Stories from my past memories - childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now...
(Updated November 2020)
Though my mother had passed away many years ago, my father still missed her very much. He felt guilty for my mother had passed away in the hospital, alone, without any of us being with her at that moment. He regretted deeply and blamed himself for not being there for my mother when she took her last breath. He strongly believed that my mother might have something to say to him before she died. But then and forever, he would never know what my mother wanted to say to him before she died.
My mother was paralyzed during the last two and a half years of her life. She needed special care and attention from my father and my sister to help her in everything from feeding herself to going to the toilet, and bringing her to the hospital and traditional Chinese acupuncture centre for check-up and receiving treatment for a few times every week.
Not long after my mother’s death, my father was paralyzed too and had to lie in bed most of the time. The only wish he had, was waiting for my mother to appear in his dream. Every day and night he just wanted to sleep and sleep, hoping that my mother would show up in his dream and talk to him. But he didn’t get to see her. Every time when I visited him, he cried while telling me that my mother didn’t show up in his dream. In great disappointment, he asked me why he couldn’t see my mother in his dream. Another thing that he kept blaming himself is for being impatient and shouted at my mother when she needed his care and support.
It wasn’t easy to look after a paralyzed person twenty four hours a day. Everyone became impatient, exhausted and frustrated. My mother had no choice but to depend on my father and my sister to be her hands and legs for everything. It was very hard for a person like my mother who used to be very independent and physically strong, but suddenly she lost all her mobility and freedom to do even the simplest thing. It wasn’t easy for the person who needed help and the person who helped.
I can never complain about how my father, my sister and her two daughters for being impatient and shouted at my mother frequently when they lost their patience being exhausted from taking care of a paralyzed person. Everyone was tired and frustrated. I can understand that. The person who was sick was suffering. The people who cared for the sick person were suffering too.
I felt compassion for my mother for being paralyzed because nobody would want to be in such condition, being helpless and losing one’s strength and mobility. I sympathized with my father, my sister and her daughters, for being trapped in a situation which nobody would like to be in. Nobody would enjoy spending many hours looking after a paralyzed person who needed so much personal care and attention. I commiserated with my two elder brothers who blamed themselves and feeling bad and guilty for not being able to help out financially. I felt sorry for myself for not being able to be there for my parents all the time because I had to be at somewhere else making a living to provide financial support for the entire family.
And then, my father was also having the same difficult condition as my mother had.
Because of the deep sadness from missing my mother, my father refused to get better. He didn’t want to go for physiotherapy or receive any kind of treatment. He gave up living from the moment he regained consciousness and realized he had lost his mobility. It’s more than ten years he had been paralyzed and he passed away on the 30th of December 2017.
My eldest brother, who had also passed away on the 30th of June 2018, was looking after my father for many years. He would bring my father to sit up on the wheelchair for eating and showering, but my father couldn’t stay in a sitting position for too long. In the beginning, my brother brought my father out of the house with his car, to eat out and to get some fresh air and looking around at the outside world. But then my father became very weak and had to lie down most of the time because his body would be in pain for sitting too long. Since then, he seldom got out from the house for many years, except when my brother sent him for routine check-ups in the hospital once every three months.
My father was feeling unwell in the morning the day that he got paralyzed. He was helping my sister to move some heavy things when he felt sudden unusual pain in his arm. My sister brought him to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor told my sister that my father had to stay back in the hospital until late afternoon for observation and running some tests. My sister went back home to look after her daughters and she would go back to the hospital to pick him up later in the afternoon. During the check-up, a nurse asked him to sit up on the bed to perform some physical movements. Somehow he lost his balance and fell onto the floor from the bed with his head hit the floor first. He lost consciousness and they sent him to the Emergency Unit. He went into a coma. They informed my sister and told her that my father went into a coma and was sent to the ICU. There was nothing they could do, they said. Immediately my sister went back to the hospital while informing everyone in the family. My father regained consciousness many hours later, but half of his body was paralyzed. The doctor explained that there were three blood clots in his head that caused the paralysis. We didn’t know whether the blood clots were caused by the fall, or they had already existed before the fall. We couldn’t undo anything, even if it was somebody’s negligence and responsibility for what had happened to him.
The staff at the hospital didn’t mention anything about why he had been sent to the ICU. It was my father who told us later about what had happened to him on that day.
