Category Archives: relationships

The Ending


I recently attended a wake for an 89 year old woman from my neighborhood.  I did not really know her but once I happened to be on hand when she had a blackout in the street and I had accompanied her to hospital.  She spoke no English and my very poor Mandarin meant our communication was very limited.

She was often seen walking around the neighborhood, going to the shops for her meals.  She had no children, her husband passed on quite some time ago and she had long outlived the rest of her immediate family.  Some of her distant family had taken care of her out of family obligation but it was an uneasy arrangement and something of a burden to them.  It is said that she was  difficult, cranky and hard to like but I wouldn’t really know.

Then her health failed and she spent her last two years at a facility for the elderly where she had few visitors.

At her wake, there was no one who had a memory or a story to share.  No one wanted to give an eulogy.  Those that attended seem to be just going through the motions.  The minister leading the service had a real difficult time.

On the coffin was a picture of her in her youth.  She was a beauty.  I reflected on how it must have seen to her when her picture was taken that the adventure of life still lay before her.  What dreams she must have had, what hopes. I sat there at the wake feeling really sad at how at the end, she was being sent off, not by loved ones but by those who hardly knew her or those that did not particularly care.  But the worse was yet to come.

The wake service was being held in a building adjacent to the crematorium.  Actually it was more like a shelter with a roof but open on three sides.  As the minister led us to sing a final hymn, a stray dog came in and before our unbelieving eyes, peed on the pedestal on which the coffin lay.

We were all stunned.  It was like the world gave a final insult.

Like the minister shared, our hope is that she is  in a better place now where she is enjoying the love and care of her Creator.

I found the whole thing quite unsettling.  I realise that the reality is that for many, the final years may be ones stripped of dignity.  It is sobering to know that “there but the grace of God go I”.  But it also reminds us to be thankful for every loved one and friend that we have and to treasure them like jewels.

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A Happy Post


Yes, this is a Happy Post as advertised above!  The previous post was a bit of a downer and may have appeared a bit morbid and depressing to some of you sensitive readers, so here is something completely opposite and life affirming.

Actually, it’s a love story.  It all started with a shy, quiet guy at his older brother’s wedding, where he spied with his little eye a gorgeous, radiant and vivacious young woman and a new and unknown feeling stirred in his heart.  It was love at first sight.

At least it was love at first sight for him.  For her, mmmm….. not so much.  They seemed as different as oil and water, as night and day, as steak and veggie burger, as cat and squirrel ………. you get my point?

The girl is known to her friends as “Hap” a nickname given to her because of her constant state of infectious happiness.  Yes, you could get infected with happiness just by hanging out with her.  What chance did the “shy guy” have?

Ah, but by sheer unblinking persistence, determination and most of all sincerity, “Hap” began to see the Prince Charming qualities of “Shy Guy”.  (at this point, LGS wishes to apologise to all diabetics for the high sugary sweet content of this post but it was unavoidable when it is about this couple).  And to cut a long post short, they got married last week.

Now it seems like a happy cosmic convergence that Pharrell William’s song “Happy” is so big on the airwaves right now;  just in time for a bunch of creative hacks from our little church family to put together a video with their version of “Happy” for Hap and Shy Guy on the occasion of their happy day.

So enjoy and be happy.  Also watch out for the Lone Grey Squirrel as he makes not one but two short cameo appearances in the tradition of Hitchcock and Stan Lee.  See if you can spot me! (Clue: I am not covered with fur nor is my bushy tail visible).

Bloody Rose Red


So how was your Valentine’s Day?  Was it romantic?  Did it make your wallet substantially lighter?

A female friend sent a text message to my wife and asked what we were doing for that special day.  My wife replied that while I might have once upon a time, some 20 years ago, planned some exciting dinner and surprise, she would be surprised if I remembered and if I did remember, she would be surprised if I planned anything.  When asked what her plans were for the night, the friend replied that they would just be having some home cooked rice porridge.

I guess after that, the two ladies let out a collective sigh.  Now as it turned out, I later went out for dinner with my wife AND my mother-in-law.  Now, dear readers, isn’t that love?

Despite going out rather late, we found every restaurant and dessert place jammed packed with suckers romantic lovers.  We chose one of the few rare places that did not jack up the menu prices.

While waiting for the food to arrive, I made a few observations. 

Firstly, just outside the restaurant were some unscrupulous capitalistic opportunists Cupid’s helpers selling little teddy bears hugging hearts and flowers (both single stem roses as well as elaborate bouquets).   I had a look at the prices and gagged.

A rose that would normally about cost USD 1-2 was now selling for USD 7.  Or perhaps the 10 stalks of roses and teddy bear combo would be more appealing ……. at only USD 110!!!

