Funerals aren’t so bad. In fact, I like funerals. But then again, I’ve only ever been to one. As far as I can clearly remember, today was the first time. I have the faintest memory of not wanting to look into a coffin as a child but I can’t tell if it’s illusory. Today, I didn’t want to see a dead face nor an eerily still body (I guess I’m still not 100% comfortable with death??). But I followed as people walked around her body to take one last look at her resting.
I can remember only her smile, her kind face and the candies she never failed to bring each time she visited my grandmother when I was six or so. That was enough ‘justification’ for me to go to her funeral. I looked at her in the framed photo- black, white and grainy, and imagined her as she was described by the people who truly knew and loved her. Her family could not hold back tears for someone they would always miss, and I found myself unable to hold back tears of my own. When at a funeral, regardless of how well you know the deceased, matters of mortality, love and relationships still pertain. Death is so relevant. Funerals make you think. It could’ve been my grandmother in the coffin, and one day it will be. We can all empathise with loss… Through the fear of loss. My grandmother sat next to me during the funeral service and I was so scared. I held onto her arm in the taxi ride home and told her for the zillionth time that I love her.
I like funerals because there’s so much love in one place. It’s there in the anecdotes, the chuckles that may seem out of place and the smiles that break across people’s nostalgic faces as they dab their eyes. I like funerals because what people are doing is remembering and celebrating a life. One life. But one that is indescribably significant. It’s like saying I’m so glad you existed! and thank you for being all the beautiful things that you are. We’re all here for you. I liked the funeral service today because although death may be unsettling, this feeling was subdued by hope and comfort; the best part comes after death! Underneath it all, whether it be life or not-life (whatever death is), is God’s great love. It took me by surprise how even arguably the most depressing event one can face (the death of a loved one), can yield a profound gratitude for God. His provision, His promise, His grace.
We sang 耶和華是愛. God is love. And nothing in that moment struck me as being more truthful, more perfect, more real.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
– Psalm 23:4
I will be able to:
1) Read without the voice in my head. Because ‘hearing’ myself mull over the words takes too much time.
I’ll train myself by repeating a word (like ‘hamburger’) in my head whilst reading some text- like a distracter sound. Hopefully I’ll grasp the meaning of the sentence without the repeated word interfering.
2) Know when to stop pouring drinks (when the cup is full) by hearing the sound of the liquid filling the cup change pitch. Unusual goal, I know. Probably doable though.
3) Speak fluent Spanish. It’ll help when I’m in LA and when I have a phone so I can download audio books.
When your shirt starts sticking to your back and sleep comes only with aircon, you know that summer is near. When the cockroaches start crawling out of garbage bags and blackberries start falling off the trees, staining the pavement; it’s coming.
It starts to drizzle more frequently and the sky grows dark in the early afternoon. These are precursors to the blazing heat and clear skies to come.
Meanwhile, I’m shuffling through my papers, wondering how I’ll feel when this last stretch finally comes to an end. With summer comes the promise of the rest of my life.
The first time, realization struck. Hard. I mourned the loss of a (im)possible future. The one thought that clouded all others was, as you put it, “I guess we’re free to do whatever”. You couldn’t be vague enough or further away when I stared at your face on the screen. So flat. So out of reach. A shoddy settlement not half as good as the real thing. I imagined you with someone else, someone I could not be and that in itself was crushing.
The second time, I resented technology for prolonging goodbyes and for carrying no hint of knitted brows (it’s not easy for me) nor the gentleness I intended. I hurt for the never-agains and the never-could-bes. And my heart breaks for you, darling.
I was wearing a white dress the night we met.
I wore a black and white striped lace shirt on our first date.
I wore a floral sweater on our second date.
And I wore a grey shirt the last time we met.
The white dress was paired with nude heels. You accompanied me as I ordered a glass of water at the bar. When I tripped in my heels, you warned me “might want to take it slow with that water. Had a drop too many hey!” And when I hobbled around in the early hours of the morning, you imitated me with bent legs and arms locked in an awkward position. “Like a cripple”, you joked. You said something like: “If you had come up to me like this, I would’ve just been like “yep, sorry, think I’m gonna leave now'”. And I wanted to be your friend.
Your thumb rested on my side as we rode up the escalator and I didn’t dare make known that I was hyper-aware of the fact that it was there. I saw it in my mind’s eye, on my lacy shirt. And again, when we rode the elevator up on a quest to the find the roof of the mall, I saw us in the silvery reflection. Turns out there was no roof but we took our time trespassing. We kicked our white-plimsolled legs under the table as I drank my Oreo smoothie and you, your disgusting blueberry tea. Out of all the possible selections, including a peanut butter Oreo milkshake drizzled in chocolate, you chose blueberry tea… Should’ve known it wasn’t going to work out between us.
You showed me the mirror you woke up to. It was on the floor and propped up against the wall. You joked about your routine of flexing into the mirror with “epic music” playing in the background. You put on ‘Time’ by Hans Zimmer from Inception and showed me what you meant. When I lay on your chest, with the laptop balanced on my knees playing the first episode of Game of Thrones, your arms folded around me, hands clasped between my ribs. I don’t know if you were paying attention to what was on the screen or to the rise and fall of the flowery fabric.
You asked me what I’d wish for if I only had one wish. You’d already thought this one through. You’d like the ability to travel backwards and forwards in time to different stages of your life, at any given moment. I was stuck. We then sat down in Starbucks and I had lemon tea whilst we gossiped. I saw myself in the reflection behind your head, smiling in my grey shirt. You were giving me that look- the one that makes people feel special.
Today when I looked through my closet, I remembered you. I don’t usually remember what I wear to events, much less what other people wear, unless there are copious pictures I can look through. But hey, good times. Unexpectedly vivid memories. Banter with you was the best banter to date.
When searching for a roomie, it’s so easy to second-guess myself. I worry about being too awkward, too weird, and too dumb for these UCLA people. When my brother stayed during Christmas break, he confided in me the difficulties he had socializing with people in University. Besides feeling like I had finally arrived at a clearing with my brother (he showed me vulnerability), I could imagine the three of us (including my sister) in the same bubble. Growing up in a household with plentiful silence and spatial divisions (mum in the corner, me in the room, dad downstairs, brother in computer room etc), communication issues outside of the family domain shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
Thankfully, I’ve always been more of an extrovert with an easy-going temperament, and I threw myself into my friendships. These friends allowed me to develop the more out-going part of myself during my prepubescent years, which may be why I don’t have as hard a time as my brother does interacting with strangers. My brother and sister on the other hand, are naturally more introverted and quiet, and they both spent/spend more time with their hobbies than with people. Combine that with our family setting, and as my brother noted, the compulsory Sunday School sessions where people were drawn together solely based on our religion (we had nothing else in common), and the result is someone who feels irrelevant in conversations. Someone who feels like they have nothing worth sharing; a listener rather than a talker. Apparently, if you don’t talk, you’re considered a little weird. My brother’s been having to push himself to get a word or two out. He’s forced to try– what a trooper! Good family relationships are obviously important during formative years to gain the skills and confidence to deal with people in general. I think every prospective parent should take mandatory parenting classes.
Speaking of insecurity…
When I don’t really know how to behave and I feel a bit out of place, or when I don’t know how to react to a situation, like saying goodbye on the phone or on skype, or when I’m suddenly self conscious for whatever reason (like, what I’m about to say/am saying could be considered weird), my voice goes up. The cadence swoops into a gentle, ‘just kidding’ head voice. If you know me, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. My voice betrays me.
ah shit m8 why can’t cuties just d8 me… they ruin everything