Yesterday (Wed, 22 March), after sending my daughter to school, I saw a father cycling to school with his son as his pillion rider. He then put him down and waved goodbye. As usual, he stood there and watched his son entered the school building before he cycled off. But after peddling for a while, he stopped. He looked up to the sky and paused in thought for a while.
That image caught my attention because this father just lost his son - his eldest son. His son was about 15 when he was playing basketball in school. He suddenly collapsed and passed away thereafter.
Today's papers also talked about two other deaths. Two young MRT trainees died last year in Singapore's worst rail accident. Asyraf's and Nasrulhudin's parents were inconsolable. Asyraf's parents and family were in Mecca for their pilgrimage when the accident happened. They rushed back when the news broke.
And Nasrulhudin's mother, Madam Norizan, broke down, saying this, "I was speechless. I felt my entire body shaking...I just cried." She recalled that her son always made the effort to spend time with the family. And last year, they spent their first Hari Raya without him.
Asyraf's mother, Mdm Rosma, would visit his grave every day at Lim Chu Kang for the first 100 days. It reports that "on Monday, the housewife, 54, braved the rain to do so again with flowers in her arms and prayers on her lips. It was her son's birthday. (He) would have turned 25."
Lesson? Just one.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, who lost his son to progeria at 15 years old, and the author of "When bad things happen to good people," said:-
"I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counselor because of Aaron's life and death than I would ever have been without it. And I would give up all those gains in a second if I could have my son back. If I could choose, I would forgo all of the spiritual growth and depth which has come my way because of our experiences, and be what I was fifteen years ago, an average rabbi, an indifferent counselor, helping some people and unable to help others, and the father of a bright, happy boy. But I cannot choose."
Life doesn't give us that choice. Good and bad things happen to the best of us. When they come, they come. And when they come, our struggles are endless. Even when we finally do overcome, growing in depth in return, we are still at best a broken vessel, and never completely whole.
Our healing over time is a healing with brokenness, and not apart from it. The pain never goes away. But we have grown deeper in soul and spirit to keep it from overwhelming us. It is like we have expanded the rooms in our heart to allow a guest to stay a little longer. He is one guest that reminds us of our past. He is one guest that tells us about stories of a time with our loved ones.
Mdm Rosma said that a lady came up to her and told her how her son had helped her in an accident. She said her son came down from his motorbike to assist. Mdm Rosma said, "They come by our home, and that is a way (for me to remember him). They also tell me stories of how they spent their time together."
If DNA is the building block of life, then stories are the building blocks of our soul. We make these stories every day with our loved ones, our children, our close friends. These stories are simple stories of love, sacrifices, hope, nurture and devotion (even reconciliation).
Each of them, however mundane it appears then, becomes our healing partner in the journey to our recovery. They come alive when our loved ones are gone and nudge us in the direction that we should take to find our own strength, hope and joy again.
Treasure these stories you are making with them now. Make every one an intimate journey. For every encounter, experience and adventure with them forms the reservoir of hope, faith and love we will be called upon to draw on when the time comes for us to confront and overcome life's most painful struggle - their unavoidable loss. Cheerz.