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This week, Mum would have turned 73 years old. We commemorated her birthday with a family dinner in remembrance of her.

I interviewed Dad on his and Mum’s story for his book My Life, My Stories, which I recently published for Dad’s birthday two weeks back. The interview on Mum was the hardest, yet most precious for him, as we recorded memories and gems of their dating life and marriage of 52 years.

This is an extract:

“My favourite memory of Joyce:

Joyce and I often went to Satay Club in our younger years. On one occasion, we were both seated on a stone bench at the Esplanade looking out towards the sea where Marina Bay is now. This was a few months into dating, and Joyce took my hand and suddenly popped a question to me. She asked if I would ever leave her. I said, “No, I will never leave you.”

I had two other favourite memories:

  • The first was when I took Joyce for a very formal police annual dinner at Hyatt Hotel. This was after we were married. Jack was already born but Emily was not. Joyce was dressed in a long gown and wore a wig. She looked so elegant and I felt very proud to show her off.

  • The second was an incident that happened during my dating days with Joyce. A former girlfriend Veronica turned up at a Victoria Memorial Hall party which we are at. I had stopped dating Veronica by then, but she showed up there to scold me anyway. Joyce out-shouted her and fended her off.

Other fond memories:

  • Joyce cared more for my health than her own. It was always that way. She did not take care of her own health.
  • Joyce always gave her best and bought the best things for our family (for our children and grandchildren) – medical treatment, milk powder etc. It never occurred to her that giving more to us meant spending less for herself.
  • Joyce was generous by nature. She supported my first brother’s eldest son through his university education and made me give my eldest sister’s son Ah Dan $1,000 to pay for his wedding, which was a lot back then (about 30 years ago). She also helped her brother James and paid for his maid to take care of their mother during the times that she stayed there.
  • Joyce was very hot-tempered by nature. But after each flare-up, she would make it up to me by buying things for me and I always had to hold her back from buying too much.
  • Joyce was very trusting, and she liked to help people. She never expected favours, rewards or anything back in return. I was always concerned that she would be taken advantage of. She was generous towards others and not extravagant in lifestyle. She was happiest when designing her own clothes. I followed her to many tailors through the years, from the first one in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee to the present tailor Mdm Leong at West Coast Road.”

Happy Birthday, Mum! As Caleb would say, Mama is having Heavenly laksa and Heavenly nasi lemak – which are all healthy in Heaven.

Related post:

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Mum,

On this Day,

I remember:

Your devotion to the household

Your scramble to 3 wet markets on Saturday mornings at 5am

Your supermarket jaunts to stock up the fridge till overflowing

Sheng Siong, Fairprice, Cold Storage, Giant

You slayed them all

with your buying hand

I can only manage 1 wet market

and 5.45am earliest

My weekly grocery trips are no conquests

But trolley by trolley, I’m getting there.

Remembering you on your Heavenly Mother’s Day, where there is no pain and no sorrow, and peace and abundance overflows the pearly gates

Mum & me, when I was three?

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
  Honour her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” – Proverbs 31:30-31

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2021 has started with similarities to 2020, with countries going back into lockdown as the Covid-19 virus mutates and continues to spread stealthily.

Amidst all this, I want to count my blessings:

1.Thank God for Singapore

I thank God for the strong community spirit in Singapore in battling this Covid-19 pandemic, even as we continue to exercise caution through mask-wearing and safe-distancing. With Chinese New Year around the corner, I hope that we collectively continue to keep our guard up when visiting relatives.

2. Thank God for parenthood

I thank God for parenthood and the joy of seeing Caleb turn 10 years old this past week.

As Caleb announced, “Mum, I’m double-digit now.”

“Yes, but you are at the start of double-digit,” I said.

“But it’s still double digit. 99 is also double digit,” he said.

It’s been a joy watching Caleb grow so much since the start of this year. And I’m glad we are still continuing our mother-son banter, which has been ongoing since he strung his first sentences together as a toddler.

3. Thank God for fellowship

As an introvert, I’ve gotten too comfortable dining at home through most of 2020, in response to our government’s call to ‘stay home to stay safe’.

