How Do We Deal With Death?

Question. How do we actually deal with the end of life?

18 August last year, I received a call from my mother that my grandmother, her mother might not have much time left. I canceled all my appointments and rushed down to the nursing home. They say that we not only lose weight, but we shrink as we approach the end of one’s life.

By this time, my grandmother who has been bedridden due to multiple illnesses for the past few years seemed to have indeed shrunk in size and her skin, now a pale colour. Her current state was a stark difference from the healthy and plumper grandma I remembered when I was younger.

I was never really that close to my maternal grandmother but I do know this. That my mom loved her from the bottom of her heart. She was always the most filial (in my opinion), the daughter who visited the most. Grandma has been holding out for quite a while, but this time it seemed that she was going to leave us for real. She left us that evening.

Perhaps we knew it was only a matter of time. But when it came, no amount of self-preparation could equip us for the fateful day as my mother and I wept by her deathbed.

 

‘From the moment we are born, we begin to die’
– Danish Writer, Janne Teller

 

Even as global literacy rate increases globally, and primary school mathematics become increasingly impossible to solve, it seems that we are taught a great many things – except how to approach death.

Danish writer Janne Teller aptly sums life up in just ten words; ‘From the moment we are born, we begin to die’.

Valar Morghulis, all man must die.

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From Left: My Late Maternal and Late Paternal Grandmother | Taken on a rare family cruise trip

And the thing is, death is no respecter of age, status or wealth. When it comes, it comes. And sometimes, there is no time for preparation. I remembered attending the funeral of a friend a few years ago. She was 27 when she passed on.

It can be especially difficult for Christians to reconcile this. More often than not, we believe, pray and declare over our loved one’s life that “God is your Jehovah Rapha, He will heal you”. But what if God does allows the opposite? At the same time, didn’t God also declare that this life we live is but a temporal phase, because we will eventually enter into His life everlasting where there is no more pain and suffering?

Some folks may choose to rebel against traditional conventions. I vaguely remember a friend mentioning that he would like to have a party (complete with booze) in his honour instead of a funeral, so that there will be ‘no tears’ – only celebration. For some alternative and peculiar funeral ideas, click here, here and here.

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PHOTO: adobecreekfuneralhome.com

The truth – that everyone already knows – is this, no one lives forever. So, do we wish/pray for healing? If by some miracle the loved one is healed but goes into another relapse a few months later, do we wish/pray for another miracle? If so, for how many (more) times?

At the same time, in order to preserve whatever remains of one’s life, we consent to doctors injecting more drugs into the patient’s body, thus subjecting him/her to prolonged suffering. When do we stop? But if we know that all man must die (eventually), then should we continue to offer lip service to ‘get well soon’?

Perhaps we are hoping against hope that we can delay death – to share one last moment, to resolve a past grievance, to ask for forgiveness, or simply to see his or her last smile.

I apologise if you have read so far expecting an answer, or if this post offended you in any way. Heck, maybe this post doesn’t even make any sense. There isn’t any easy way out to deal with death. But life goes on, it has to.

We can’t delay the inevitable, but we can start creating memories and cherishing moments with our loved ones, today. While we mourn their departure, we celebrate their life that’s well lived.

And importantly, in view of our own mortality, we can put aside petty quarrels and live a life of no regrets; one filled with tons of laughter, love and, surrounded by the people that matters. RW

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Lessons From Jaclyn Ying Wedding Episode

Took this photo of Michael in his favourite B&W format.

A Facebook post from a newlywed went viral over the past week. Many Singaporeans shared the post, shamed and took pot shots at the photographer. I met up with my good friend and pro photographer Michael Chan, and discovered that Michael has actually reached out to the photographer over Facebook.

Below was roughly what Michael shared with me.
“I almost wanted to share the post but decided not to. This is a crisis in that photographer’s life and I think this [situation] can happen to anyone. It might be difficult for this photographer to move on from this chapter of his life. So I reached out to him as I wanted to help him take better photos.”

Michael will be meeting the photographer in question soon. Let’s hope he gets better at photography. It’s very human for us to laugh and shame. But let’s not forget the virtue of empathy. Blessed by the sharing. Thank you Michael for an important lesson on empathy and thank you for teaching us that it’s a human thing to help another human being.

Many friends have told me that my photos are nice (thank you for your kind words but I got a lot of areas to improve on) and asked how did I pick up photography. In 2011, I was about to embark on my first solo backpacking trip to Taiwan. I asked Michael if he could lend me a DSLR to try out photography.

