Saturday, 30 June 2018

Love conquers All.

When a title in the papers today is "Love conquers all," you tend to want to read it yourself to be encouraged.

Theresa Tan's generation grit has put the life of Miss Diana Goh into much perspective. 

Expect nothing cheery when you discover at a young age that you were adopted because you were born out of wedlock and your parent for whatever reasons could not keep you. 

No more than eight years old, Diana found a birth certificate for a baby girl named Diana Tan while spring cleaning for CNY. Her surname (you would recall) is Goh, not Tan.

That kept her wondering. 

The intrigue deepened when she discovered that her blood group was B+ while her parents' blood types were O+ and A+, totally unrelated.

Her parents tried unconvincingly to deny that she was adopted, but Diana struggled with the truth. 

She said that: "Everyone in the extended family knew I was adopted, except me. My sense of the truth was shattered, not knowing who I was and where I had come from. Every day, while taking the bus, I would look around to see who looked like me, hoping to find my birth parents."

That was her first broken heart experience. The second broken heart to come was literal. 

At 12, she "awake one day to find her heart beating wildly, leaving her breathless and dizzy. The doctor said her pulse was 240 beats per minute, well above the normal range of 60 to 100."

Diana was diagnosed with what is called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, "a rare condition in which there is an extra circuit in the heart, leading to episodes of rapid heart rates. It can be fatal, resulting in heart failure or sudden cardiac death."

At first, she refused surgery due to the cost, that is, $10,000 then. Her parents were fruit sellers in a market and she as their only child did not want to burden them financially. 

But her racing heart did not slow down. At times, it became so unbearable that she "could not even sit up, let alone go to school, for weeks."

Diana said: "I could not do anything. I could feel my heart palpitating very fast when I tried to sit up, so I had to lie down."

At 13, she went under the knife. It was to be the first of three operations. And she found reprieve but only for a season.

At 15, her father suffered a heart attack and had to stop working. It reports that "her mother took on odd jobs, such as cleaning toilets, to make ends meet."

It was at this time that Diana "collapsed" while taking part in a debate in school for her heart gave way. That was to result in her second operation. 

Diana subsequently went for her third operation when she was 19, and ever since then, she did not experience any problem with her heart. 

Now, the encouraging part of her struggles was that despite the two broken hearts - adoption and endless palpitation - and that her father passed away in 2012 after another heart attack, Diana managed to score eight distinctions in the O-level exams, four As at the A levels and graduated with first-class honours in life sciences from NUS. 

She did all that while giving tuition after her A levels to pay for the family finances. 

She is now 28 and is a teacher and she said she has made peace in her heart about her parentage. 

Diana tracked her biological mother down and has come to terms with her adoption. She declined to say how the meeting went. But she has found closure, most deservingly.

At present, besides teaching, Diana also gives back to society. She said: "I feel I owe my life to my parents. That was one of my biggest reasons I entered teaching: I want to love other children and impact lives as mine has been impacted."

Lesson? This morning is not going to be an easy one. There are other two news that caught my attention, and they are sad news. 

Both are about broken hearts. One is about an accident, and the other, about a heart that could not let go. 

Here's tthe first news...

Miss Kathy Ong had so much going for her. She was an undergraduate in NUS, young, spirited and full of life. Her heart brimmed with hope and joy. 

Yet, last Thursday, she met with an accident as a passenger at Clementi. She succumbed to her injuries. 

Her father (Keith Ong) posted on Facebook (on Monday) saying that "he initially felt it was so weird and inauspicious when he learnt that his daughter had written about her own death." 

Keith added: "Now, looking at you...I am thankful you wrote it. It's the closest I can get to hearing from you because I never had the chance to have a last word with you."

Keith recalled that the last time he met his daughter was last Tuesday evening "when he took fruits to her and they hugged."

Here is Kathy's piece about how she saw her own death. 

She wrote that she imagined her parents standing close by at her wake and remarked that they were her "biggest sorrow".

Then, she penned: "Time is merciless, they think, not at all fair, let alone too fair the way their daughter had lamented, because how could enough be given to them yet so little to their child, such that they lived to watch her die?"

