• Koreen Liew-Young

Remembering her...one year on



I had sent my mother flowers on her birthday. For someone who never asked for anything other than for her family to be well and happy, I wanted her to feel special. I still remember Skyping her, with my husband and then two-year-old son singing "Happy Birthday" in the most out-of-tune way possible to make her laugh. She laughed, but I did notice she seemed tired.

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I remember not knowing how to process the news, knowing that I had to board a plane first thing in the morning. Then changing our tickets for the whole family to go. The air steward handed me tissues throughout the flight, not needing to ask what was wrong.

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I remember the hospital. I remember our family and talking to the doctors. I remember singing "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)", praying and holding her hand as I tried to come to grips with reality. Then we said our goodbyes.

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I remember the excruciating pain of returning home knowing she was not there anymore. Knowing that she would not greet me with a beaming smile from her work desk. I howled into the night as my family embraced me. I could not eat, I could not drink as the pain was overwhelming. I had been told grief was like waves crashing down on top of me. I felt like I was drowning in my despair. People came and went dropping off food and flowers. Those next days just passed like a haze. As we prepared for her celebration. And celebrate her we did. A chinese tradition of an envelope given out at her service and inside was a tissue to wipe away the tears, candy to sweeten the bitter taste of death and coins for luck to send you on your way.

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I remember this was a year of firsts. First Mothers Day, first birthdays, first family holiday, first Christmas. All without her. Many people reached out, those who have lost before and despite the pain, choosing to move forward and empathise with others which I was thankful for. They told me, you may never get over a loss like this, but the crying does get further and further apart. I sought out counselling as I found that I needed to step back from my commitments and allow myself to have capacity for those triggers and waves of unsuspecting grief. To be kind to myself.

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I remember this week we celebrated her birthday. I spent time with my Dad, singing favourite songs, like "Hallelujah" and "You Raise Me Up" and The Seekers and The Carpenters soothed our hearts. We fed her worm farm, not quite as meticulous as she did but as well as we could. We ate all her favourite foods of sushi and Chinese dishes such as white flower chicken and vegetarian delight surrounded by a close knit circle of friends and family. We watched down her Powerpoint with a collection of photos and that told the story celebrating her life. I pulled my son in close, telling him the intricate stories that were attached to each photograph that he was too young or not around to remember. I broke away to recompose myself only to return to my son running towards me with the tears streaming down his face. He understood our pain of missing her and we shared an embrace together with my Dad.

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I remember, we returned to Auckland and we rode up the escalator at mall. Groceries in the trolley with son sitting in the child seat. He was belting out "You Raise Me Up" at the top of his lungs. The people travelling on the opposite side down, chuckled at his singing ability, not knowing what the significance of that song was. I was deeply touched and I hope that I can continue to tell him stories of what a remarkable woman his "Por Por"* was.

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We remember her...and honour her today.

*maternal grandmother

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