Michael not only lent me a DSLR, he lent me a Canon 5D Mk II, the best Canon DSLR of that time. That’s unheard of because who would lend such an expensive equipment to a novice? That’s like a soldier lending his rifle to a civilian. Thank you Michael. The bible says a friend loves like a brother. Thank you for being the embodiment of that statement. I’m still shooting today because someone lent me a DSLR 5 years ago.

VOLUNTEER WITH US: BE A LKCNHM GALLERY GUIDE! (Repost)

Natural history and biodiversity buffs, you’re gonna love this. Hurry sign up!

Story first seen in Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum microsite.

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Are you:

  1. a believer of lifelong learning?
  2. interested in sharing your knowledge of natural history and heritage with museum visitors from all walks of life?

Be a part of LKCNHM’s volunteer gallery guide family

The LKCNHM Gallery Guiding Programme aims to support the gallery and Museum by training guides to provide an enhanced visitor experience for our large and diverse audience. We hope this will inspire a life-long commitment and understanding to the natural world.

Details

 
Role: Gallery guide at Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Purpose and responsibilities: To enhance visitor experience by interacting with the public and giving them more information about the various exhibits and the biodiversity and heritage galleries

Commitment: At least a year

Day/time: Any day except Mondays, for four hours per session

Frequency: At least once a month

Skills and qualification: No particular skills, experience or qualifications needed!  However,essential criteria are:

  1. keen interest in natural history and heritage,
  2. willingness to make a commitment,
  3. enjoy sharing information with, and enthusing people.

Training: In-house training will be provided over the course of a month (approximately 15 hours). This includes orientation and introduction to the museum, gallery familiarisation, effective guiding techniques (communications skills and questioning strategies), interacting with visitors, zone specialisation, learning from objects, script development, health and safety and gallery procedures.

The training schedule can be viewed here.

 
Interviews: Interviews will be conducted on the second week of August. We will be in touch one week as soon as we can to schedule it.

Are you ready? Register now!

7 Things Every Introvert Needs to Know On His First Job

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Starting on a new job can be a rather scary experience. Not for the extroverts for sure, but definitely for the introverts. I mean, it’s a new environment, you have to pick up things from scratch, and you have to above all else… make new friends and talk to new people (including your bosses and your bosses’ bosses). “What if I don’t do well at the job?” “What if I don’t pass the probation?” The self-doubts that echoes in your mind are almost deafening.

This week marks my first week at a new job. Not that it is my first job, but as an introvert, starting on a new job can be quite a daunting experience. And I am sure many introverts will concur. But you know what? You are a champion. Here are 7 things every introvert needs to know while starting out on his first job. This article goes out to all the introverts; the dreamers, the Jedi masters and the people who secretly wish they can make the world a better place.

#1. You beat your competitors to get the job

I was heading home when I received a call from one of the companies that interviewed me. They told me that they would like to offer me the job and asked if I would like to take it up and come in the following month. I told them I needed time to consider. They then told me that I am their “first choice”.

If you’re about to commence on your new job at an MNC or SME, realise this. You are your company’s first choice. More often than not, introverts tend to give themselves less credit than they should. But you must know that you are not the only applicant for the position you are currently in. For mainstream positions like marketing, HR, sales and finance, there were probably more than a dozen potential candidates shortlisted after rounds of interviews. Prior to that, there were probably hundreds of applicants or more who applied for the job. But from that huge pool of applicants…. You got the job!

That calls for a celebration! Unless you applied for some rare weird ass job that no one applies for, or you applied for a queer position with the longest job title like ‘Director, Head of CEEMA (Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa) and Latin America Equity Focus, Institutional Client Group – Fundamental Equity, Corporate & Institutional Banking – Global Markets,Deutsche Bank AG’ (2008 longest job title).

#2. Your employer sees your potential

The reason why you got the job and the other confident and smart-looking candidate who sat beside you at the waiting room didn’t? Your employers and superiors probably see your raw, hidden potential or the value you can bring to the company. Is it your deep analytic skills? Is it your management skills? Or your ability to work with minimal supervision? Could it be your uncanny ability to crunch numbers? Or your ability to write like Shakespeare? It could even be that your employer likes your character and demeanour!

The bottom line is, your talents and potential contribution is invaluable, and your employer sees your potential. So go on, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

#3. You can do better than you think you can

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

When Marianne wrote this, she must had been referring to us introverts, I’m certain. You my friend, are greater than great. You can excel at the job beyond your self doubts and wildest imaginations. You will make it!