My sister thought of getting some compensation money by suing the hospital and the nurse. I told my sister that it was needless to sue anyone. It would do more harm to my father than to benefit him, as it would be a very long and stressful process for my father to go through if this went into a court case. I also believed that the nurse didn’t have intention for my father to fall down from the bed. Nobody intentionally wanted this to happen. The nurse might have felt very bad for this incident. Moreover, there was no other witness that could support whatever my father told us about what had happened to him that day, and my father’s memories were a bit confused after he suffered from paralysis. Even if we successfully sued the hospital or the nurse and got some compensation many years later, it still wouldn’t change the fact that my father was paralyzed and wouldn’t get any better. We should forgive and let go. One day this nurse might become a great nurse or a great person learning from this incident. We didn’t want to ruin somebody’s life with the possibility for becoming a great person. Someone’s life was already ruined and couldn’t be undone. Everyone makes some mistakes at some points in life. We didn’t want the nurse to be unhappy and have no peace for the rest of his life. Even if it was really the nurse’s negligence or responsibility for my father’s unfortunate condition, we would like him to know that we had pardoned him. It was an accident.
I have been supporting my family financially since I was a teenager. My second elder brother has been suffering from asthma since he was a baby. He couldn’t do much physical activities and didn’t have a permanent job to support his own living. In the past, he would need to borrow money from me from time to time to have food on the table. My sister was in great debt with many different banks, relatives and friends, and needed to look after her own family with two daughters and three grandchildren from two separate broken families. My eldest brother couldn’t work because he had been looking after my father twenty four hours a day. Therefore I had to support my father and my eldest brother financially.
Though my eldest brother loved his wife very much, they had to live separately for all these years because in the past she had to live with her family to look after her father who was very ill for some time before he died, and then, she had to take care of her old mother too. They could only see each other once or twice a month as they were living more than 120 km away from one another. It’s a sad and unfortunate life story of our family. But my brother never complained. He took good care of my father out of love. I am glad that my father had such wonderful son to look after him, and I’m always thankful to my brother for sacrificing so much for our family.
I needed to be able to look after myself so that I can look after my family. I never worry or regret. Worrying and regretting won’t change anything. It wouldn’t take away my father’s suffering or make my family’s difficult condition to become better. Instead, I used my entire energy to practice and teach yoga to help myself and others, to be free from ignorance and suffering, and have love and peace in us while living in the world of impermanence and uncertainty. My family also needed help. But nobody can help another if people don’t want to help themselves.
More than twenty three years ago, my parents were living with me before they moved out to live with my sister. After my late brother-in-law passed away in a tragic work accident, my sister had moved to Senawang where she found a job as an administrative clerk near where she lived. Senawang is a small industrial town with plenty greenery about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. She always wanted to live in a house close to the countryside where she could see the mountains and the big blue sky from her house.
Because of her two young daughters were studying in schools near my house in Old Klang Road, she didn’t bring her daughters to live with her. If she brought her daughters with her, she would have to pay someone to look after the children when she’s at work. Her monthly salary wasn’t much. She couldn’t afford to hire a nanny. She also had to pay back a lot of debts little by little every month. So she left her two daughters with us – my parents and I, to look after them. If she had some money left, she would give a few hundred Ringgit to my parents for her daughters’ daily living expenses.
My sister is very different from me. All I want is a simple, quiet life. She wants to make a lot of money. She wants to have big house, big car and enjoy life. She wanted to invest in property, so she bought a house and a shop lot. She wanted to invest in life insurance, so she bought eight life insurance policies at one time. She wanted to go for holidays staying in nice hotel pampering herself once in a while. And she would use her many different credit cards to pay for everything that she wanted – house installments, car installments, insurance premiums, holidays, petrol, grocery shopping, dining, and lots of bills. She didn’t realize that her ambitions were too many and too big, and she ended up accumulating more and more debts. But my sister isn’t a bad person.
She is a very kind and friendly person. She won’t have any bad intentions for anybody. She is a person with great patience and wouldn’t get angry under any circumstances, except when she was too tired from looking after my mother, she lost her patience and shouted at my mother a few times. But I know she would feel very bad afterwards, as she would never want to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. She wanted to provide my parents with a better living condition. She wanted to give her daughters the best that she could give. All she wanted was to have a better quality of life. It’s totally nothing wrong with all her ambitions, but life was so hard on her all the time.
