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Two years

Dear sister,
You have left us for two years now. March 12, 2011, the day you died. I remember this was how our uncle comforted mom.

You passed away just one day after the tsunami in Japan where thousands or is it millions of people got washed away into the sea. So uncle said,” just think of Angela as one of the tsunami victims.” I don’t think that is much comfort at all. On the contrary, I think it is a very inconsiderate thing to say, as if he is making light of your death. I know he meant well though.

Two years you have left us and I still dream about you so often. I will go through weeks that I dream of you pretty much everyday or every other day and then weeks that I don’t dream of you at all.

A few days after visiting you at the mausoleum the last time, which was around Chinese New Year, I had a dream about you. One of the good ones. In the dream, both of us were wearing the traditional Chinese dress. You were wearing a black and dark blue one and had your hair done up in two tiny buns on the side of your head. Someone was doing up the buttons on the dress for you and I said to you ” Angela, you look so pretty!”, and you smiled your big, beautiful, sunny smile that everyone who knew you loved. And then I knew that you are okay, wherever you are, you are happy and you are okay.

I remember about a month before you were diagnosed, my right eye lid began to jerk involuntarily for quite long at a time, about 10 minutes at a time, every day for many times a day and I was beginning to get concerned. It was not one of those weak jerks. They were jerks that you could feel when you put your finger on the eyelid. This went on for a whole month, I would say and I actually called the family doctor and was advised to see him if this continued. And then soon after that, the jerks stopped but the a few days or was it weeks after, we learned of your dire diagnosis.

Before this, I was very skeptical of the folk belief in China and Taiwan, that if a female’s right eye lid jerks, then it is bad news. For men, it would the left eye lid. But since then, I have come to give this mystic belief more thoughts than ever before.

Did you know that last summer, my right eye lid began jerking again, which in the past, I would simply dismiss as another strange way the body works. But after what happened to you, I started to wonder if anything bad was going to happen again. I believe the intensity and frequency and how long the jerks last co-relate with the severity of the incidents that will befall. Now last summer, the jerks were milder, not as strong and lasted for only about one day. But then you know what happened the next day? or a few days after? I tripped and fell on the way upstairs while holding a glass bottle of Jason’s milk and the glass shattered and cut the palm of my hand quite badly, bad enough that I had to go to emergency to get stitches. I can’t remember how many stitches. I just remember that it was 3am when I finally a doctor was available to sew me up and the doctor told me before he gave me the anesthetics that I can shout and swear (did he say I could swear or did I imagine that?) but I had to stay absolutely still. The shot was the most painful shot I got, because it was right on my palm. Of course not as bad as childbirth but I digress. Anyway I remember thinking as I was getting the shot, which felt like forever but was probably just a few minutes, how brave you were. You went through three brain surgeries in one year. I remember just after the second surgery, you were reclining on the couch, resting and you told me how much the shot on your wrist hurt. You said it was soooooooo painful. So as the doctor was giving that shot, I was telling myself, if Angela can do it, so can I.

Ashley, your daughter, came over for a playdate just this past weekend. She is doing well and getting to be such a big girl. She loves dancing and says she wants to be a ballerina. She is a smart girl but doesn’t look like you at all which is a petty. I try to find traces of you in her but hard as I try, I can’t see it. I hope someday I will see you in her.

Our big sister planted a tree to remember you as March 12 is tree planting day in Taiwan. I hope you have received the tree.

We love you very much and think of you everyday. You are still alive in our thoughts, memories and words, our conversations. I am also keeping you alive by wearing your clothes. I wear the pajama pants you left behind, the winter jacket I got you because it was such a good deal and I gave it to you as a surprise even though there was no special occasion, I wear the dress that you bought from Taiwan at your honeymoon trip. I wore your boots but they wore out so quickly and only outlived you by about an year.

I have quite a fashion sense now and a style of my own. You would have loved my style. I wish you could see my new wardrobe with all the new items I got since you passed away. Remember we used to show each other every new buy we got?

It is very nice catching up with you. I know you are doing well wherever you are and I still maintain that we will see each other some day, next life.