#4. Your colleagues would like to know you and help you

Okay, this one is a little tricky because it really varies from company to company. Some companies are buried up to their neck when it comes to office politics. But I would like to think that most aren’t, at least not the company you’re joining. So far, most of the colleagues that I met in my jobs are nice and do not mean any harm. As introverts, we are often very comfortable in our own skin, having our meals alone, travelling alone, drinking coffee and having cake alone (Yes!). Taking that huge step to get to know new people or even ask for help can be rather intimidating.

But, know that many of your colleagues would like to know you better and be your friend. They would also like to help you settle into your job and render you help when necessary. Take a step of faith. Say hi. Ask for help if you need help with activating your email (I know). Who knows, an amicable friendship may blossom from there.

#5. You bring much value to the company

Many of the world’s greatest minds and history makers are introverts. Think Albert Einstein, Mahaatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Steve Wozniak and of course, Steven Spielberg! Bubbling is their mind full of ideas that have the potential to take the world by storm just as it has for the past centuries.

I can’t help but think that the world would be less bright and less brilliant without introverts. Think of a world without Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Harry Potter, e=mc2 and theory of relativity, slavery abolishment, Google and ET the movie. And you know what? You are associated with this class of people.

#6. Your emotional make-up gives you an unfair advantage

Ever had people teasing you for being difficult to understand, or that you are ‘too sensitive’? Take a longer time to respond because of a longer thought process? Well what do you know, that could very well be your advantage! Being sensitive allows introverts to read the atmosphere in the boardroom ahead of anyone else. That ‘sixth sense’ or intuition gives you a heads up, creating some lead time as to how you should respond in your body language and choice of words. You play a pivotal role in diffusing the situation in an intense meeting room atmosphere.

Introverts often have high empathy too, making them great employees in the lifestyle industry. Think about all the disastrous PR crises that took national headlines in recent years. An introvert would not have make that boo-boo.

Being difficult to understand isn’t so bad either. Again, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple would not have existed if people who were ‘difficult to understand’ did not exist. And of course, longer thought process gives you adequate time to think through what you should say to your client and your boss instead of being like that straight-shooter colleague who’s always saying the most inappropriate things at the meeting.

#7. You will do well at the job.

After all is said and done, I just want to tell all fellow introverts, “You will do well at the job”. Scrap that. Let me rephrase. “You will do exceedingly well at the job.” Now repeat that to yourself, out loud. In 1994, Japanese researcher, Masaru Emoto performed a series of experiments and observations on water and the physical effect that words, prayers, music and environment have on the crystalline structure of water.

Emoto then hired photographers to photograph the water crystals in their before and after state. The water crystals were beautiful and gorgeous when they were showered with loving words, peaceful music and prayer but deformed when they were exposed to hateful words and loud, unpleasant music. The average human is made up of 60% water. Now, quickly start thinking of positive words to say to yourself! Positive (and negative) thinking verbalised out loud is like giving yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All in all, introverts are very important to every company, big and small. You can’t have a company filled with extroverts. It would be far too noisy and far too little work done (Opps!). So, if you are an introvert about to start on your new job, or are already working, remember this 7 things. Now go conquer the world!

References:

http://hereisthecity.com/en-gb/2008/06/03/whos_got_the_longest_job_title/

https://urbantimes.co/2014/01/most-famous-introverts/

http://www.fastcompany.com/3032028/the-future-of-work/7-famous-leaders-who-prove-introverts-can-be-wildly-successful

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/13/famous-introverts_n_3733400.html

http://www.highexistence.com/water-experiment/

http://highability.org/the-gifted-introvert/

Devotion: Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it

PHOTO: Michael Chan

PHOTO: Michael Chan

So the parent birds have to keep flying very fast, all day long, collecting food for their family but, however many times they come, they never have to use the exhortation of our text! The little birds in their nests are far more sensible than we are. When God hovers over us with His wide-spread wings and covers us with His warm feathers, He has need to say to each one of us, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” But the little birds take good care, without any teaching, to open their mouths wide that their mothers may fill them.

You probably will know, by putting it in practice, better than by any explanation that I can give you, but, certainly, first of all, I should say that it means that there should be a greater sense of your need. The wide-open mouth means that you hunger. The little birds need no instruction in opening their mouths except the inward monitor. They feel a lack of food—they are growing, and growing fast, and feathers have to be made—and they need much food and those strong needs of theirs make them open their mouths by instinct, as we say.

Brothers, if we had more sense of our need, prayer would be more of an instinct with us—we would pray because we could not help praying! We would pray, perhaps, less methodically, but we would pray, probably more truly, if we prayed because there were groans within us caused by intense pain and moaning that came out of inward agony and longings that came out of the consciousness of our dire necessities. Surely, this kind of opening of the mouth, by the sense of our need, ought to be easy to us, for our needs are very great.

