories, in my heart and in my mind.

And after three years, I still wish that You would choose to let Philip stay with me, but I also realised that "my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts". I will never be able to understand why this must happen.. and for now during these moments when I struggle with not being able to understand your ways, I take comfort that You have never stopped to be near to me... even as I walk away from You during moments of darkness. From the priest who offered to say mass with the family, despite his busy schedule, to the acquaintance who reached out with a word of consolation for today... Thank you Father, for never giving up on me... even when I (the lowly one) don't deserve that. 

I can't be with Philip today... so please hug him a little tighter and kiss him a little more for me today. And in case he forgets about us, remind him that we still miss him and will never stop loving him... just as how you will never stop loving me. 

Love,

Your Child.

Us today…. 💕

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A Letter to Me... From me

Dearest Me,

I have never written a letter to you before. I have talked to many people and God about what had happened in your life but never talked to you before and so today, I thought I should. 

My dear, it's been two years since you had experienced your greatest pain in life thus far... and I think personally, you have been doing very very well. It's true that you have a lot to work on... like how you are still impatient, still easily irritable, still brutally honest and in many ways still not perfect...but you have surpassed way better than you could have imagined. 

You did become less idealistic in life though. You who once believed that real bad things won't happen to you will realise that they do. But accepting that fact didn't make you lose hope that in today there are many things to be grateful for each day. Even though you have felt like you died this very day two years back, I'm grateful that you make the decision every single day to want to live not because you have to but because there's also no need for you to stop living and appreciating this gift God has given to you.

Two years ago, R.I.P to you simply meant Rest in Peace, two years later, you wish it means Return If Possible. You still grieve every single day. You won't know how to shake this pain off or feel better... and unfortunately, unless you forget who you lost, you will always remember who you lost. 

For a long time you had wondered how the grace of God was sufficient for you after Philip had died. People see what you do as great strength, because they simply can't imagine what they will do if they were in your shoes, but they didn't realise that your everyday act is a breath of new life from the Holy Spirit, something which anyone and everyone can do if they only have a little bit more of faith in themselves as well as in the Father.

I know you didn't sign up to be in the bereavement mother's group... unfortunately none of the members in this group (or any loss group) became a member willingly. But in these two years, you have learnt not to waste your pain and your grief. You have learnt in turn to use this grief to be more compassionate to the one who'e struggling, to watch out more for the one who is lost and left behind, and you have used this pain to in hope to bring some joy to someone else.

To you, you never knew if it was harder for you to remember Philip's would-be birthday or his death anniversary. You would have wished that more people got to know Philip but since that is not possible, you worked very hard to not let the memory of his existence be forgotten. But you soon realised that the best way of showing who Philip was to you was to live your life with lessons he has left you with... faith, hope and love. 

I don't know what the future will look. I know there will be days when you will laugh (it's great!) and there will be days when for no reason your tears will just flow (and it's okay!). Some days you look around and will feel like you have everything, other days you will look at what you had lost and feel like you got nothing. It's at these moments when you will question why God had allowed you to go through this and it is during these times you will also remember what your husband told you, that God's role was to take away sin not suffering.

By now, you will know that unlike a flu or illness, your grief will not go away and you won't be free from this pain you are going through. But each time you hurt, you have learnt that it's an invitation from God to be closer to you. 

So my dear girl, Philip will always be precious to you... but above that you are not just going to be precious to him but to the One who gave him to you. 
You need to remember this, that though Philip has gone somewhere really really far, he is always in the hugs and kisses his siblings give you, in the gentle breeze when you go on your walks and even when your tears roll down your cheeks thinking about him. But more importantly, you need to remember that where he is in, God is there too.

Love always,
Me







Tuesday, August 17, 2021

When we mistake God's sign

There are moments in the past that will always be replayed in my mind and while the last few months before Philip's passing was a blur to me, I remembered this scene very clearly. 

This was after Philip's brain surgery and the night before we realised that his abdomen was a little bloated and his testicles were a little swollen. It wasn't a good sign and that night we went to bed worried.

The next morning, I was getting ready to bring Philip to see the oncologist when Dan rushed home and showed me the reading of the day. He was very much filled with faith that Philip will be fine.  

I wasn't as sure as he was.. but I just went along with him because to me, even when I didn't have peace in my heart. 