Oh,,, one thing you left behind, yes, the unpleasant “side effect” of your death is my insecurity. I can’t shake off the fear that something awful may happen to me or my loved ones, my boys, parents and husband. I have to restrain myself from going into this abysmal of fear of the unknown and the fear of the terribly impossible, which was what happened to you, the terribly impossible made possible.

But well… it is something I am not going to fight off but something I am going to coach myself through. Yes, life is full of the unpredictable, unfortunately both good and bad. I just have to live everyday to the fullest and be prepared for whatever is to come. Certainly easier said than done but nevertheless, something that I have to strive for.

Our happiness is very real and yet very fragile. It can be shattered any minute. A car accident, an illness….etc. anything but we just have to pray for the best and let the rest go.

Love you forever, my sis.

Please visit me in my dream anytime you like and tell me anything you like in my dream. We shall meet again.

Your loving and loyal sister.

dreams

I continue to have dreams about my sister. A lot of them actually. The dreams sadly are reflecting the reality, the reality of her absence. I can’t remember the details of my dreams, but they all end with her absence.

In a recent dream about her, my sister and I were waiting to get on the airplane. We were both cheerful and excited about the trip. At the last minute, something came up, and she just had to take care of it first. So she decided to leave me in a hurry to go on the plane alone. So I boarded alone. I remember it was a very empty plane.

Another one was at home, I was talking to my husband’s family and I blurted out my sister name, twice, calling her name out loud. Everyone was looking at me weirdly, not saying anything and I started crying, running up the stairs for escape and yelled out on the way ” well, I have been thinking about her and I can’t help it!”, then I woke up, my mouth wide open in a gape of agony, tears streaming down my cheeks. That also happens a lot. The tears touching my cheeks and the sniffling would wake me up from my dreams.

So you see, the dreams are really not much relief from reality. They just confirm her absence.

rain

It is a Sunday morning. I am lying awake in the wee hours of the morning. My son had waken me up when he got up to go to the washroom and now I can’t sleep. I lay awake listening to the sound of the rain outside. I like the sound of the rain, its rhythm and beat. Today the rain sounds soothing. I hear the rain and I see my sister and I, little girls, no more than ten, walking together, one of her arms looping around my arm. We are walking together in the rain, under an umbrella. I am holding the umbrella. We are chatting and smiling, half skipping, half walking in the rain.

My sister and I. When we were growing up, my sister and I loved walking in the rain. When mom sent us outside for some quick chores, like taking out the garbage when it was raining, we would grab an umbrella, quickly dropping the trash on the curb and started our walk down the street. The street in front of our house when we were growing up had a dead end. There was usually hardly any traffic and the neighbourhood kids would play on the street. My sister and I would walk together in the rain, under the umbrella. We loved listening to the rain coming down on the umbrella, the pitter patter of the rain. We also loved the puddles of course. Together under the umbrella, we felt like we were the only two people in the world, safe under the umbrella. We would walk to the end of the street, and then back home again, back to reality.

The dead end has since gone. Now it is a busy street with heavier traffic and last time I went back home, I did not hear any kids playing.

Holiday season

Lying awake at dawn, trying to get back to sleep. My sister creeps into my thoughts again. It is often in the quiet of early morning and late night, when there is no distraction, that she comes to me.

The holiday season is especially hard for those who’s lost a loved one. This is the time that you feel their absence more keenly, painfully and acutely than ever. You see their absence around the Christmas tree, around the dinner table when the whole family gathers round, the clinking of glasses that is missing one “cheers!”.

The holiday season is no longer pure joy, it now has a tinge of bitterness.

Still missing you

I still dream about my sister all the time. In my dreams, she always ends up rejecting us in someway. She is either leaving us or dying. I guess this is my way to process the fact of her death, through the many of her deaths that I have to face in my dreams.

On some level, I still cannot believe she is gone. I don’t know if ever I will truly comprehend what has happened.

Buddhists say that death is part of life so there is nothing to mourn about what death comes. It makes sense to me but it is still hard to accept death.

Death is terrible in its finality. There is no negotiating, no second chances and no hope. When you die, you die. There is no ands, ifs or buts. It is final in every sense.