I must not say that they are infinite, for we are only finite beings, but they are so vast that only Infinity can ever supply them! What is there that you do not need, my Brother? Someone said in prayer, the other day, that we were “a bag of needs.” That was a very accurate description. Are we all conscious of our many needs?

An abstract from a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon, April 7, 1876

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ensures even the little birds are fed. Are we not more valuable than these? Let’s have a greater sense of our need and God’s role in meeting our need. Our desire for God to meet our need will materialize in us praying to Him more because that desire is an expression of our human weakness and an opportunity for God’s divine ability to meet our need. God is a God who wants to meet our need if we hunger for Him and seek Him in prayer.

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10.

Writer’s Note: I shared this devotion with my cell group and was pleasantly surprised to see my friend, the talented Michael Chan‘s beautiful capture of a mother sunbird feeding her offspring on Facebook. It reminded me and painted a beautiful picture of us as believers coming to God with our needs, and God meeting all of them. Thanks Mich!

References:

Christian Classics Etheral Library, n.d. The Wide-open Mouth Filled. Retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons50.xvi.html

I Almost Published My Own Book

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Remember the time when you were young, innocent and above all things, bold? You dreamt big dreams. The world was your oyster, and you believe you can do all that you want, be all that you can be and it will come to pass? And then, the world beat the hell out of you? Last year, I thought of publishing a book about Singapore. The book would chronicle 50 nostalgic stories of places, activities and occupations of Singapore.

This project seeks to rediscover the places, occupations and activities that older generation of Singaporeans can identify with. These places, occupations and activities are nostalgic and showed Singaporean’s way of life in the past. In each of these stories, we look at their significance and learning points from the past. Eg. Cobblers – difficult trade but was a means to get their children through university, people who lived in kampongs – despite living with different ethnic groups, the ‘kampong’ or community spirit is strong, etc. This coffee table book is a platform for older Singaporeans to connect with their past and for younger Singaporeans to learn about the amicable traits of the past.

All in all, what we seek to subtly communicate with our readers through this book is that while many of these cultures iconic to Singapore may cease to exist in the future, there is a beautiful attribute to learn from each and every single one of them. In them show the immensely rich Singaporean culture, the shared experiences Singaporeans have regardless of race and language, the aspirations we have for a better tomorrow, as well as something every Singaporean (community spirit, diligence, etc) of today can learn from.

Introduction of project that was sent to SG50 Committee

I was so excited at the beginning and commenced on the project even though I did not have any concrete plan to bring it to fruition. I whipped out my camera and went places. The project took me to places and introduced me to people I wouldn’t normally speak to have I kept to my daily routines. I took photos of Singapore’s last Kampong and interviewed a former resident. I interviewed one of Singapore’s last remaining traditional ice-cream vendors. I spoke to a newspaper vendor auntie. I interviewed a stall owner and took photos of famous Lavender Food Square which has been demolished sometime last year.

Later on, I got to know about the SG50 funding campaign. I pitched for funding and after a long and arduous process of emailing back and forth, I received news that the project was approved and I would receive up to 75% funding.

By then, the initial excitement has already long but died out. While I had already established an agreement with a local publisher, I have to face a very real problem of funding the remaining 25% and manpower issues to meet the National Day deadline. After my last potential sponsoring company decided not to fund the project, I decided to pull the plug on the project.

That, together with other things happening in my life made me feel terrible. Ah, quarter life crisis. I thought that I could be a somebody in the PR industry but I am not. I thought that I could start a social enterprise but it did not come to pass. I thought that I could start a business but that did not work out (yet) either. I thought I could be a missionary/full time worker but I am nowhere close (yet). But the biggest mistake I made was letting the world beat and trample all over me, telling me “You’re done. You can’t do it. You can’t be it.You just can’t.”

But if my faith was anything, it was my saving grace.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

This was one of the verses I remembered since my youth. I always imagined a ‘me’ that’s 10 (or 20) years older coming to me and telling me, “Don’t worry (so much), mate. Everything will work out just fine.”

I think that if we allow our mistakes, failures or even missed opportunities define our level of success, we will be mentally crippled for sure. Who defines the standard of success anyway? Where is the yardstick to measure against so that I can determine that “I have lived a full life”? Is a self-made millionaire considered a success? What about the billionaire then? Is the cleaner then considered to have ‘failed life’?

Don’t let the world tell you what you can or cannot do, who you can be or not be. If you are defeated in your mind, you have already lost. But if there is anything we could do, it would be to ‘not give up so easily’.I personally think this is one area I need to work on as well. I will end with a quote from my favorite author.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Maybe one day I will publish a book.