This has been an internal struggle for Daniel for the first 10 months after Philip died... and since it is the first reading for today... I will share with you his reflection. :) 


The msg the Mister sent
me today
The First Reading today is a particularly difficult one for me as it brings back many memories. It’s a reading from the book of Judges. The story is how God called Gideon and what Gideon’s response was. In 2019 when Philip was very ill in hospital, I was very afraid that he would die and I remember asking God that fateful morning. Show me a sign that would tell me Philip’s fate. I was in the adoration room in the Church of the Holy Spirit, all alone and pleading with the Lord for a sign, just like Gideon did. 

The gist of the reading was “Do not be afraid, you will not die.” I cried as I took it to mean that Philip will not die then. 
As we all know, Philip passed away a couple of weeks later. I was shocked, horrified and indignant! Didn’t God give me a sign through the exact same reading 2 years ago? What happened to what He said to me? I was confused, angry, upset to say the least. That anger eventually led to indifference. If God’s will be done, why even seek my opinion? Why even bother to give me hope when there wasn’t to be any hope! Why lie to me? 
It took me a really long time and many struggles to come to the realisation that God’s plan will be done anyway, but we are called to “want” His plan for us. This calls for humility and obedience to His will. 
So it was with some trepidation that I re-read this morning’s First Reading. Gideon was called by the Lord to save His people Israel. But Gideon said that he was from the smallest tribe in Israel and the weakest member of his family. How could he even rise up against Israel’s enemies? It seemed so absurd and ridiculous! But God reassured him that He would go with Gideon and perform the works and power in Gideon’s behalf. Gideon of course didn’t believe and sought to ask for a sign (just like me). He made an offering of unleavened bread and lamb which the angel of the Lord caused to be burnt as a sign of the acceptance of Gideon’s offering to the Lord. Gideon then realised that he had seen the face of the angel of the Lord and in the Old Testament, anyone who sees the face of God or His angels will be struck down and die. But God reassured him that “Do not be afraid, you will not die!”
That perspective changed my thinking for now I know that God perhaps wants me to see His face and His will and go through His plan for me, but I need to trust Him and be obedient and docile to His plan for me, then I “will not die”. 
God always calls the weakest, the youngest, the one who in Man’s eyes are nothing, to be His instrument. He chose Moses, someone who couldn’t talk well; He chose David, the youngest and weakest child of Jesse. He chose Gideon and now He chooses you and me. Not to rely on our own strength and intellect but instead to put our own ego aside and just follow the promptings of the Spirit to do His will. 
God never calls the ready, He readies the called. We can come up with a million and one excuses not to do His will, but I ask you today to put aside your reason and human understanding, and just say “Yes” to Him today. “Not mine, but Thy Will be done”. You will be amazed by what will happen!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Because You were here...

Dearest Philip,

If you were here, we would be celebrating your second birthday today. I doubt it would be anything fancy, but it would be a celebration nonetheless if you are around.

After 4 kids, no one would ever believe that you were an accident. (Thanks guys 😏) Or at least no one would believe that we didn't try to conceive you. You weren't a gift Mummy was praying for, but it quickly became ironic that you were the gift Mummy prayed very hard to God to not take away. You see, as much as I was not the most enthusiastic person to find out I was pregnant with you, I struggle with the sharp pain of giving you back to God.

It's been two years and while I don't remember much about the day I had you, I realised I don't remember much about you. I was feeling all anxious a few weeks back, because I was afraid that one day you will become a stranger to me. While you are my child, I actually don't know much about you. I don't know what you like or you don't. I don't know what dreams you have or even how you will look when you lose your baby fats. I don't know what your first word would be, what your fashion style is or how even your voice sounds. I realised my child, in many ways, I don't know you. 

I recognise I had many dreams for you. I imagined that you would be a brilliant boy in school and even challenging your brothers academically. I thought you were going to be charming and all the ladies would be swoon by you. You would be like who you were named after, St Philip Neri, who would bring so much joy to the people you would meet. In fact, I always thought that you would be a priest (bishop even!), one who will be able to convince another just by looking at you. You would be such a wonderful gift, but all these my child would be what my plans and hopes for you. And because they are just my desires and plans of you... it really isn't you.

And yet despite not knowing much of you, my heart still aches and yearns for the next time we meet again. I'm sure with all the love and joy you have been getting from God in heaven, that you possibly may not be missing anything here. It's just that selfishly I wish you will not stop remembering who I am, my boy.