She was a member of the Red Crescent Movement and had helped many people everywhere while she was still in school. She continued to help many people after she finished school. She lost her own handbag many times, when she tried to help people who were injured in car accidents. She is a very good friend to many people. She was very intelligent and had very good results in school exams. She was one of the last batch students who received Malaysian general education in English medium. She reads and writes and speaks good English. She is a bookworm. She used to sing a lot and played a guitar when she was younger. She was a happy and carefree person.
But, all these good and positive qualities don’t guarantee that she wouldn’t be getting into financial problems.
Her elder daughter was a problem child. We couldn’t blame her. She had a very unpleasant toddler-hood before her father passed away when she was four years old. She had been frequently shouted at and canned by her father since she was just a few months old. One time, he slapped her for crying. He hit her so hard in the face that she permanently lost the hearing in one ear. Her jaw was dislocated as well causing her mouth tilted to one side when she talked. It wasn’t a bad thing for her and her baby sister who was five months old when their father died in the work accident.
Somehow she liked to tell lies and had been stealing money since she was just a little girl. One day, I found out that my one and only fifty Ringgit note had been missing from my purse. I used to count how much money I had every day and knew exactly how many notes and coins in my purse, as I didn’t have much money left for myself after giving most of my money to my family. And I knew for sure that I had one piece of fifty Ringgit note in my purse, but it had disappeared.
I was very upset. I was very sure that it must be her who had taken it, as it wasn’t the first time she took money without asking. I couldn’t control my anger. I was different from my sister. I would get angry and wasn’t a nice person at all. I felt really upset that we had been taking care of her and her little sister, but that was what she repaid us. At that stage, I was very ignorant and unhappy. I was very angry with the difficult financial situation in my family and didn’t have the wisdom and compassion to control my anger and my behavior. My mind was over-powered by ignorance and unhappiness.
I got really, really angry. I shouted at her madly. I told her that I was going to call the police to send her to jail. She was just a nine year old little girl at that time. I realized later in life that I was too harsh on her. I had to forgive myself as I couldn’t undo what I had done which I shouldn’t.
In the beginning, she kept shaking her head and denied that she had stolen the money.
She was very famous for her stubbornness. One time, her school teacher punished her for something that she did at school. The teacher gave her a stroke of caning on her palm. Other children would have cried in pain, pull their hand away and asked for pardon. But she didn’t retreat her hand, she didn’t cry and didn’t apologize. The teacher became more furious and gave her a few more strokes and hit harder and harder each time. She still wouldn’t retreat her hand and wouldn’t cry. The teacher gave another few more strokes until her palm started to bleed. Then the teacher stopped. She still didn’t cry.
She came home with the injured palm, swollen and bleeding. My parents found out what had happened to her, and went to the school to complain to the school principal. Immediately after that day, the teacher was sent to another school to teach. The entire school knew about this. And she became famous for her stubbornness.
After a few times of questioning with me shouting at her like a mad person, she went out in silence. A few minutes later, she came back with some money in a plastic bag. She already spent some of the fifty Ringgit. She kept the remaining money in the plastic bag and hid it under one of the flower pots down stairs.
I was really disappointed. Immediately I called my sister. I told her that she must came right away to take her daughter back with her to Senawang. I didn’t want her to live with us anymore. I was such cold-hearted, uncompassionate and unforgiving. About one and a half hours later, my sister came. She said she needed some time to arrange her daughter to go to a school in Senawang. I said to her, I could wait for another few days or a few weeks, as long as I didn’t want her daughter to live with us anymore. I didn’t mind that her younger daughter to continue to stay with us and I didn’t mind looking after her.
My parents were very upset. They loved me very much. They knew that I worked very hard to provide financial support for the family. They didn’t want me to be unhappy. They also loved their grandchildren very much. They couldn’t bear the pain being separated from one of their grandchildren. They sympathized with my sister that she had to look after her daughter on her own while she also needed to work. They sympathized with their granddaughter that she wouldn’t get as much love and attention as she could get from them and also be separated from her young sister, if she would have to live with my sister. And so, my parents made a very hard decision. My father decided to move to Senawang to live with my sister to take care of their elder granddaughter. While my mother would live with me and take care of their younger granddaughter. My parents had to live separately since then. They travelled back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Senawang every week to be with each other. And all these were because of me and my bad temper. And yet, my parents never said anything bad about me.
