Sunday, 2 June 2013


I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.
Suddenly, my Lord was speaking.
"My name is I Am."

He paused. I waited. He continued.

"When you live in the past,
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not "I was."

When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not "I will be."

When you live in this moment
it is not hard. I am here.
My name is "I AM."

By Helen Mallicoat

Friday, 17 May 2013

I love thee, I love but thee,
With a love that shall not die,
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars grow old.

~ William Shakespeare

It's been almost five and a half years since Ben had return Home to the Lord. So much has changed. The children and I have kept well together and soon, my nest shall be empty. Already we are planning to downsize, move to a new place- I still can't believe how far we had gone from the early days when Ben had just returned to the Lord.

I can't remember how many times I had missed him so much in the lone quiet nights that I would find myself holding out my hand into the empty space as if I could connect with him from over this side even up till now.

I know that I have learnt so much in the last five and a half years which is much more than my whole entire lifetime put together that I wished Ben was still here to see all the little successes and milestones his boys and I have achieved together in his absence. I know that I may not have done everything right but he would know that I have tried to do my best with what I know and somehow figured out the rest to make it this far. I know that I have become a better person compared to the one that I'd used to be when he was still here.

I know that I'll always be a little sad no matter how long my grief has paled out because I will always wish that I could be that better person for him and with him now and always, you know? He is all I still think about and only person I would want to tell things to when I have some great news or when there are things that are troubling me.

He always has an answer for everything and I find myself at a loss over the simplest things so oftentimes without him. But I know that he will always be there with me in spirit cheering me on until we meet again on the other side.


Friday, 26 April 2013

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Have you ever lost someone and missed him or her so much that you would find yourself typing out his or her name on Google search as if you would be given a clue as to somehow find your loved one again? But what if he or she can not be found anymore simply because they no longer share the same big skies and space on this same earth that you're in? Death is a fearsome idea to most because it separates you from your loved ones and lay a cold dimension between us and our loved ones that can never be reconciled, at least while we are still alive. They can only be kept alive through our memories and even then, it has a flaw in which our memories sometimes do fail us. Will we ever forget our most beloved forever if we lose our own memory even though we wish to keep them forever close in our hearts?

Just days back, I sat there trying so hard to remember the tune that Ben, my spouse (who had since returned Home to the Lord on the 5 January 2008) had used to whistle out for me, this only one of a kind tune whenever he reaches the door every evening after work. I felt almost angry but mostly disappointed at myself for just not being able to remember. How could I forget? Why didn't I whistle out that tune and recorded that somewhere when it was still there in my memory? Funny thing is, I never thought it was something that I would forget, but I did. Will I forget more and more over time and thus lose the memory of him completely someday? I don't hope that will ever happen unless old age diseases might crept up on me and rob me of my mental faculties someday. However, I do know that life and everything has to end eventually but love doesn't.

This is a special page dedicated to Ben. A tribute from us all, to a most excellent and brilliant man who have made our lives so much sweeter and better simply because he had been in it.

Thank you for reading!

A Tribute to Dr Gan Aik Ben

16June1957 - 5 January2008

I will never forget the look on Jackie, my sister's face, when she too, braved herself and gave a beautiful eulogy for the wake service. I wished there was more to be said about him for he was so rich in every experience whether encountered by me or anyone who had once crossed path with him. But I know that perhaps, no one might possibly be able to precisely encompass every description of what that had to be said of him.

To me, he is brilliant beyond words and numbers. He was like a walking calculator and a Thesaurus dictionary built into him at the same time. Excellent in every manner.

Ben had also been awarded the title, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in recognition of a programme of work entitled "The effect of frictional and thermal forces upon sea bed pipeline buckling behaviour" in 1986 and also, the title, Ir (Ingénieur).

His choice of music would have been a surprise to even his closest friends. It was wide ranging and almost diverse, to say the least. From the Blues and Soul to the likes of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Swing music by Glenn Miller to the oldies, country, Rock 'n' Roll down to the melodious Chinese classics and the humble Er Wu instrumentals.

Who would also have guessed that he had enjoyed reading Chinese Sword Fighting novels (Wu Xia Xiao Shuo) in his own private time in the bathroom that which may explain his infamous length of time he had to spend behind that closed space.