However, Kathy "added that if one believes in destiny, then maybe there could be fairness, as every moment of time had felt longer to her than it did for them."

She wrote: "Everything in this hall has a time limit - the blooming of the flowers, my physical body, people's presence and their memory of me."

The second news is about Hour Glass founder Jannie Chan, 72. The High Court sentenced her to 2 weeks' jail for flouting court order. 

The backdrop is that last year, she was given a last chance "to avoid prison by suspending her sentence for a year, provided that she stopped defaming and harassing (her ex-husband) Dr Tay" who is 73.
Unfortunately, she didn't. 

She was supposed to attend psychiatric treatment and keep Dr Tay informed about each session. 

However, she breached the condition, and posted "allegedly defamatory comments on Facebook."

That's not all. "She even turned up at Dr Tay's new home, took photos of it and forwarded them to others."

Jannie tried to explain to the Judge that the emails were meant to "elicit a response from Dr Tay and others about the plight of her daughter," as their daughter was facing criminal charges and diagnosed to have psychiatric condition."

However, the Judge was puzzled at how disseminating the emails to other people would help the situation, some of the people she sent to previously included friends, employers and even Cabinet ministers.

Mind you, theirs was a 41 years old marriage which sadly ended in unresolved acrimony. 

The three news of Diana, the Ongs and Jannie collided this morning for me and hit me like an existential ton of bricks. 

My wife was talking to me over breakfast and I was hearing her but not exactly listening as I somehow felt a numbness in my heart. 

Three lives - Diana, Kathy Ong and Jannie - yet their fate are so different. 

Ironically love was at the center of it all. 

One conquered all despite the heartbreak (one after another), the other broken into pieces because of undying love, and in Jannie's case, love could not let go and turned into a state of helplessness, a desperate cry for help. 

When I look around, and search my own heart this morning, I felt numb because I could not find an answer to all the questions I am bombarded with, that is, love conquers all but love also breaks you and tears you apart, right?

Every morning to night, we run on a schedule, a routine of sorts, that is, sending the kids, going to work, beating deadlines, rushing from here to there, returning home, and then kissing loved ones to sleep, and then we start all over the next day. 

Nothing seems amiss. Nothing's out of the ordinary. Nothing unusual. 

But when fate or life or a force to be reckoned with (whatever and however you wish to label it) grabs you without warning out of your blissful circle of routine, and bombards you with a revelation that you were adopted, or a call from the police about a tragedy, or a betrayal that cuts so deep you can't accept or recover from, suddenly, you find yourself in a furnance of fire and trial that seeks to destroy all that you hold dear, or all that you deem as inviolable, unbroken-able, sacred. 

Yet, invulnerability is such a heart-wrecking illusion. 

It is never a consolation to be told that no-pain-no-gain (or growth) advice when what you once thought could never happen to you somehow happens to you in a way you thought could never be to such an unimaginable extent. 

But life as such gives no warning, and when it happens, it takes everything you thought was safe from you - your heart, your mind and your soul. 

That's what I mean by an existential ton of bricks falling on me when I read the three stories in the papers this morning. 

Of course, amidst the bad, that is, the circumstances that seek to destroy a soul, there is a love so overwhelming that it can never let go. 

I witness that in Diana's parents who gave their all for her. Their love is beyond blood relations, and their intention was to protect her and give her a life that may not be a wealthy and cushy one, but one defined by unconditional love. 

And then, there is the demise of a young life that left the parents broken. Yet in the midst of all that, love seeks to reconcile and heal even when love was the reason the pain is so deep. 

And in Jannie's case, my heart goes out to her. 

Nothing in this world matters when the heart and the soul are still seeking for meaning and hope. 

Not wealth, fame nor power can ever hope to bridge the gap. And I sincerely pray that she will eventually find peace and love again. And most importantly...closure. 

Let me end with the empowering words of Diana:-

"I have learnt that a person's most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand always willing to help others. If I were not adopted, I could have been in an orphanage. I feel so lucky to have a home and that my parents loved me dearly."

Indeed, love conquers all, ultimately. And it may take much from one, initially. Yet, it gives back even more, eventually. Cheerz.

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