Every weekend, my mother would drive to Senawang to see my father and their elder granddaughter. Sometimes my father would come back to see my mother and their younger granddaughter, and me, of course. This was going on for some time. Two years later, it was time for my younger niece to enter primary school. They decided that the easiest way for everybody, was to send her to the school in Senawang which her sister went to. Therefore, my mother also moved to Senawang to reunite with my father and both their granddaughters for good. And the two granddaughters were no longer be separated from each other and were living together with their mother under the same house.
My sister moved away from Kuala Lumpur hoping for a brighter and happier future, but it seemed like life didn’t want to be easy on her. Now, she doesn’t have the house or the shop lot anymore because the bank had auctioned off both her house and shop lot to pay back the huge amount of debt she owed to the bank.
While living with my sister, my parents continued to help her to clean up the house, did the cooking, gardening, washing the laundry for everyone and sending the children to school. My sister thought that she didn’t need to give any money to my parents for looking after her children, but instead, she thought that my parents should contribute some money, or pay her back by doing the house works and to serve her and her children, because my parents were living at her house.
I was totally speechless.
This didn’t make sense at all. While her children were living with us and my parents had to take care of them, she would give some money to my parents for taking care of her children and for feeding them. But when my parents were doing the same thing for her, but living in her house, and had to do more house work, and yet, my parents had to contribute money for being the servants of the house? If somebody hired a helper to do some house work, the helper would get to live in the house, would be fed and paid accordingly. It’s like telling the servant, “Since you are living and eating in my house, so you should give me some money and do all the house work in exchange.”
My parents never saw it as working for my sister when they look after the children and did all the house work for her. My parents loved their daughter and granddaughters. Out of love, my parents wanted to take care of them and do everything for them. For my parents, they did everything for us out of love, family love. Family never calculate how much we give and we don’t expect anything in return. But somehow their daughter took this love for granted. But yet, they didn’t mind at all. I totally understood my parents’ hearts, what were they thinking and feeling at that time.
I felt that it was unfair to my parents to do so much for my sister, but they were being treated like free servants, and had to pay for their stay in my sister house for food and accommodation. But, I respect their freedom to do what they wanted to do. They were happy giving all that they could give to my sister. My parents sympathized my sister had lost her husband and had to bring up two young children all by herself. It was very difficult for my sister to work and look after the children at the same time. I could understand that.
My parents had the freedom on how they wanted to use the money that I gave them every month. I couldn’t and shouldn’t dictate how they should spend their pocket money although it was coming from me. Once I gave away the money, it’s up to them about how they wanted to use it. But I convinced my parents that they didn’t need to tell my sister how much money that I gave them every month because I knew my sister would ‘borrow’ all the money that they had, and spent the money recklessly. They listened to me. They received the money from me every month without telling my sister how much I gave them, but they continued to help out my sister’s living expenses silently with their pocket money, without letting her knew about it. How great was that parents’ love!
Sometimes my sister didn’t have enough money to get the daily needs. And hence, my parents were using their own pocket money to do the grocery shopping without telling my sister that the petty cash for grocery shopping had finished, because they didn’t want my sister to get stressed out. This was how much our parents love us. They gave everything and never asked anything in return.
Though my parents showed lots of love and care to their granddaughters, they didn’t respect my parents at all. They shouted at my parents, especially to my mother after she was paralyzed. They ignored my mother when she asked them for something. When my sister didn’t have enough money to give to her daughters for their schooling expenses and daily pocket money, my parents would give their own pocket money to their granddaughters. But they didn’t know how to be grateful and thankful. Again, my parents didn’t mind at all. Sometimes they would cry in front of me and told me about what happened to them in my sister’s home. That was how I learned about what my parents had been going through while living with my sister.
There was a time, my parents had almost finished using their pocket money and my sister hadn’t been giving them money to buy rice and vegetables for some time. Every day she went out to work in the early morning and came home after midnight because she had another part time job as a guest relation officer in a karaoke night club in Seremban. She didn’t realize my parents hadn’t been cooking for a few days. My parents didn’t want to trouble me and didn’t tell me that they were running out of money. They didn’t want to ask money from my sister as well because they knew my sister already had no money to pay bills and all her installments for months. They didn’t tell my sister that there was no more rice in the house. They gave the scarce money that they had to their granddaughters to allow them to buy food at school, and my parents had been eating stale bread for many days, until I gave them their next pocket money. I had been giving them enough money for their living, but they spent all their money for their grandchildren and my sister. And they had to eat stale bread for many days instead. I felt so sad, so sad for my parents. And angry as well.