I actually saw a guy buy one of those for his girlfriend and she carried it in when they sat at the table next to us.  But the funny thing was that after that, the two of them spent the evening looking at their mobile phones.  One can only hope they were romantically tweeting each other.

Later as we were walking home, we came across a scene of utter destruction.  It was a massacre of red petals everywhere!  It would appear that someone (presumably female) had pummeled someone  else (presumably ex-boyfriend) with the USD 110/- bouquet.   Care to venture a guess as to  what foolish remark got him the rose acupuncture treatment?

I am so glad I am in a long term, steady and fulfilling relationship and not on the dating scene anymore.  I’d hate to get those rose thorns under my skin.

20 Years With Trouble and Strife


I know it’s been awhile since I posted and it was not due to a lack of material but from a lack of time to put mind to computer keyboard.   So for my catch up post, I thought I would  stick to the theme of romance in honor of Valentine’s Day  as well as touch on the fact that this is a new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar – kill two birds with one stone as it were (this was a phrase that always got the hackles up with my birding enthusiast friends whenever I used it while still working for a nature conservation organisation)!

First, I wish love and happiness to all young lovers ( and old ones too) on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.  Of course, I wish this for every day of the year.  For me, this year is a milestone in my marriage and last month, my wife and I marked our 20 years together as man and wife with a small dinner at a small restaurant with a few friends who have cheered us and helped us in our life journey together.  The “Trouble and Strife” in this post’s title is the Cockney Rhyming Slang for “wife”; or more specifically …..my wife.  Before I get in to trouble, it is meant as a term of endearment.  You know, like “ball and chain”.  Ummm.  Maybe I better move on.

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I have had 20 years of happy marriage with the love of my life.  I am a firm believer in marriage and it grieves me to see so many marriages today  in trouble or ending in divorce.  Marriage has been a great blessing but as with all good things, it requires work, commitment and self-sacrifice.  It has not been easy going all the time.  Yet, for the most part, most of our problems were from external sources – family relationships being one of them, but we found the strength in our love and trust in each other to weather all the storms thus far.  We had a few fights and quarrels along the way but truly they were but a few and we have a rule never to let the sunset on our anger.  This has been a good rule.  Life is too short to waste on being angry.

Anyway, I shared with the dinner guests the story of how we first met; my wife’s generally poor impression of me that first time; our deepening friendship; my getting cold feet and running away and how God brought us together again while I was studying for my doctorate in Ottawa, Canada.  I proposed to her in front of the Eternal Flame on the grounds of the Canadian Parliament while kneeling in the snow.  We got married almost exactly a year later in much warmer circumstances in Kuala Lumpur.  At the dinner, I also made a spectacle of myself by singing “our song” to my wife.  (the song is Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”) which I think also impressed the serving staff of the restaurant.

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And so, I thank God for blessing us both and guiding us these twenty years and pray that by His Grace, we will continue to love each other as we age into hopefully a fine vintage.

That concludes my romantic section of the post and as promised, I will now touch on the Chinese New Year aspect of the post. As you may know, this is the Year of the Snake. This is of significance as this is my wife’s year! Yes! She is a Snake. Now the interesting thing is that when we were courting she misled me into thinking that she was a Rabbit. Now more than 20 years the wiser, I realise that my darling Rabbit speaks with forked tongue!

Guilt Weighs Heavy


Since my last post, I had spent a lot of time thinking of something humorous to post.  Instead, I had a really, really bad weekend and am feeling quite down.
For a few years now, I am part of a group of 8 who take turns to fetch an extremely sweet elderly lady, Mrs. T, to church for Sunday services.  She does not live that far from the church (perhaps a 20 minute walk) but given her advanced age and the bad state of road pavements (or even the often lack of said pavements) we had arranged to transport her to and from church.

This Sunday, it was my turn to fetch her but for some reasons I was not able to go to church at all.    So that Sunday morning, I got a call from her early in the morning and only then did I realise that I had forgotten to inform her that I could not go.  She was gracious and told me not to worry and that she would call someone else to fetch her and I left it at that.
At noon, I got a call from a church friend to tell me that Mrs. T had had a fall while walking to church and was taken to hospital.  I rushed over to see her and learned that after calling me, she tried to call 3 others and somehow that day she was not able to reach two of them and the third also said she was not able to come that day.  Mrs. T then decided that she could walk to church.  Well, she made it almost to the last 100 m or so but then she tripped and fell  and as the doctors later confirmed, broke her arm in two places and also fractured part of her shoulder socket.