My brother described him right when he said, "Ben was truly a Doctor of Philosophy!" Ben loved his life and lived it well. He always seemed to know the right things to say or do. Whenever there was a crisis anywhere, he does not disappoint.

He was unpretentious, generous in both thought and deed. He just seems to leave an impression on people whom he meets without doing anything more other than gleaming on his warm babyish smile or a simple exchange of kind words. Whether it was the old lady at the Chinese stall dishing out his favourite ‘Char Kway Teow’, or the Malay stall with the ‘Mee Rebus’ by that tree in the sleepy part of Melaka town or the Indian mamak who prepares his ‘Roti Canai’ the way he would like it, which is ‘garing’ (crispy), they just never forget him.

The Melaka Eurasian community remembers him and adopts him as their own. He always had his name called out and welcomed whenever he stepped into pubs or restaurants by singers who are mostly made up from the close knitted Eurasian settlement.

So does the Indian community. It is true that he was the single first ever Chinese to own a life membership with the Malacca Indian Association (MIA) with the Membership No. LA 1150. He also liked to sign his name in Tamil sometimes but his unique handwriting, like his personality always give him away whether he wrote in English, Tamil or Chinese.

I wished he did make time to register with the Hokkien Eng Choon Association. He would always make just one more stop, just so he could point out to his children with pride for there it lies, his ancestry roots, whenever he had passed by a building with that signage. It would have been, but their honour to have his name enlisted in their Registry!

His childhood friends would have been able to write a book about their own growing up tales with him that would have left you in stitches or cried to bits, if you ask them. Some stories which would have been almost unbelievably mischievous while others, many very heart warming tests of friendship where they had continued to look out for one another through the years.

At the work place, he was well received and even loved. It was from the very same place that he had found his many friends that was made out for life. He was a sincere and caring colleague whether to his superiors or subordinates. He was a discoverer of talents and would create opportunities where there was none to make them shine.

His friends continue to move on with their lives despite the void. Like me, I think, they too, would take a lifetime to forget someone as witty, funny and clever as him. He makes remarks that one will not recover if unprepared. He was always able to just spontaneously makes his own smart anecdotes and humour injected quotations for the relevant moment that we still live by.

He was a loyal and filial son to his parents, even to the point of his very last breath. He has never forgotten the sacrifices made by the older generation for his academic achievements.

I have read enough mother-in-law jokes to safely say that none applies when it comes to the relationship between my late mom and Ben. He loved her dearly and she adored and thought most highly of him in return too. My late mom once told me that Ben was an easily misunderstood person simply because he seemed so different from the rest of us, that many may even considered him eccentric. She then likened him to Albert Einstein! She said to me, "You know, sometimes brilliant brains work just a little different. That is why we call them genius."

At home, what would his children think of him? When they were asked in school to name their idol or hero, they did not quote some famous footballer or rock star. It was an answer that would have been worth much more to any parent than owning the whole world.

And finally, he was my better half, my soul mate, my best friend, my Champion.. who had taught me many things for without which, would not have made my life as fulfilling and complete as it had been.

Looking forward to a reunion someday in Heaven.. my love.

Love you forever Ben, the proud father of my children!

Inserts: The dare devil biking pics which Ben loved.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011


There’s a sign on the way to Key West, Florida that says Free Beer.

No matter when you see the sign you will always be a day away from a free beer. So, don’t put off your life dreams until tomorrow or it will always be a day away.

I have also included this because Ben had always loved a good chilled beer on a Friday or Saturday evening with his buddies and would be quite tickled had he seen this.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Here I am trying to live..

Here I am trying to live, or rather, I am trying to teach the death within me how to live.

~Jean Cocteau

Have you had days when you didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning? Have there been days you just couldn’t bring yourself to look at the ever growing list of things that a living person just has to get to?

The holiday season of festivities, of Christmas, New Years, Valentines, Birthdays and Anniversaries are not a particularly favorite time with me. I squander most of such days by sleeping it away.

I dread being invited to gatherings where happy people congregate because I didn’t want to feel like I have to work extra hard to “blend in” so as not to ruin it for others or made to feel like I am a kill joy or a social misfit for others if I don’t.

