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,

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,