Needless to say, I was horrified and felt incredibly sad and guilty that my action or lack of action had led Mrs. T to such a painful calamity.  Mrs. T , on the other hand, was extremely cheerful and positive.  She focused on how God provided two women, both strangers, who came to her aid and sent her home.  She talked about how quickly someone from church called and learned about her accident and arranged for two brothers to come and send her to hospital.  Doctors expect that she will need up to 6 months to heal.  Despite it all, it was she who lifted all our spirits by her positiveness. Praise God.

But this squirrel still feels awful about the whole thing.  If only, I had taken the trouble to arrange alternative transport instead of letting Mrs. T try to call others by her self.  Stupid squirrel! Bad squirrel!

The Big 5 -Uh Oh!


Judging from the noticeable lack of comments on my previous post and the content of the few comments that were there, the political situation in the USA remains tense and is a topic that is either offensive or uncomfortable with readers.  So I decided that for this post, I should stick with a topic that should be offensive to no one but myself …….. i.e. my recent 50th birthday.

It was actually in September but that was right in the middle of my big house-moving exercise and blog break, so I did not post on it earlier.  Of course, I got my expected portion of “50 year old” gag birthday greetings like “You are now officially an Oldie” or “Don’t worry – once you are over the hill, you pick up speed”.   Sadly, that was about all I got.  Not a single present. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

My wife was trying to plan a surprise party for me with some friends but with all the packing and the rush of moving house, it did not materialize.  I don’t usually celebrate my own birthdays so it was not really missed.  Some say that turning the BIG 50 is an important milestone that should be celebrated but I think they are just hoping for a party and some cake.  Besides, I don’t think of myself as 50 but as 18 with 32 years of experience!

 

 

Anyway, to celebrate the additional 32 years of being 18, I tried to trace how my tastes and directions have changed during that time.  As you see, I am still a work in progress and still changing……..

 

LINKS

Music: Anne Murray , Clannad , Sinead O’Connor , Billy Joel, Sarah MacLachlan , Shania Twain , Adele , The Black Eyed Peas

Reading:  James Herriot , Ray Bradbury , Douglas Adams , Richard Adams , Sue Townsend , Stephen R. Donaldson , Arthur C. Clarke , Neil Gaiman

Art: Monet , J.M.W. Turner , Klimt , Andrew Wyeth

 

Valentine’s Day Jailhouse Blues


I am no big fan of Valentine’s Day.  My wife and I think it is silly to celebrate our love on the one specific day of the year when all the florists, shopkeepers and restaurants have their knives out to slaughter lovers with exorbitant prices.  In the modern context, Valentine’s Day is just another over-hyped, commercial event.    Historically, the romantic associations with Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with Saint Valentine who was not remembered as some patron of lovers.  Valentine is remembered on that day because he was a martyr who was brutally killed for his faith.  Inspirational, maybe.  Romantic? No.

Apparently, the first known association of  Valentine’s Day with romance and love comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem “Parlement of Foules” which was written in 1382.  In the poem, he wrote;

“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”

So, apparently, Chaucer was referring to a special day when birds in Britain choose their mate.  And even then, he may also have exercised poetic license cause February 14th is way too early and cold for returning birds to be turning to thoughts of love.

So, Valentine’s Day to me is just a load of hogwash.  Still, I respect the right of the gullible to fall for the modern marketing gimmicks and the right of hopeless romantics to knock themselves out to celebrate the loves of their lives. Hey, it can even be fun watching some of their antics.

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
Celebrating Valentine’s can be costly,
And land you in jail too.
 

However, be warned that since 2005 Muslims in Malaysia can be arrested for celebrating Valentine’s Day and in fact more than 100 Muslim couples were arrested last year.   Proponents and supporters of this “law” give three main reasons;

  1. Valentine’s Day is associated with elements of Christianity.
  2. Celebrating Valentine’s Day leads to immoral acts (they call it sinful sexual gratification day).
  3. Asking someone to be your Valentine is akin to idolatry.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) is pushing for more arrests this year for Muslim couples out on the town celebrating  this terrible Day.  They are also asking the government to ban hotels from offering any Valentine’s Day specials which they say may lead to couples spending an illicit night at the hotels.  Finally, they are asking the government to place public service announcements on national television to warn Muslims from celebrating the Day.  What killjoys!

Perhaps the ladies are more romantic cause the Sisters in Islam (SIS) spoke out against PAS’s anti-Valentine’s Day campaign.  One of SIS members was quoted as saying, ““It will be better for them to concentrate on other important matters like the backlog of syariah cases in court or the payment of alimony to wife and children.”

Right on, ladies.  As I said, I am no big fan of Valentine’s Day but I believe that those who want to, have every right to pay five times the normal price for flowers or blow a month’s salary on a romantic dinner.  After all as they say “love makes fools of us all” and “fools and their money are soon parted.”

Happy Valentine’s Day young lovers wherever you are.