I attended a local Community Grief Talk several weeks ago where people who have lost loved ones came because they realised they needed some help out of their own loss and grief. Some spoke of losing their children, some of spouses, and in all of these faces, etched a very deep pain that had scarred the heart for good that only another one of us will really understand.

If I had not felt a pain to such a degree as I had, I would not have understood more than what I need to know. I would have shrugged or turned off when the same topic is being raised again by the same person. I would have thought that such persons are merely attention seekers and I should not encourage it.

I did speak with one or two couples just briefly during the coffee break and just like them, I understood that none of us were really in any mode for a social chat. And the silent understanding, smiles, nods and courtesies suffices in putting us all in a very comfortable place of our own. It was as though each of us were living in an independent bubble of our own and we were all floating about day after day until the time is ready for us to break out from it and land our feet back on the ground once again.

It does get better, you know. I can never imagine the progress that I have made than when I was in the first year. I am entering into my 23rd month now and I think it’s a little like, as though someone had gone through a really bad accident, although survived but had all the permanent scars to remind them of that event over and over again.

You will never be the same. It is not possible to go through it and still not change anything. I still cry. I still feel pain in my chest every morning when I wake up and feel a lost void space when I chanced upon something beautiful throughout the day and realised that I could not share it with him.

I have cleaned out the Sick Room recently. When before, even breathing was painful to me. An exercise that dramatically rid the memories of the suffering which my beloved husband has to endure with Cancer seemed to loosen its grip on me. It allowed me to breathe a little easier and even managed to want to do something fun with the children or to be in the company of other adults on some days and actually enjoyed it afterwards.

I am still not able to clear out his clothes, his personal favorite items especially if those were the items he had used them daily before. I still have yet to lose the toothbrush.

I learnt that these are called the ‘linking objects’. As long as one has them, you will always be linked to the memories of the departed. Even this house which he had built for us. It's like a Memorial shrine to me. Should I just fanatically wipe out every memory of him in order to be free? So what if I want to carry a part of him forever in me? I am made better only because my life has crossed path with his and I don’t ever want to forget him. Even if I should move out of this house, I doubt that would hold the key to finding the secret elizir to cure the deep yearnings for someone whom you had and still love more than life itself.

I am learning how to live again. I am learning to look into a beautiful bloom and not feel the hurt cutting deep into me. I am learning to think that maybe it’s really okay if I did something today and actually enjoy it without feeling guilty about it.

I am working on drawing a personal checklist of things or places I want to see or do and really learn how to live again.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Facing grief the way I know how.

I did not plan how I would handle my own grief.

I had no idea what feelings have slipped in unnoticed that had left me numbed throughout for months that went by, in that I was merely existing but have not much inkling of whatever else that is going on. It was really as if, I had found a door into another zone altogether.

It was like being in a trance after being stucked with a broken record playing in your head for the longest time that you no longer know it is there. Sometimes the feeling is like, being in the eye of the storm where everything else is just twirling around with such high speed madness but leaving one totally unaffected and indifferent, while at other times, it just sucks one in and devastate everything leaving one completely powerless and there is not a thing that one can do about it.

There have also been times when a certain smell or an everyday ordinary item like his favorite mug or a coffee spoon would hit me so unexpectedly that it would jolt me up from the usual rut that I have been in.

It made me want to get up and face it like a warrior and fight my Enemy with well girded strategies and readiness. But most times, I confront it simply because it made me angry enough to do something. I was tired of always running in circles and being continually harassed and tormented by this unfamiliar enemy. I just had to be mean enough to want to let it know what I think of it.

It could be an all perfectly beautiful day and yet it would break me down to shreds because I could not share it with him. On a horribly miserable day, it was worst because I could not find him to tell it to. Some days, I would find myself staring into his cabinet where his clothes are and held on to it and cry like a child who had just been abandoned. It was like a scene of a train crashing into me again and again but I would still not move.

My own isolation for months in a familiar dark corner of my room which I called “my world” brought me much solace and a sense of rest. In it, I felt that time suspended. In it, I finally found a tiny space in this wide big Universe which belonged to me. I am no longer uncomfortable or afraid of the dark because it has taught me that only in darkness, can I see the stars. Darkness comforted my soul. In it, i saw despair, sorrow and emotions that one can only see from the eyes of the heart. I revel in them for while it had brought me much pain, at least they were real.

