J..a story in progress

WPShe left on the 22nd of June 2018, 8 days after her birthday on the 14th. At 12:18. Her life partner was holding her non stop since the 18th, her final check-in to the hospital, but she chose to slip off quietly. Alone, independently, the second she was left on her own.

I received a call from the hospital, I was her listed go-to person incase of emergencies, but I was miles away, on the way back from Sulawesi, end of an unsuccessful dive trip. I was in a taxi on the way to lunch, a quick stop before the airport for my flight back to Singapore, with some new found friends. I gave alternative numbers to the hospital to call, I felt things weren’t good but there was nothing I could do. I went on deliberately and purposefully to do what I had set out to do, have my lunch, angrily ignoring all thoughts and fears. I even ate a lobster, had a glasses of wine.  I kept looking into the oceans..

How do you say goodbye to 35 years of friendship? It wasn’t perfect, it was intense, at times, unreasonable, unfair, there was betrayal, broken promises, sadness and a big dose of selfishness.

We had an amazing 25 years, it was not smooth, she had mood swings, not easy to work with at all, possibly maybe me with my Sun and Moon in Virgo somehow managed. 10 years of sorrow followed. 25 years that brought us from a $25 start up to when she left, many many times that.  10 years of separation, she in Hong Kong, trying to strike up new life, me in Singapore, saddled with the need to reinvent the company amidst the teutonic shift in the economy.  10 years when we both had to find our own way forward, we both sank into depths of unbelievable sadness and despair, apart and not sharing much what was happening to each of us.

In all aspects, I should be so lucky that we had a flawless run up to her death in the last 2 weeks.  We met intermittently, we had quiet conversations and on some days she just wanted me to sit next to her holding her hand, which was very small and very warm, the nails blackened by so many cycles of chemo that the oncologist said we have ran out of options.  On another day, she asked me to help put her feet into socks and sandals and drive her to the hospital, her little feet (size 36), still small, but bloated with water retention, again, the nails gnarled and disfigured.  One early morning, we met at the Forum at Orchard Road, had a early cup of coffee and as she wanted to shop at Club 21, like how we used to in the old days. That was the last time we went shopping like in the old times and it felt just like times past.

Then, we had dinner together, the 3 of us, her partner, herself and me on the 14th, on her birthday, her oncologist gave her a home leave to do just that.  She was excited to eat foie gras, it was the only thing she wanted and could (to the angry animal welfare types, I apologise, but,  her teeth were almost all gone you see with the many rounds of chemo).  I dropped her at the hospital after that, for her blood transfusion.  In the quiet of my car, she pensively told me she had only 8 years with her partner…I felt quite broken, I told her she was leaving me with too much memories.  Quietly she patted my knee and said, of course, we have had more than 30 years between us…

Is there a need to do that really? Find a meaning to the sorrow I’m feeling, I mean. Ms X told me that ‘it was never an equal friendship to begin with, you’ve always loved, cared and did more.’ Ms Y told me at Sulawesi that if things happen, I ‘should have no remorse or regret, I’ve done what I could have, always, and more..’ Ms Z told me quietly if there was a single blessing in J’s life, then, that would be me (Ms Z who has been with us all these decades or more, in clear view of all the ups/downs, good times and the bad),

All very true and very kind, but did that stop the pain and missing?

The 10 years of sorrow started innocently enough, a break up, her urge to meet someone new after a heart breaking relationship here in Singapore, thoughts of expanding on our business led to her decision to relocate to Hong Kong.  The thoughts were noble but in reality, times have changed and things have become more difficult.

Our thriving business, now struggling due to changing landscapes , I was alone. I sank into depression, drank too much, struggling to stay alive, keeping everything going, pay all staff and bills.

In the beginning, our mantra was, if one of us was gone, the other needn’t soldier on. At the lowest point of my life, all I could think of was, but that was then, and long forgotten…by one, but I kept the faith till the end.

With her increasing ill health, everything changed.  Now, it’s not just her passing that I’m mourning for, but my own mortality and the passage of time, of times gone by, good times, times of growth, discovery, achievement, times when the whole wide world was opening up to us, times when we travelled to so many parts of the world.  The horrible times? Can’t quite pin them down, when people around me remind me of them..I’d go oh ya ya…that’s all.  The beginning, however, was pure and true, that is history, that will remain unchanged.

On the 19th, Tuesday, mid morning, whilst I struggling with my PADI course in Sulawesi, a call came through from Singapore. Her life partner, wise beyond her years, chose to put the call through, telling me she was slipping into coma, she just wanted to let me know..I asked to have the phone held to her ears and I told her clearly and solemnly that I loved her, that despite all that has happened (during our lowest point), I have no regrets and, if, I were to live my life again, I would do everything in exactly the same way. She said ‘ok, thank you’, I told her to rest and that was that.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, they will have remain so.

Weeks later, her life partner told me that she was in a bit of a struggle in the hospital but after I spoke to her for the last time, she laid down to rest with a certain calm, that, is my just reward, one of the best line I’ve heard for a very long time.  Perhaps for all I have done, though not spoken, there was a thought for me?

