Elton John sang “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”, but I beg to differ. “Goodbye” is infinitely more difficult, especially when it’s for forever. I know that as Christians, we believe that we will get to meet our loved ones again in heaven, but I’m not writing this post to talk about heaven or religion. I’m writing this post because I’m still hurting from the loss of my confinement lady, Auntie Mei Hua, and writing is the only way I know how to deal with the pain right now.
Auntie Mei Hua was the best confinement lady I could have asked for, and I truly thank God for bringing her into my life. I wrote a post about her when Noah was four weeks old, and reading it again brought back so many fond memories. I know it seems weird to be so attached to someone whom I only spent four weeks with, but you see, she helped me through the most challenging part of my motherhood journey thus far.
Before I gave birth, all I worried about was being able to get pregnant (see our IVF story for the background story on this), and staying pregnant. I honestly didn’t really think much about how I would look after a newborn, because that seemed like a faraway dream, so when I finally got to hold Noah in my arms, I started panicking about how I was going to keep this baby alive. It was all so overwhelming, but Auntie Mei Hua was so calm, and constantly reassured me that I would be fine. She helped me with the breastfeeding, encouraged me to keep trying, and fed me plenty of warm milk as I struggled to nurse Noah. She taught me how to burp Noah properly, how to bathe the squalling newborn without dropping him into the water, how to change his poo-filled diapers, and how to soothe him. She gave me one of the wisest pieces of advice about parenting that I’ve ever heard, which I included in my post From Mums to Mums-to-Be yesterday. She said, “Not every day will be a good day. There will be tough days, when nothing seems to go right, but there will also be good days. Take one day at a time.” This really helped when I was having a particularly bad day with Noah, and I’m thankful for her wisdom and kindness towards me during those four weeks.
Auntie Mei Hua with Noah
When Auntie Mei Hua left after my confinement, I cried, not because I was afraid of handling Noah on my own, but because I thought I would never get to see her again. I had grown to love this petite lady over the 28 days that we spent together, and truly missed having her around. She told me that she was thinking of retiring, so that she could spend more time with her family, but promised to come back to do my confinement for me again, if and when I had another baby. That seemed like a long time away, but thankfully, I was able to see her again when my friends and godsis engaged her to be their confinement ladies, and I was so happy to be able to chat with her again.
A few months after we left for Australia, Auntie Mei Hua was diagnosed with cancer. I spoke to her over the phone a couple of times, telling her that I would pray for her, but I never told her how much she meant to me. We managed to “see” each other again when I spoke to her on FaceTime, and our last conversation was in December, when I called her on her son’s iPhone. She looked very frail, and her voice was weak, but it still didn’t strike me that we should make a trip down to Malacca to visit her. I kept thinking that she would be able to beat the cancer, that she would be fine, that she wouldn’t succumb so soon.
On Saturday, her daughter messaged me to inform me that Auntie Mei Hua had passed away on Friday. I was shocked, and told C about it immediately. When he hugged me and said, “I’m sorry. I know you loved her.”, the waterworks started. I cried for the wonderful lady whom I’ll never get to see again, and cried even more when I hugged Noah, remembering how she had helped me with him during those difficult newborn days. C offered to drive me down to Malacca so that I could attend her wake, and we made our way down that evening.
I broke down again when we were at the wake on Sunday morning, when we saw her photo there, and her lifeless body in the coffin. I ached for her family, who were clearly grieving and hurting badly, knowing that nothing I said or did would make a difference. Her daughter would never get to experience firsthand what a wonderful confinement lady her mother was, and her daughters-in-law would never know what a supportive mother-in-law she would have been.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” What an inadequate statement, because it is such a huge loss that they have suffered.
Goodbye, Auntie Mei Hua. I’m sorry we didn’t visit you before you left. May you rest in peace, free from the pain of cancer. You are dearly loved, and very much missed.
How Long Will The Pain Last? How long will the pain last?” a broken hearted mourner asked me. “All the rest of your Life.” I have to answer truthfully. We never quite forget.
No matter how many years pass, we remember. The loss of a loved one is like a major operation. Part of us is removed, and we have a scar for the rest of our lives. As years go by, we manage. There are things to do, people to care for, tasks that call for full attention. But the pain is still there, not far below the surface.
We see a face that looks familiar, hear a voice that echoes, see a photograph in someone’s album, see a landscape that once we saw together, and it seems as though a knife were in the wound again. But not so painfully. And mixed with joy, too. Because remembering a happy time is not all sorrow, it brings back happiness with it.
How long will the pain last? All the rest of your life. But the things to remember is that not only the pain will last, but the blessed memories as well. Tears are proof of life. The more love, the more tears. If this be true, then how could we ever ask that the pain cease altogether. For then the memory of love would go with it.
The pain of grief is the price we pay for love.
– Martha White
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