People often celebrate birthdays as a highlight of how much they have grown through the year. And as such, I wished my life was just like any other parent, celebrating the milestone of my child and spoiling him rotten with a special cake and presents. But this is not to be. And while you may not be physically with me today, it doesn't mean we would be sulking today. (I really doubt we will have any cake or blow any candles today though 😅)

My dear boy, your life, though short, is worth celebrating and remembering. Not just because we miss you but because we thank God for who you made us become during the short time we had together. Because of you, I have become more careful to reach out to those struggling in pain around me, to cheer them on and to support them when they needed a break. It's also because of you, I have become a better parent and catechist to your siblings in making sure that I don't lose any of them to the ways of the world. But more importantly, it is also because of you, that I was born again to believe that God really loves me. He may have seemed to have ignored me when He chose to bring you home, but truth was He has sent me many more angels to guard my heart so that I would not become cynical of the wonders of life and the excitement each day has for me. 

I have come to realise that unlike other superficial wounds, He may never allow this wound to be fully healed. Not that He was being sadistic just so to cripple me and make me lean on Him, but more importantly to push me forward to know how much more I can do and how much more I need to better live life because of my love for you.

It's been two years my boy, and while it seems this year I started the day (again) in tears, I too look forward to today. Your siblings and us have decided that we will be fasting and abstaining today. Not because we are grieving, but it was with the intention to support and carry another with our prayers and thoughts as our gift to you. (Don't worry, we will reward them to a nice dinner... it's after all your birthday 😅)

Your siblings especially your brothers may need a little help from you to get through the day, judging from the discussion as to what they can eat in school 😅. And while they think chicken should go under the category of fish, I am seriously proud of them too for wanting to do this in honour of you. Can you see what a great priest you would be if Julian, your brother, is willing to forego food for you? 

Happy birthday my dear boy. I know God must be very pleased (and busy answering the prayer intentions we will be offering) with you and your heavenly party would be well taken care of. Maybe if you want, you think you could ask God to draw us a picture of the rainbow in the sky so that we could also be part of your heavenly birthday celebrations too? 

Have a wonderful time in heaven my dear boy. 

I love you my dear, never stopped, never will. 

Eternally yours,

Mummy

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Legacy of a Baby

I remember before Philip's death, I'd always looked forward to the next year because the current year was what I thought to be sucky or had nothing to shout about. Somehow, when Philip died, I was probably just going through life and was neither excited or dreading the year to come. Partly because nothing would be more tragic than that and because I was really learning to live in the moment.
It's been a year since Philip died, and yet this year I'm pleased to share that I am looking forward to the next year. Not because that 2020 has been bad (I really am grateful for 2020), but there's so many exciting things to look forward to in 2021. (And no I'm not having another baby😏)

A rainbow we saw at our 
family holiday this year
Through the past year, I have had many people coming to ask me if I ever once was angry with God. And while it doesn't seem so, I have been upset with God many times. I was upset that He gave me Philip when I didn't ask for it. I was more upset that He took him away when I prayed very hard for him to stay. I got irritated when He dangled some hope in front of me through bible passages and when Philip started to re
act to the meds only to abruptly snatch that away from me. I was bitter and envious when I saw kids the same age as Philip, growing and thriving while I just buried mine. 
I even became cynical in the power of prayers and wondered whether God bothered to answer mine. Like during Philip's last days, I had always asked God to assure me that everything would be fine by showing me a rainbow in the sky. I saw rainbows on a balloon, on a sweater, in the hospital charts but never a rainbow in the sky. 
Then Philip died, which probably would be enough to justify if I ever walked away from God.

Many times, the bitterness and anger from life come from this little voice we hear in us. 
This voice which tells us "Life is not fair. You don't deserve this." And strangely, as we grow older, we tend to believe it more and allow it to take over our lives more. 
We think God didn't fulfil His part of the contract and permit ourselves to be angry and walk away, because after all, God failed. 

I still don't know why God chose to give him an illness with a next to nothing fighting chance or to take him away. I don't believe He needed Philip to be an extra angel in heaven (I mean He IS God, He doesn't need to take anything from us to make Him happy 😏), neither do I believe that He thinks I will screw up being a mother of 5 that's why He took Philip away. (That's really just being extra...

So why do I stay on being a loser? Because my little (Saint) Philip still gives me hope. 💕

Philip after his second op
Philip taught me through his operations and illness to smile despite the challenges (I mean he had moments when he laughed even while "facing" death and pain), to never let the tragedy of his life define him (he was never known to be the baby with cancer, but the cute and smiley baby whom the nurses would try to win a smile from), that living a life with hope, looking forward to the next day is wayyy easier than being bitter and angry.
Many who are angry with God with the unfairness in life, forgot too often that even He had to allow His Son to die. 