Hours and days can slip off without even me noticing. I had no interest in whatsoever that I was doing. The first three months was mostly doing the same activity which I felt I could manage best. I found my limbs and body parts mostly attached to the bed in a face down fashion. Like I needed to feel my heartbeat to remind me that I was still alive even though I could not feel it.

I could not talk to anyone about it because I was convinced that no one would understand even though I knew how much they cared about my well being. I could not even manage a full sentence when I was trying to write, after a Grief Counsellor visited me and advised me to try journaling. I so desperately wanted to open up a window to let it all out, even if it is, just a little at a time. But I could not find a word to even begin.

I could not face the people who cared about me. Even worst, I could not even face the two precious persons who needed me most at that time.. my children. A family friend had even said to me that it was odd of me, and even selfishly irresponsible to be neglecting them at the time when they most needed assurance and guidance in leading them out of their sorrow for losing their dad who had also meant the world to them. I just withdrew even more.

Months went by and as I was coping with my own grief the best way that I knew how, they too did the same. Somehow i just know that God will help me watch over the boys and everything which i am falling short, until i am able again. Not sure when or for how long. But i know God will just be there.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Have you ever felt like dying after you had lost someone?

Have you ever felt like dying after you had lost someone? Have you ever wondered if you will ever feel better? Have you ever wished you could trade places because it is far more painful to have to deal with grief than death itself. Unless you have gone through the pits of darkness and sorrow in those moments where the world had just blacked-out on you when that loved one dies, you will not know what I mean.

You will have no words to describe all that is going on inside your head. Every single experience that you quote when someone asks how you are may only make up a tiny fraction of everything else that is screaming from inside of you.

All the things which at one time seemed important doesn’t matter anymore. You will feel like dying because the days ahead seemed like a long road that is simply too unfamiliar, intimidating and not something you believe you can manage alone for the rest of your own journey. If only a flight ticket is all it takes to find him in any corner of this world, there would have been at least something which you could do!

Everything in your head seemed to have frozen. Like a complete standstill in the middle of a massive traffic jam. You can't think or even make an apparently simple decision. But you have to believe that if you could do it then, you could do it now, you just have to think baby steps.

Options aren't many here. But over time, every simple task which you undertake will take you further away from the first one. You just have to pick up from whichever pieces you can get hold of and brave it through one by one.

Ignore opinions of people around you who may think you are stuck in your grief and believe you have grieved long enough. They may even feel frustrated because you are making so little progress and have not started a new life by now. Not even another widow may feel the same intensity as each life story that one shares with the spouse is unique. Forgive them for they know not what they are saying.

Take your time. Listen to the birds. Stare deep into the greens of nature and return the smiles to those blooms that greet you. Plunge into the rivers of peace from God above. When nothing else makes sense, think nothing more of it. Like a child, learn to lean on the One who holds your breath and knows the number of your days.

Each day will bring you closer to the promise that everything will get better because you survived.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

*For just another ordinary day..

Mitch's Albom's book on "For One More Day", poses the question to all who has lost a loved one and think, what would I do if I could have him or her back for just one more day?

So many thoughts raced through my mind. What would I really want to do if i had Ben back, even if it was only for just one more day? If only I could savour just one more of that ordinary day like we had shared for our last 20 years of our marriage.

I miss his cheeky smile and the twinkle in his eye. I wish to feel the warmth of his hand and sit quietly with him and stare out at the greens and blooms in our garden with our cup of coffee's aroma wafting through the air, and maybe chat for hours like we used to concerning the most trivial and unimportant things around us. I long to be lost in his hugs and in knowing i am his world.

To just hear his laughter and generous compliments.. or his wisdom just one more day. To see him enjoying his time with the boys whether in recreation or just doing a simple task together. To see his smile and pride beaming through in the reflection of his eyes.

To hear his hearty chuckle when we say something funny. To hear his familiar whistle as he comes through the door every evening. To see his face of contentment when I've cooked him his favourite food.

To just snuggle up and lie beside him and hear his heartbeats in my ear. To hear his snore in the nights.. To hear his loud clearing of his throat in the morning.

To hear him say to me, just one more time.. that he will always love me- even beyond infinity.... for just one more day.