It’s good to nonetheless fellowship with friends face to face now and then.

I’m thankful for a wonderful dinner with my fellowship group last week over one of the best meals that I’ve had in a long time.

The food at Moonbow was flavourfully excellent, the food presentation was creatively excellent and the ambience and service was friendly and excellent too.

We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Heman who came out to say hello and oblige us with a photo.

After we learned from a waiter that Chef Heman is an Ironman triathlete, award-winning ceramist (whose plates we were dining off) as well as a Dr. in Psychology, we decided to google him.

We found his amazing story on Salt & Light.

And to that, I say…resiliently excellent!

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Today is Thank God Friday!

After four months of quiet since Circuit Breaker, the past few weeks have taken a speedy turn.

Today, I wanted to pause to give thanks for so much that has happened this week in particular:

  1. Sew Sow Good Friends SG

Our Sew Sow Good Stuff SG brigade launched our fundraising sales last Friday evening and received overwhelming support from friends and friends of friends. Our sewing brigade became our super-sales brigade and we sold out all Good Stuff toy giftsets within 2 days. Our Whimsically Essential Postcard sets sold out another 3 days later. I’m thankful for new friends whom God brought my way through this little mustard seed project and how God’s hand blessed our fundraiser far beyond what we had expected.

2. With 20:20 vision, You Never Walk Alone

Ben and I celebrated 22 years of marriage this week. I wanted to commemorate this symbolic 10.10.2020 date with something to mark the moment so I got an illustrator friend to produce a little something for me.

How could I capture Ben and Caleb’s love of football and Liverpool, in particular, with a show of support on my end, since I don’t wear matching jerseys with husband and son?

How could I mark my passion for children’s picture books in the same picture?

With a page from Little Mole’s Awesome Star, and a cameo from Little Godwit, I illustrate my support for Ben and Caleb’s favourite team, a new season of writing, and a reminder that with 20:20 vision through a 10/10 partnership, You Never Walk Alone.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

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This week, Mum would have turned 71 years old. When we had reunion dinner on the Chinese New Year’s Eve earlier this year, I did not know then that would be the last meal we would have as a family. She was warded into hospital on Chinese New Year and her homecoming three weeks later was in a casket.

It’s been six months since she passed on and left for a better home in Heaven.

For those of us still on earth, we have found our individual ways to face grief. For me, keeping mum is not the word.

Mum’s poetry-writing palliative doctor sent my family a very helpful book Caring for Yourselves and Others After Death which is published by the Singapore Hospice Council and I quote:

“Grief is a natural response to a loss we experience. The loss of a loved one can feel intensely painful for some. It is not something we try to get over, but rather, something we learn to manage and get through…”

What not to say?

“Messages such as “You need to be strong” and “It’s all in the past, let’s move on”, may lead to feelings of isolation and leave a family stuck between repeating old patterns and trying to do things differently.”

 

For me, I found a different rhythm in the past 6 months:

  1. Slowing things down

I did not make appointments with friends for about 3 months after Mum’s passing. I found it too tiring to socialize. Then I realized why.

In the three days of Mum’s wake services, I had at least 20 substantive conversations with friends who came by, not counting the short pleasantries with numerous friends and relatives who came to pay their last respects.

 

  1. Finding New Routines

Mum was the Marketing and Super-marketing Queen. After she passed on, Dad and I went to the wet market together at 6 am every Saturday. I did try to bargain for a later start so I could sleep in. But Dad said, “That’s the time your mum goes to the market.” So…that was the end of that conversation.

Just before Mum’s relapse, she and Dad walked at Botanic Gardens every day for about 3 months. Dad and I started walking there together several times a week.

 

  1. Creating Keepsakes

Since publishing is in my blood, I spent over 10 hours creating a photo book of Mum and Dad, and also incorporated pages of condolence notes from friends and relatives as well. I gave that to Dad for their wedding anniversary which came two months after Mum’s passing. He’s now asking me for an updated edition to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her passing early next year.

