I heard the news about my grandmother on Tuesday morning at 9.22am Dutch time. My mom sent me a to-the-point message on Whatsapp: 'Ah ma just passed away.' Before that, she told me that my grandmother was critically ill and had just been hospitalised. While getting ready to go to the Tribunal, I thought that I would maybe fly back to see her that week, just in case I didn't get another chance to do so.
I didn't get another chance. What hit me the hardest was the fact that, ever since I left Singapore for London in September 2012, I had gone home only twice, and on those trips home, I didn't make any special effort to see her. The guilt and the regret squeezed tears from my eyes, as did the somewhat futile, somewhat desperate, wishing that I had been there. As if it would have made a difference; all it would have assuaged was the guilt of the living.
I flew back the next night. I couldn't look at the coffin and I avoided it throughout the two-day wake. On the day of the funeral - a Saturday - it was hot and humid and the sun bore down on all of us, and the humidity stuck to us like a second skin. It was a Taoist funeral. My mom said it right when she said that not understanding the rituals and what was being sad made it less devastating than it would otherwise be. That is not to say, however, that it wasn't a highly emotional affair. It was. It was the second time I ever attended the funeral of a family member; the first time was when I was 8, when my grandfather - also on my mom's side - died from a stroke.
I do not deal well with grief. I do not know how to grief. As such, I avoided it valiantly for as long as I could...until the moment when the coffin was closing. I looked briefly at my grandmother's body; long enough to see the serenity on her face. As my second uncle sobbed his heart out, as my aunts let tears stream down their faces, as I held on to my mother while she cried, I forced myself to face it to the best of my ability. I cried too, but with the internal acceptance that she was really gone, and that no amount of guilt or regret was capable of making a difference.
The next day, we gathered at my grandma's to keep my uncle company. As I came out of the toilet in her room, I stood in the empty room, surveying the scene. I imagined her in her massage chair, eyes on the TV; I imagined her on her bed, hugging the bolster close to her; I imagined her speaking to me in her slow, gentle way while I laid on her bed, asking me if I had eaten, if I was full. I remembered her from my childhood: a towering figure of tough love, forcing porridge with carrots that I hated down my throat, running after the kids with a cane. In her last years, she was confined to a wheelchair. She needed assistance to go to the toilet. She had trouble seeing and hearing, which made watching TV difficult - which made passing the time difficult. She relied on the company of her children and some of her grandchildren to pass the time and inject some semblance to meaning in her life. Her heart began to fail towards the end; she could not breathe properly because of the excessive phlegm in her throat. She was hospitalised for most of my return over Chinese New Year. I remember seeing her so frail and helpless on the hospital bed, panting audibly, gasping for air like grasping at straws...it struck me for the first time that her time was limited.
I think we all knew that. What we didn't know was how sudden she'd eventually pass away.
I was never very close to her, but she was my grandmother and I knew that she cared about all of us. I can wish that I'd done a million things differently, but it is what it is; and so I choose to think that she is finally relieved of her slow, subtle suffering - the idleness of ageing, the emptiness of a mere existence.
Goodbye, my dear grandma. You will be missed - and will always be loved.
I discovered a tiny hard lump in my right breast in January when I was still with Arnaud. He said that it was probably nothing and I promptly forgot about it, until I told Wouter one day when I was over at his. At Schipol Airport, shortly before I flew home, he told me, quite seriously, to go get it checked out, just in case it was something serious.
For someone who doesn't listen to anyone but herself, his words sure had a significant effect on me. I made an appointment with a specialist because he told me to do so. It was for this reason that I found myself spending five hours, with my mom, in a small, cold waiting room in Mount Elizabeth hospital on Monday afternoon.
The doctor did an ultrasound and saw the lump, as well as another unknown growth somewhere else on the same breast. She couldn't rule out cancer and said that a biopsy had to be done. I was a bit freaked out; I obviously didn't want to have cancer, and I didn't really feel like wasting time undergoing surgery to remove things in my breast.
Thankfully, the biopsy showed that whatever is in my breast isn't cancerous. I haven't seen the results yet so I don't know what it is. What struck me, though, was that the doctor noted that my blood didn't clot easily and that I bruised easily when she was performing the biopsy. I have been noticing weird bruises on my arm lately and I don't even know what caused them, so the bruising easily part is perhaps a cause for concern.
In any event, I'm just glad that I'm safe from cancer...for now.
Wouter has been by my side, literally and virtually, throughout all of this.
When I told him about my grandmother, he called me when he could, told me that he'd pushed a project that he had to work on later that night to the next day so that he could see me in The Hague, and checked air tickets for me. I eventually went to him after taking the afternoon off. He booked my flight for me and took me to a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner. It was absolutely delicious, just like all the other places he's brought me to. After dinner, we walked around the city centre - Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein (?), Museumplein - and through a part of Vondelpark. We kissed a lot. We laughed a lot. I forgot about what I had to deal with but which didn't want to think about. I was happy.
I spent the night at his and woke up the next morning with the realisation of what happened the day before. Guilt set in - guilt over not going home more often to see my grandmother. I cried. He held me in his arms until I didn't cry anymore.
He sent me off at the airport. We texted each other every day the entire time I was in Singapore. We spoke on the phone twice. On the day I was at the doctor's, I told him that I needed to do a biopsy because it could be bad; he said, 'I'm not going anywhere. I'm here for you.'
He picked me up from the airport today. He took me back to his place in a taxi that cost him 42 euros; I later found out that he took a taxi to the airport because there were no trains so early in the morning. He was too late to take me to the tulip fields, and so he took the tulips to me - I found 50 tulips sitting on his dining table when I got in, because he knew how much I wanted to go to Keukenhof.
The weather was awful - drizzly, foggy and cold - but the day was perfect.
I told him that I was in love with him.
I am in love with him. No one has ever treated me like he does - like a queen. I feel so safe, so secure and so comfortable with him and around him. I missed him when I was in Singapore; I miss him almost immediately after I leave him. He is absolutely wonderful, and I don't know what I did to deserve him.
Too tired to continue.