Meanwhile as I go about my work, driving past Balestier Road (our first rented office unit), Jalan Besar (where I had to go to send out faxes as we could not afford one), my current office at Joo Seng (which we bought and had a big opening, I still remember the delicious buffet we had) … thousands of events in 35 years, each marking me for life, how do I live with that?

[4/5/2018, 13:07:31] JJ Chen: Dr Wong, I had a bad bad fall yesterday. Bruises n pain .. just reach Beach Rd home. Done my blood test include cancer marking. Rest for awhile. Will do a check call to clinic at 2pm.

(beginning of the march to the end)

[16/4/2018, 20:05:16] Dr Karmen Wong: You believe in Jesus

[16/4/2018, 20:11:26] JJ Chen: Yes of course! Just browsing the trip pictures n the happy memories before I got sick. Just a joke la.

(her last Japan trip when she told her friend, Ms M, that all her dreams came true..so happy she was)

[20/5/2018, 13:33:32] JJ Chen: Thank you! Now that I sold all my shares to Cynthia, I invest on other opportunity. Grace will run all the businesses we have in HK. As for me, I pray for God’s calling for me and I will obey and do His Will. I trained Grace for many years. She will make it without me. My path will be known soon!

(i’m glad you left with your dreams fulfilled and approaching it with so much bravery, it seems petty but most times i wonder where i figured in your thoughts)

[14/6/2018, 08:24:54] JJ Chen: Morning! I wish to go back home for day leave. Please approve so that I can leave asap. Many thanks!

[14/6/2018, 09:06:38] Dr Karmen Wong: Happy birthday Jenny.
Have a rest at home

[14/6/2018, 10:10:02] JJ Chen: Thank you!

(we had our last dinner)

[18/6/2018, 16:08:46] JJ Chen: I am also losing my eyesight

(i don’t think i’ll ever get over how much you went through in the last 48 hours, i will always feel i should have been there, again, am i forgiven? or is it God’s will as Ms Z said? coz i would not be able to hold up)

So you stepped off as I was flying home…. 22/6/18 12:18

[23/6/2018, 13:04:42] JJ Chen: Wake is at
Church of the Holy Spirit
248 Upper Thomson Rd Singapore 574371

In the end all her dreams did come true, Ms Y said she is lucky still..she had people, she had resources.

When we were young and starting out, working out of her HDB at Marine Crescent (overlooking the lovely sea at the 17th floor), she’d dream, one day she’d like to buy a penthouse overlooking the same view and do nothing but trade.

Years later, in ’05, when she first moved to Hong Kong, from a broken relationship here in Singapore, to 3 consecutive less than perfect relationships..before she found happiness.

In retrospect, I feel she was very much alone, the loneliness was quite palpable, though I made trips up to see her to settle some company’s stuff now and then, there was always so much fanfare and excitement on her part, the day to day of evolving to a new life could to have been easy.  She was loud and troublesome but on hindsight, she seldom talked about what’s deep inside her, it was not work (we at the office made sure of that by taking care of everything), it was the sheer loneliness and disappointment in her personal life.

That was when she started to dabble in investments, attended courses, picked tips from friends on investments.

As her portfolio grew, along with her confidence, she also morphed into a settled soul and met her soul mate, who turned her last 8 years into the happiest possible, living the dream she envisioned some 3 decades ago.  Living in an apartment overlooking the sea, with her family of cats and dogs, making a living of investments and properties.  Just not in Singapore, but in Hong Kong.

I’m happy and proud of her.

She has always been known to be ‘that troublesome friend’ but her approach to death was anything but.  She was quiet, calm, dignified, expressed no fears or tears.  Told her life partner on one last night at her last stay in Gleneagles, as she was awaken by her tears.. to ‘mo hum la’ (translated, please stop crying).  She never spoke of any fear, there was such a quiet strong resolve.  She told me once she never was going to live like she was going to die, she was just going to do her work (investments).  Many have urged to to pack up, travel, relax, she told me she is relaxing already, unlike me, she can simply stop when she gets tired.

Not demanding of my time even as she was aware she was running out of hers, just reminding me every so often if possible, spend a little bit more time with her.

In the final 2 years, I would pray everyday for God’s intervention if it were His will..I would gladly give me 10 years of my life for 5 more years of hers…one day after she was gone, in the midst of my prayers, I realised..I have already..I have been rebuilding the sinking ship and steering it into another direction with my sheer will that I cannot fail..

I’m still  at it.

Now I look to you, Jenni, to pray for me.

For now, nothing speaks to me more succinctly than Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again
Damn, who knew all the planes we flew
Good things we’ve been through
That I’ll be standing right here
Talking to you about another path I
Know we loved to hit the road and laugh
But something told me that it wouldn’t last
Had to switch up look at things different see the bigger picture
Those were the days hard work forever pays now I see you in a better place
How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gonna be with me for the last ride
It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again
First you both go out your way
And the vibe is feeling strong and what’s
Small turn to a friendship, a friendship
Turn into a bond and that bond will never
Be broken and the love will never get lost
And when brotherhood come first then the line
Will never be crossed established it on our own
When that line had to be drawn and that line is what
We reach so remember me when I’m gone
How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gonna be with me for the last ride
So let the light guide your way hold every memory
As you go and every road you take will always lead you home
It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again



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