When someone dear to you dies, you start to find some comfort in other people’s sad stories. It sounds morbid but it is true. You feel better when you read stories about a certain young person who died from a car accident, about people who died from all those horrible shootings, from people who also died from cancer. Not that you actually feel good about their losses, you just feel better because you are not the only one that has lost a dear one.

I remember telling my parents about a recent Yale graduate who died from a car accident, a mere 22 year old. Yes, younger than my sister, and yes, her death was sudden while at least, we had time to adjust, to prepare, and yes, her terrible tragic death does bring some comfort to us, because someone had it worse.

Losing someone truly dear to you is hard. There is no end to mourning. You soon realize it is going to stay with you for life, this feeling of loss.

a year after…

March 12th, 2011, my sister left us and today is March 12th, 2012.
Just like that, a year has passed since she left.
She left us once and she left us many times. In this past year, she passed away many times in my dream. In my dream, I had to face her death over and over again. Everytime, the emotions I felt were as raw as the first time she left us.

Today, I went to the mausoleum where only her ashes remain. I know she is not there anymore. I know her spirit has left us the day she died. But the feeling that on this special day something has to be done is urgent. Something that marks my remembrance of her. I stood in front of her little cubicle in the mausoleum, looking at her smiley face on the modern urn that her husband had selected, talking to her. I chanted some sutras and told her that I have come to “see” her even though I know she isn’t there anymore, has long gone.

The death of my sister is slowly becoming a fact of a life, slowly etching into stones. A few more years and then decades after, it would be like she has never been alive. It sounds awful but she really passed away too young and there will be so many years of living (assuming all goes well with me) with the fact of her death so definite.

This is what I fear the most. I fear that her living will be overshadowed by her death. But thinking about her living is like calling her back from the grave. I have to dig up and dredge up emotions and memories, picking at the scar that will forever be there, until, until what? until it starts to bleed again? Does that prove that I love her then? I think she knew and still does that I love her and will always love her. Why does it feel like I have betrayed her when my eyes no longer smart when I think of her, when the slightest hint of music no longer brings tears to my eyes? Does the degree and duration of mourning prove someone’s love?

All I know is, I have loved her, still love her and will always love her. I think of her everyday and always will.
And that is love.

Goodbye my dear dearest sister. I still can’t believe you have left us but the fact of your death is already establishing.

We are well, my sister and I so regret that you have left us. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I think of you everyday and number of times that I thought, “oh, only if you were here”. and that is how I am keeping you alive, my love.

how are you, my sister?

Dear sister:

How is it going with you over there wherever your are, probably in heaven with Buddha?

We are all doing well here. Mom still get can’t get over the fact that you died so young. I mean, who can get over that? But mom takes it hard. She just recently went to a monk who is also a “psychic” and of course she asked about you. He said that she would see you again soon. Mom of course thought it would be after she dies and you two will meet in heaven but the monk said, “no, not like that” and left it at that. You know how psychics are. They are all very wishy washy. So mom did not press. BUt we are all guessing that our big sister will have a baby soon one of these days and her baby will be your reincarnate. I think that is a probable guess.

Many things have happened since you left us but really nothing much happened. We are just like our old selves. Mom and sis still fight. Mom and dad still fight sometimes. I still work for the same school and love my boys like crazy.

It has been almost a year since you left and there are so many things I want to tell you. BIg sis got married! Yep, finally. And very much like something she would do, she got married very very soon after she met the guy. They met only around the time you passed away and got married only a mere 9 months after they met and did you know that they were actually members of the same environmentalist club in college? They reconnected through Facebook and started seeing each other regularly after meeting up at a mutual friend’s wedding, a friend that also went to the same college. So we have a big brother in law now and he is a nice guy, you would like him.

This past Christmas, Christmas, 2011, Kevin and I flew back to Taiwan to attend her wedding. I cried a little bit when the plane took off at Pearson, suddenly remembering the last time the two of use flew back to Taiwan together and how we should have been taking this trip together. That was ten years ago when we flew back. We were both in college then. So young and oblivious of what was awaiting.

Kevin and I had a fantastic trip. We didn’t take the kids. I know, I know what you are thinking. Really? How could I leave the boys, me, the crazy, clingy mom? I know I know. I dreaded this trip months before just because I would have to leave the kids for so long. But it was the right choice. I spent some real quality time with mom and dad and big sis and Kevin. I actually didn’t miss the kids all that much. People are very adaptive and forgetful.

