Thursday, September 29, 2011


Early this month, I had three events to go to: a wedding of a friend’s daughter, a colleague’s dad’s funeral and a neighbour’s mother’s birthday celebration. The first week of this month kind of sum up three major events in life : Getting married,  growing old and death. They may invoke different sentiments and emotions,they are all celebrations of different points of life. How we feel about these events is very much dependent on our respective beliefs or  school of thoughts and of course our sentiments and state of mind.

Marina Wharf, Penang
The wedding ceremony was held on the beach. The wedding party was bestowed with sunny weather and clear blue sky so for all who attended the ceremony and the reception should  count themselves lucky to have weather that held since it had been raining cats and dogs for days just before the wedding. In Malaysia, the weather is either hot and humid or rainy or stormy. In the past month smog or haze had been our nemesis in this part of the world. I cannot recall if this is usually so at this time of the year. These days, the weather has become rather unpredictable. In his speech during the reception, the father of the bride apologized for putting the guests through the heat although he had tried to place more fans around the beach hoping to provide some cooling effects. The father of bride was emotional and it reminded me of the movie “ Father of the Bride” where Steve Martin acted in. For some reasons, most fathers are protective dads to their daughters and most girls are always their dads’ little girls. In recent years, getting married at thirty two years old is becoming common but not two decades ago when I got married at thirty-two. So if at all my late dad felt emotional, it must have been the feeling of relief that he could finally give me away. I would think of myself as ahead of my time rather than a late bloomer though I am indeed a late bloomer as in starting to take writing seriously or coming out of cinderella complex etc. At times I might have felt misplaced with people of my generation while I would fit in nicely with people a decade or two younger than me. I reckon when we speak about eras, we think that we are referring to specific age groups or people from certain period of time but some individuals in these age groups may transpose or transcend beyond their eras; so  maybe  there is no time line in reality.

The birthday celebration was a big bash where a neighbour diligently held for his mother who was in her eighties. The age of the woman could be a little confusing as Chinese believe that the digit  nine is a tricky one so when one is nearing the digit nine as in sixty-nine or seventy-nine, one’s age would be stated as seventy or eighty. As a result, the neighbour’s mother would prematurely age one or two years just to get ahead of the record kept by the universe. I think a birthday is always a good enough reason to celebrate regardless of whether one has reached a milestone or attained any achievements. It is a day to mark that one has gained another year of experience in life and it is an anniversary of one’s birth. I view birthdays as an event which is important enough to call for a celebration and I would not let them pass as another day. Whether or not we celebrate our birthdays with friends or alone, we must try to do something memorable or a least give ourselves a little treat.

As a rule, both weddings and birthdays are happy occasions and funerals are not. At a funeral ,the atmosphere is somber and sad as the living mourn for their loss and think about how they will miss the departed and how they will deal with the lacuna left behind by the absence of the departed. A Chinese funeral usually includes a wake, a burial and  church services or Buddhist  or Taoist rites depending on the faiths and religious beliefs of the respective families of the departed. Friends, associates and relatives of the departed  attend and pay respect to the latter and condolences to the family. In the sequel to the Chinese movie “非诚勿扰fei cheng wu rao (Do not disturb if not sincere) a movie directed by Xiao Gang Feng, invites were sent out by  the protagonist for a funeral party which turned out to be a farewell party for his best buddie who was dying from melanoma. One can imagine what a teary affair it is for all those who attend the party.

Ultimately, the family and  loved ones of the departed will have to find the strength within themselves to carry on and only time might heal the pain of losing the departed. Keeping alive memories of the departed may not be the best way but so often we tend to commit to our memory what we remember about all the things we had ever shared with the departed. Human brains have a tendency to distort experiences and events and so often we find ourselves reconstructing events of the past to the extent of romanticizing the departed.

We are fully aware that life is fragile and finite so nothing should matter yet everything matters. We remind ourselves that everything changes and yet nothing ever changes because it is often only a matter of perception and time and place. However transitory our life is , we cannot help thinking, scheming and   going about all our undertakings diligently. While we ponder how transient our existence is , we resolve not to compulsively feel forlorn about our failings nor become too attached to the people and  all things we hold dear to . I shall quote one of Andy Warhol ‘s muses : “ I never think that people die. They just go to department stores.” How wonderful if  it were true.



  1. The bunches of grapes against the pebbles captured the 3 phases of life we each travel through, you pictured so well. I've come to celebrate each day as special in the knowledge that it's a gift. The past is a memory, the future is our imagination, and only the present is real, to be enjoyed fully in all it's beauty filled with friends, smiles and tears. I'm happy to know you.
    Nancy MacMillan

  2. Hi Nancy Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment . Yes ' only the present is real..." So true.