Many years had passed by, but my sister’s elder daughter didn’t get any better or wiser. She became worse. She couldn’t stop telling lies and stealing. One day she stole her friend’s ATM card and took out lots of money from her friend’s savings account. She bought many dresses, shoes and bags. She came home with all these new things, and told my parents and her mother that she had a rich boyfriend who bought her all these things. Sometimes she also brought some presents back for my sister, my parents and her sister, to show that she loved and cared for the family. She was only fourteen years old at that time. But my parents and my sister didn’t suspect anything.
Until one day, her friend’s mother found out that it was my niece who had been stealing her daughter’s money and came to see my sister and my father, and threatened to call the police. My father panicked. He cried and knelt down and begged to the woman not to call the police. He was afraid that his grandchild would be filed criminal record and wouldn’t have a future anymore. It’s a huge humiliation for a man to kneel down to a woman and beg for spareness. My sister also made a promise to the woman that she would slowly pay back all the stolen money. It was a huge amount for my sister as she already didn’t make enough money for living and she had lots of debts at that time. The woman sympathized with my sister’s situation and was moved by my father’s love for his grandchild, and therefore she agreed that she wouldn’t report to the police.
I believe that my niece wasn’t really bad. It wasn’t right to steal and couldn’t be excused under any circumstances. But I knew that she did it partly was because she was frustrated with the unfortunate and difficult condition of this family. There was always not enough money for food and for living, not to say to have any leisure and material enjoyments like what her friends had. She had been teased by her classmates for not having a father and living in poverty. She also wanted to be nice to the family and to be able to give something back to the family, to help out financially. But she went to the wrong way to get what she wanted.
My niece didn’t learn from this incident. She ended up getting pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl when she was sixteen years old. She didn’t even know that she was pregnant when she hadn’t been menstruating for more than four months. One day she felt sick and went to the hospital to seek doctor’s consultation and found out that she was pregnant. She broke up with the baby girl’s father not long after the baby girl was born, and went out with some other men. And now, my niece has two more young children from a relationship with a young man who didn’t want to accept her elder daughter from the previous relationship. Anyway, their relationship didn’t turn out well. And so, my sister has to look after these two young grandchildren who were very unhappy being caught up in a broken family.
When my niece gave birth to her first baby girl, my sister was very happy to be a grandmother. So as my parents were very happy to be great-grandparents. They loved this great-grandchild so much. This baby girl certainly brought some joys into this family after they had been struggling with financial problems for a very long time. After her delivery, my niece didn’t know how to take care of a baby. Therefore, my sister became the baby’s full time nanny.
When this baby girl came into the family, it brought some relief and happiness to everyone, especially for my mother. She felt so happy seeing her great-grandchild. When she was looking at this little baby girl, her sadness from suffering paralysis and being shouted at by her husband, her daughter and the two grandchildren were all gone. My mother would cry when she told me about how she was being treated when I wasn’t there, but she would smile when she talked about her great-grandchild. It was her happiest moments in the last two months of her life.
On the 24th of December, 2006, my sister called me while I was teaching my morning yoga class at home. She told me that our mother had passed away in the hospital. The last time I saw my mother was a few weeks before she died. In that final conversation which I had with my mother in private, I told her that she didn’t need to worry for us anymore, that she should let go. I told her that I love her very much, as well as our entire family also love her very much. I also asked her what she would like to do with her funeral. And she told me that she wanted to be cremated and the funeral should be held in Kuala Lumpur, so that her friends could come to see her for one last time. The last few words that she told me were we should always give without expect anything in return but we must repay others for being kind to us, and always be humble and forgiving.
I told my sister over the phone about what our mother had told me. And we followed exactly what she wanted us to do.
I went to the hospital in Seremban with my brothers and my sister-in-law. I saw my mother’s dead body lying on a table. She looked so peaceful as if she was smiling. I held her hands and gently rubbed her hands, her arms and her face with my fingers. I kissed her cheek and forehead. Goodbye, mother. Thank you.
I didn’t cry. Not until a few months later, I started to cry. For all the love that she gave me and to the family. Her wisdom and compassion. Her patience and forbearance. Her forgiveness and generosity. I realized how much I missed her then. But I had to let her go.
No matter what had happened in the past, who’s right, who’s wrong,
and who’d suffered most, I wish my family love and peace, and be able to
forgive and let go. Forgive ourselves and others for being imperfect.
Forgive life wasn’t as easy as how we would like it to be.