  1. Shaving Clean to move ahead

Dad shaved his hair for Children Cancer Foundation’s signature fundraiser Hair for Hope to support cancer patients and also remember Mum who passed on from cancer. God knows Mum takes pride in her appearance. She was blessed to be on the right side of the 50% probability of hardly any hair-loss from chemotherapy and had a full head of hair on passing. And she had her hair, nails and eyebrows done just before Chinese New Year, during which time she was warded. She looked her best even in her final days.

 

SingaporeHospicebookjpg

“It is important we see grief as a changing process over time and not a one-time event. Because it is an individualised journey, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of grieving.”

You can download E-book copies of Caring for Yourself and Others After a Death and When a Death Occurs — A Guide to Practical Matters.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalms 23:76

 

Related Posts:

God Knows Leh #30- In Sickness & in Health; In Bubbles & in Poem

God Knows Leh #31 – Cruising Memory Lanes, Making Bald Statements

 

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Today marks exactly one month since Mum passed away in hospital. In her last five days, there was an amazing closure of relationships.

On Saturday morning, 23rd February, she told me, “Call Kamila first.” Auntie Kamila, whom Mum loved dearly, rushed over to hospital with her entire family mid-morning. But Mum could not speak by then. She was in terrible pain and mostly sedated.

That same afternoon, I asked Mum if her youngest sister, whom I call Ah Ee, could see her. She nodded “yes” with much effort.  And it was the same, when I checked with her on Sunday afternoon if her brothers could visit. By Monday, all her siblings had seen her and said their farewells.

However, Mum seemed to be hanging on for some reason. Her oxygen level, which had plunged on Monday morning, had come back up on Tuesday. Her blood pressure and heart rate were going strong for someone in her final days.

On Tuesday night, as I sat next to her, I ran through a mental checklist of closure issues, wondering if I had missed something. I was then reminded of a texted message. A church friend, who had a strong sensing of spiritual things, had texted earlier that day that she was especially keeping my dad in prayer. She also added: “May the Lord prepare your dad to fully release your mum into His [Jesus’] safe hands…”

Was Dad the last person who needed to voice the final farewell?

At 6 am in the morning, Dad returned to Mum’s hospital room. He had slept in the guest area outside whilst I had stayed in the room with Mum.

“I need to talk to you,” I said. We went out to the corridor and I asked if he had given Mum full permission to leave us. As it turned out, he had given her many assurances but nothing so direct. We went back into the room. He assured Mum at length that he would take care of himself. Then, he gave her full release to go in peace to God. Within the next few hours, Mum’s oxygen level, blood pressure and heart rate plunged.

We decided that we also needed to uplift the mood in the room. We had forgotten ourselves the past few days and kept belaboring all the saddest things in front of her. Although Mum was fading in and out most of the time, my very perceptive best friend Gail reminded me (just the day before) that Mum could still hear us and we needed to be mindful of our conversations.

Dad started to reminisce about his early courtship days with Mum. As a young policeman, he pulled 30-hour days in the foulest-smelling places. Mum had bought him a set of Old Spice cologne and toiletries and taught Dad about Personal Grooming 101.

We wondered out loud where we could possibly buy Old Spice these days.

“Maybe Mustafa shopping centre,” someone suggested to laughter amongst the 3-4 of us in the room.

Then, Ah Ee left the room to use the public toilet. She entered the lift and pressed ‘Level 2’, which was the lobby level of Gleneagles Hospital, where Guardian Pharmacy, the eateries and the main public toilets were located. The lift however opened at Level 3, where the lecture theatre is located. Ah Ee saw a public toilet directly in her line of sight and walked out of the lift.

Gleneagles has four lifts in the hospital lobby. If she had entered any other lift, she would not have seen the 3rd floor public toilet as it only faced the lift that she had entered.

When she came out of the toilet, she noticed that there was a pop-up stand selling expensive perfumes and colognes. With Dad’s Old Spice story so fresh in her mind, Ah Ee asked the stall vendor if they sold Old Spice. The vendor rummaged through their un-displayed stock and found one Old Spice bottle.

Ah Ee very eagerly told the vendor not to sell it to anyone and that she needed to go back to Mum’s room to get her money. The vendor told her that they only set up stall in Gleneagles Hospital once a year and this was the only day of this year they were there. She also only had one bottle of Old Spice. There wasn’t even a box to go with it.

