Thursday, 8 September 2011

Of life and the living

I just attended the funeral wake of a friend's mom, who passed away from cancer. Although he tried to maintain a stoic front, it was obvious he was shaken. Another friend whose mom had passed away not too long ago broke down as well. They all had so many regrets, 'if onlys' that it was painful to see. Whether they knew it or not, we shared their pain.

It is hard to know what to say to comfort them, because it is far too personal. The many words of condolences, however cliched, are sincere. But for a moment, get into their shoes. Imagine them, in a time of grief, having to hear the same awkwardly-uttered words over and over and over again. It becomes meaningless to them. Just mere noise in a time when they are trying to come to terms with what has happened. They have to put on a brave front, solicitously entertain visitors, make small talk, deal with the funeral arrangements etc. That is on top of trying to cope with such intense personal loss.

Case in point: before we left, our friend came by to remind us to take a red string with us. Trivia: That bundle of red string in the photo above is placed on all tables at traditional Chinese funeral wakes. Visitors take a string when they leave, and must lose it on their way home. For the superstitious, it's to prevent "wandering spirits" from following you home, and to ward off bad luck. Even though many of us do not believe in it, we still do it anyway.

I am truly sorry I haven't been able to do more for all my friends who have been in this position. I can only let them know that I will always be here if they should need anything from me, even if it is just company or a listening ear.

Life is really fragile, do cherish your loved ones while you still have the chance. Make "no regrets" your mantra going forward. You don't have to have the best. As long as you make the best out of what you have, you won't have regrets.

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