Did you know that mom cried at both big sister’s wedding and engagement? She tried so hard to stifle and swallow her tears and it was so hard to see her like that. I almost wished she had just broken down and had a good cry. We both knew that she was thinking about you and how it was only three years ago that she was at your wedding and how the whole family should have been together that day.

Big sis was very beautiful at the wedding and so was I! Ha, I know what you are thinking. Your voice is ringing in my ears now. I know you will be saying or singing the song reserved for me, of how boastful I can be. Nobody has sung that song for me since you left so I sometimes sing it to me for you.

Did you know that our strong big sis who we thought was absolutely strong, unfazed by the news of your diagnosis actually cried and cried for hours in front of the shrine at home after hearing of your diagnosis and bawled her eyes out for the entire night the day you passed away?

Did you know that I have started a blog about you so that I will always always always remember you? Did you know that I miss you and think of you everyday? Did you know that I cry here and there like a leaking faucet? Yeah, the sis that prided herself in not crying easily now cries quite readily. Did you know that I have dates with you in my dreams? Yeah, we have gone to many places together already on these dates. Last night, we went to Paris. And some nights, we were back in Taiwan taking all those trips with mom and dad, just the five of us, like old times.

Did you know that dad felt your presence the night after your service? He was sleeping with Ashley and Ashley woke up and dad woke up and he felt your presence and he talked to you in his mind, telling you to just take a last look at Ashley and then you should go and we will be alright. He then meditated and prayed for you until he no longer felt your presence.

Did you really come back that night? I think you did.

Did you remember the Williams’ Coffee Pub in our neighbourhood plaza? Well…it closed soon after you passed away. Remember all the times we went there? You were the first one that took us there because there was one in GUelph where you went for college. Oh, and the bubble tea place. What was it called again? I can’t remember and Kevin can’t remember its name. I bet you remember the name. BUt anyway, it closed down too, a few weeks before you passed away. Remember all the times we went there when you were sick because it was close by and we could just wheel you there? The drinks were good but the food was horrible.

Did you know that Kevin and I went to a real nice fancy restaurant. Yep, real fine dining. A student’s dad gave me a gift card for Christmas. Remember when you were studying at HAFA and your team had to create a fine dining experience with a real life menu and table service? Mom and dad went to your team’s “restaurant” to sample the food. You were the team leader and made a speech after. I remember how proud mom and dad were of you.

Did you know that Kevin quit the car industry? and now he is working as a realtor?

Did you know that Jason had a seizure too earlier this month too? And when I found out in school, I just burst into tears in front of everyone, thinking of you and the worst and how it must be a curse. After tests that sound all too familiar, he is okay. It is just febrile seizure. Seizures caused by fever.
Did you know that I didn’t even tell mom this? because I know it would be too much for her. I don’t want her to worry.

Did you know that I had an oral wart on my tongue that our dentist removed for me? Remember how good a dentist he is? Remember the years that we went to see him together? when we were in high school? Well, he is just as good and for this removal, I did not even need any painkiller. It was painless. Oh yeah, did you know that your name is still on the receipt our dentist prints out for me? You know how they always have this “so and so’s appointment is on such and such date?” Well.. your name is still on there because for some reason, our records are still together after all these years. And on the receipt, it always says “( your name) will make an appointment” or something like that, and I just don’t have the heart to tell them to just delete your file because I like seeing your name on it. It makes me feel you are still around, in this world. I don’t want to delete you.

Did you know that your name is still in my secondary beneficiary spot in my life insurance? And no, I didn’t tell them to change it.

Did you know that I see Ashley at least once a month and usually once every two weeks, like I promised you? Did you know your husband can still be very #@$##%$#%#^%$^? I don’t think I should get into him here.

Did you know Ashley still doesn’t look anything like you but I think she may in time? Ashley is growing up fast. She is happy and healthy and your husband loves her to bits and she is in good hands. She will be just just fine.

It has been so long since I talked you. I miss that, talking to you. Did you know I sometimes still started dialling your number before I caught myself? Anyway, this is what has been happening here. What about you?

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