Ah Ee went running back and bought the Old Spice, which the vendor wrapped with a page of magazine paper. She rushed back to the ward excitedly and showed her purchase to Mum’s god-sister Polly who was outside Mum’s room.

It was around that time that Ah Ee tore open the magazine page wrapping the Old Spice bottle in the corridor outside Mum’s room. It was around that time that Mum passed away inside the room.

Old Spice

How did such a mysterious thing happen?

With divine intervention, Mum who in that hour passed into God’s hands, must have petitioned God to arrange a parting gift for Dad to comfort him. She had gifted him Old Spice, a sweet fragrance that time-stamped their youthful romance from over 50 years ago.

The person who bought the Old Spice was equally significant. As with siblings, differences sometimes occur and relationships get strained. Ah Ee had visited Mum every day from Saturday through Wednesday, staying long stretches, trying to seek closure with her eldest sister. Mum was mostly sedated by then and unable to speak.

“This is the closure that you were looking for,” Dad told Ah Ee in the hospital corridor after Mum left us.

The eldest sister had “tasked” the youngest sister to carry out one final act; to be the one to deliver Mum’s parting gift to Dad, her beloved. It was an alabaster jar, Old Spice edition. It was a fragrant love offering; a parting gift of sweet sorrow to a spouse and an act of forgiveness to a younger sibling.

Only God knows how improbable and yet, how perfectly calibrated the whole series of events had to be: from the “full permission” to leave in peace, to the recounting of my parent’s early courtship days, to how Ah Ee ended up on Level 3 of Gleneagles and returned with a jar and a mystery in hand.

And with that miraculous parting gift, Mum left us with a most radiant smile and returned home to be with our Lord that faithful day of 27 February 2019.

Related link:

God Knows Leh #27- A Pain in the Abdomen & 7 times of Psalms 23:6

 

 

 

 

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Over Mum’s final weeks of battling late-stage cancer, she suffered great pain in her abdomen. In the final week, she asked us to stop all treatment and release her to God. But it was difficult for us to do that. Our family desperately needed a clear assurance from God that Mum would go to a better place.

On Monday morning, Mum’s oxygen level dropped and our doctor put a tube into her nose. We started making plans for her final send-off.

Ben selected a bible verse for the obituary in the newspaper. I sent it to our family chat group for Dad’s agreement. The verse was Psalms 23:6.

1st Ps23

I then messaged Pastor Wendy, our church pastor, to let her know that Mum’s condition was deteriorating fast. Pastor Wendy rushed over that afternoon. Coincidentally enough, she prayed Psalms 23, which ended with the Psalms 23:6, the verse for the obituary:

“Surely goodness & mercy shall follow me all the days of my life & I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I noticed the Psalms 23:6 coincidence but said nothing at that time. After all, Psalms 23 is a popular psalm.

I stayed overnight in Mum’s hospital room that night while Ben returned home to meet the funeral director of Serenity Caskets & Funerals at our home. After surveying our place, Serenity’s director whatsapp Ben a sample photo of the backdrop he would be providing for Mum’s casket.

3rd Ps23

This was the 3rd time Psalms 23:6 was given to us.

The next morning, as Ben and I were talking about the Psalms 23 coincidences over breakfast at Tiong Bahru coffee shop, a friend messaged me. Her 11-year old daughter had randomly  sent me her audio reading of Psalms 23:1-6.

4th Ps 23.

This was the 4th time the Psalms 23:6 assurance was given to our family.

 

That same Tuesday morning, mum’s god-sister Polly informed her eldest sister living in Australia about mum’s deteriorating condition. Phyllis messaged back at 8.17 am:

5th Ps23

“When I think of Joyce…Surely goodness and mercy will follow her…”

This was 5th time the Psalms 23:6 assurance was given to us.

 

What were the chances of this happening?

Yet, in the last 2 days before Mum passed on, we received the assurance in Psalms 23:6 – a total of five times over a span of slightly over 24 hours. I knew Mum’s time with us was almost up. But now, I had full certainty that God was bringing her into His heavenly mansion.