My little saint may only just be a baby, who has no degree, knows no language, gets no followers, but just like the little baby in Christmas, is cheering me on to live out my life with greater courage, more hope and humanity.

Could God change the tragedy from happening? Of course. But did God ever leave me? Never. 
And as we end 2020, I pray that I will always be reminded how blessed I am to have bore and held a saint in my arms and how much love and hope I can offer from the gifts I have
gotten thus far.   


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Picking Up the Pieces, Picking Up my Cross


Dearest Philip,

How are you in heaven? Have you been busy testing your wings in your free time or have you been swamped with prayer requests during your "working hours"?
It's been almost a year since we last met. Despite the reasons to smile and be grateful for, there hasn't been a day when mummy stopped thinking or missing you. 

Since your passing, (other than having another baby 😅) I did many things to deal with your absence. I stayed away from big gatherings so that I didn't need to deal with pitiful or sympathetic conversations, I stayed away from babies who are similar to your age so as not to be reminded of my loss, I even locked myself in my own cocoon so that I didn't need to wear any mask to cover the rawness of the pain.

I have heard many people commenting that time will heal the pain. To that, I have learnt to just smile and keep quiet. Maybe they are right.. maybe they have experienced something in life that I have yet to learn, or maybe it's just that they are really blessed to not have lost something that mattered more than life to them. 

But the biggest struggle I had after you died ironically wasn't dealing with your absence but with my own guilt. 
I had always wondered if I had done enough for you, if I had really shown you in my capacity how much I love you. The night before your death, daddy and I even dressed ourselves up to attend a function because we didn't want to dampen the spirits of the people who were there. And even though we left 5 minutes into the start of the event, I'd always wondered if you had blamed me for not being around you more. Not many people knew this, but the reason why I never opened the casket during your wake was because the c-pap mask that you wore during the last days of your life had caused an abrasion and a dent at your nose area which I only noticed it after they removed the mask when they died. You must have been really uncomfortable during that time but I wasn't able to offer any consolation. You were left on the hospital ward for quite some time because daddy and I couldn't find your original birth certificate and because of that you couldn't be transferred to the mortuary. 
At times I read about stories of children going through the same cancer as you. Most of them don't make it but because they underwent chemotherapy and radiation, they did live longer. And I wondered too if our lives would be different if I had chosen the chemo route for you. 
I replayed your last few months in my head throughout the year and always wondered did we do enough  for you and more importantly did we tell you enough that we love you. 

The gospel today reminded me a very harsh truth what being a disciple meant - to carry my cross daily. Darling, unfortunately you will always be my cross I would need to bear till I die. When you died last year, a part of me died together with you. 
And even though you were with us for only 6 months, you truly taught me so much more than what I have learnt in my whole life. When the doctors told me about your diagnosis, it was not only the first time I actually felt any concrete pain in life, but the first time I had experienced the cross. My faith was crumbling and there were moments when I doubted the goodness of God. 

Because of you, I have learnt to understand the phrase "not my will but yours be done". On the day of your funeral, not only did I bury you, I also needed to bury my disappointments and my dreams I had for you. But I came to learn that while there was nothing wrong with my hopes and dreams, God just had a very different plan and vocation for you. And it was through you, mummy learnt to ask for strength to surrender. 

It didn't take me long to realise that nothing will ever be possible to fill the void you left behind. It's ironic, but human logic of finding something else to fill the void doesn't help in the healing. Healing ironically came when mummy decided to give away more of her heart to those around her.
Because of this pain I experienced, I have learnt to reach out to more people who are struggling with a little more humility and compassion. And each time when they opened their lives and hearts to me, that small part of my heart starts to become alive again.

I have learnt to be okay with God's choice of not healing you, because even though I am your mummy, I know that He loves you more than I do. Thank you baby, for jumpstarting my relationship with God, for teaching me in a very concrete manner how to submit to my daily cross. 
It's been one year since I last saw you... but it's also one year closer to meeting you again. So until I get my chance to hold you again, I promise you that mummy is going to live her life and laugh again. And know that every breath I take, I'll be taking one for you. 💕

Always missing you,
Mummy. 

P a few weeks before he died
P a few weeks before he died