“Maybe we’ll reach 7 times,” Ben said.

“No need lah,” I said. “5 times is good enough assurance for me,” I said.

That night, Mum slept peacefully without pain or the need for additional painkillers, unlike the earlier nights of the past week.

The next day, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 27 February 2019, Mum was called home to our Lord.

 

We had 3 nights of prayer memorial services at our home. For the first 2 nights, other church pastors came to lead the service.

Pastor Wendy, who had journeyed with us through Mum’s last week, led the 2nd March Saturday night service. As I was delivering a devotional eulogy, I gave Pastor Wendy a heads-up on what I would be sharing.

“The first part will be my reflections on my mum. For part 2, I will share about the 5 Psalms 23 assurances that we received as a family.”

I sat down and waited for the prayer service to start. Ben nudged me and said, “There’s a 6th Psalms 23 assurance.”

“Where?” I asked.

He pointed to a painting hanging on our wall which he had bought 15 years ago.

Ps 23 painting

“When I saw that painting in Vietnam, it was a picture of Psalms 23 to me – with the old trishaw rider in the darkness, riding into the light.”

“Er…that’s not counted,” I said. “You cannot just chiap something like that together. Otherwise, you can simply link anything together. There must be Psalms 23 words,” I insisted.

I picked up the prayer service bulletin and sat back down. As I did, I noticed something for the 1st time in 3 nights of the prayer services that I had never seen.

“Have we been using the same prayer service bulletin for all 3 nights?” I asked Ben.

Ben nodded yes.

I pointed to the Psalms 23:6 verse on the cover. For some strange reason, neither of us had noticed the verse before.

6th Ps23

“Pastor Wendy, did you select this verse?” I asked.

Pastor Wendy shook her head. “No, I leave it to the church team to handle all this.”

“The 6th Psalms 23:6,” I muttered.

Pastor Wendy asked everyone to stand up and turn to the evening’s scripture reading. There was some murmuring and confusion as she started reading because it did not correspond to the Saturday 2 March Scripture reading. Pastor Wendy had mistakenly led us in the reading of the Friday 1st March Scripture reading without realizing. Strangely enough, the pastor who led the service the night before had skipped this reading so we were looking at it for the first time.

And the scripture was this:

7th Ps23.jpg

In total, we received the Psalms 23:6 assurance 7 times. In the Bible, “7” is a significant number associated with completeness and perfection (both physically and spiritually). And I now had God’s complete assurance that Mum had gone to her Heavenly home in her perfect body, and I shared all this in my devotional eulogy that night.

 

On Monday, the day after we had Mum’s final send-off, Dad cleared the top shelf of his display cabinet for Mum’s personal effects. He did so with a heavy heart.

Then, he suddenly noticed something. Sitting on the top shelf were two items which had been given by Mum’s godparents some years ago.

Summing up Ps23.jpg

For privacy reasons, I’ve edited out the right side of the shelf where Mum’s personal effects sit, next to the cross and Psalms 23 stone. Other family members’ photos sit on the lower shelf to the right of my wedding photo.

One was a cross, with an engraving that read: “GOD grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, WISDOM to know the difference.”

The company that provided my mum’s memorial services is a relatively new company called Serenity Caskets & Funerals. And they provided us the most comforting services as we came to terms with what we could not change – my mum’s sudden passing last week.

Next to the cross was a small stone decoration. The Psalms 23 assurance was cast in stone – and this was especially for my dad.

The earlier 7 Psalms 23 assurances had come through me and Ben via whatsapp or paper form, and I had communicated these to my family.

God knows that Dad needed to receive a direct assurance, one that is cast in what- looked-like a memorial stone.

These two items were given by Mum’s godparents at least 4-5 years back, when all was well with Mum. Yet, God, our Parent (ie. God, our Father), had divinely used these items from so long ago to speak to Dad in the most reassuring confirmation that he could possible receive.

Mum, surely goodness & mercy has followed you all the days of your life and we know that you now dwell in the house of our Lord forever.

Mum+Jesus

 

Related Post:

God Knows Leh #4 -A Pebble in the Breast & 7 No-Matter-Whats

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Caleb would usually have “sleepovers” in my bedroom a few nights a week. It was a treat for him because we would play board games before bed, I would read him books and he got to sleep later, like a real sleepover party.

During my 9-day stay in hospital following the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, Caleb spent most of his time with my parents ie. his grandparents, and missed his sleepovers with me terribly.

Even after I got home, we did not resume his sleepovers in my room for a while. He is a roller when he sleeps. I could not risk him accidentally kicking me or rolling onto me.

About two weeks after I had been home from hospital, I heard a wailing downstairs in Caleb’s bedroom when my mum was trying to put him to bed. After it had gone on for some time, I went down to see what was happening.

Caleb was standing a foot away from his bed, refusing to get on. His eyes were red from crying and he was at the end of making a long teary protest speech when I walked in. “…I’ve spent enough time with Grandma. I’m not getting into bed anymore until I sleep with Mummy again. I want to be with Mummy till infinity!” And then he broke down inconsolably.

My heart broke.

But it wasn’t the right time to give in because it might send the wrong message that a protest speech would get him what he wanted. I spent some time placating him and eventually got him into his bed.

That night, Ben and I discussed about re-starting Caleb’s sleepovers in our bedroom. But it would need to come with some temporary rules.

Usually, he would climb onto me and hug me to sleep. Then, I would transfer him onto the giant cushion on the floor next to me. In the wee hours of the morning, half awake, he would automatically climb onto me, hug me like a koala bear and fall back to sleep again.

That had to change temporarily till I recovered from my surgery wounds.

So, we worked out a couple of new rules:

#1 – Caleb could only sleep on Papa’s side of the bed.  

That meant that Ben and I had to switch the sides of the bed that we normally slept so that Caleb would be next to him, not me. I moved to the right side of the bed and Ben to the left.

#2 – We built a wall of pillows which divided our bed into two. Caleb had to stay on the other side. And he could not sleep on me like a baby koala for the next few weeks.

We pilot-tested the next night. In the wee hours of the night, Caleb automatically climbed up to my side of the bed and slept on Ben. The pillow wall stayed intact and we were all systems go for his regular sleepovers again.

kingcaleb

Goofing it up in my room during a quiet day at home

 

With my chemo-cycles now, we’ve still kept some of these temporary rules. For every 1st week of a new chemo cycle, Caleb has to forgo any sleepovers in my room. Given the amount of medicine pumped into me at each chemo/post-op session, I abstain from kissing him for a week till I flush out all the chemicals from my body. My oncologist said it usually takes two days to flush it out of the system but I prefer to buffer it up to a week where Caleb is concerned. Once that week passes, my routine with Caleb goes back to normal and I give him infinity kisses till he begs me to stop.

That said, I have explained to him that I cannot be with him till infinity because one day I will grow old and no longer be around. But I tell him that we have the assurance of God’s Word in the Bible that we will eventually be together in eternity in Heaven.

And Eternity is better than Infinity and beyond.

Related Links:

Inside-Out Kid #5 – “My Mummy is a Botak Head! But she covered it up.”

God Knows Leh #10 – Three Wise Women with Gifts of Frankessence, Mastec & Go

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On this Friday of all Fridays – Good Friday – I thank God for:

1. Family

It’s easy to take for granted at times, but as I listened to the story of a new friend who lost her husband recently, how little family she had to begin with, and how much she has had to rely on friends even more now,  it reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for.

2. Parenthood

Over the past few years, I’ve glimpsed how much God loves me even as I love my child. I have also experienced how exasperating it can be when your child doesn’t listen and runs off in some unsafe direction and you are constantly repeating yourself like a broken record. Now, I can fathom in some sense what it must be like for God trying to communicate His wisdom to us His children.

3. Writing voice

For the first time in my life, 7 years back, I found my passion – and it’s in the written word. With God’s continued favour, I hope to continue to hone my writer’s voice and write in a way that is purposeful and honouring.

4. Singapore

As a Singaporean, I have lots to be grateful for, even as we celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday next year.

5. The Cross

And on this Friday of Fridays, I thank God for Jesus who died on the cross for my sins, conquered death and rose again on Easter Sunday so that I can live today. As Jesus said: For the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came so that you may have life and have it to the full.

– John 10:10

 

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Mastercard had a very catchy ad on a credit card for women which ended with the tagline – the men don’t get it. I really did get that tagline this weekend.

Caleb-haircuttingYesterday, Caleb had his first professional haircut at a kiddy hair salon since he was born. A master cut. And I was completely unprepared for it.

It started innocuously enough when Ben said, “Shall we try to see if he will sit still for his first professional haircut? I saw a kiddy hair salon at West Coast Mall.”

“Well, okay,” I said, without much expectation. I didn’t think he would sit through anyway.

We went in, explained to the hairdresser that it was Caleb’s first time and he might not cooperate.

She seemed prepared enough. She popped in the Despicable Me DVD and switched on the little TV screen positioned right in front of the barber highchair, sat Caleb in it and put the barber sheet around him.

No protest or resistance. Hmm. I wondered.

She offered Caleb some sweets – coincidentally the same ones he likes. He took it and held onto it.

“Would you like to have a sweet now?”

“Not yet,” he said, holding on to it like treasure.

“Not too short,” I told the hairdresser Auntie.

“Yes, yes. Layered, okay?” She took out a kiddy razor and started to raze inches off the hair on Caleb’s neck.

The next thing I knew, chunks of hair fell to the ground.

“Too short,” I exclaimed as I started to panic.

“It’s okay,” Ben told the hairdresser.

Next thing I knew, it was too short and too late. With strangely no protest from Caleb, obvious delight from Ben, and the razor going zzzng zznng, my heart sank lower and lower.

“He looks like G.I. Joe,” I cried. “I prefer the mushroom hair, like Rain’s!” (the Korean pop star, not wet weather).

Ben chuckled. “It’s nice. Anyway, it will grow out in a month.”

I can barely recognise my baby that evening after his haircut

I can barely recognise my baby that evening after his haircut

“But he looks like a different kid. Not mine,” I protested weakly. After 3 years of cutting Caleb’s hair myself, this was too much for me to take in one afternoon.

“Do you like your new haircut?” Ben asked.

“Yes,” Caleb answered. “But like it a bit longer.”

“My baby!” I cried.

“I’m a big boy,” Caleb replied.

“Now you look just like Daddy!” my overly delighted husband enthused.

Caleb looked at my glum face, then chimed in,”Look like mummy too.”

When we got into the car, I stared at Caleb and said,” I’m so sad.”

“It’s all right,” Caleb replied, as though he was the adult.

Today’s haircut wasn’t just a haircut. It was a rite of passage.

The same rite of passage as when:
– I permed my hair Maggie Mee style in Sec 1. when tight curls were all the rage (think Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, Maggie Cheung and Cherie Chung in the 1980s Hong Kong movies). And I did it because the school rules finally permitted us to.

– I snipped it all off in college, page boy style (like a J-Pop star and the drummer girl in The Breakfast Club)

– as when I grew it out into a shaggy bob in University

– snipped it off after I broke up with my first boyfriend, grew it back for my first job, snipped it short and sharp when I started work at a male-dominated environment, doing acquisitions at Raffles Hotels & Resorts

– and finally went to a short girly bob ala Mary Poppins style to go with my new chapter as a children’s books author

And those moments were planned, agonized over with time spent poring over photos in magazines. Each major hairstyle change signified a new season in my life.

And then there was this weekend, snipped off without any preparation or warning. Caught offguard.

Caleb with his Rain hairstyle, by Mummy

Caleb with his Rain hairstyle, by Mummy

Caleb’s first master cut wasn’t just a professional hair job. It was a rite of passage for me as a first-time mum. With that big snip, my baby looks twice his age now. A big boy. Minus baby cuteness. Unrecognisable from the back.

One day, Caleb will grow up. In time to come, he will decide his own hairstyle. He will want to look older.

But for now, he’s still three. He’s still my baby. And I can’t wait for the next two months when his hair will grow back out again to his mushroom Rain hairstyle.

Men don’t get it.

Sniff sob.

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