in memory of rae

I landed back in Sydney after a 2.5 week trip home on Monday evening, 3rd Jan 2011. The first SMS I received brought extremely bad news about the sudden deterioration of Rae's condition; she's been battling stage 3c ovarian cancer since she first got diagnosed with it in June 2004. It sure brought back memories of a previous phone call that brought depressing news of a beloved friend's fatal accident when I returned from a business trip to South Africa.

In the few hours that followed, my Tudi kept me updated on her situation via Whatsapp (the application that to me, makes getting an iPhone most worth the $1000 as it keeps me connected to all my loved ones all the time everywhere). Rae eventually passed away at home surrounded by her family and close friends that evening at around 8.50pm Singapore time.

I started this blog entry the day after Rae's passing but I never got around to completing and publishing it until now. Just like how it took many years for me to accept the reality of my Dad's passing, I didn't want to believe that the same Rae I spoke to on the phone just the night before - she who was so chirpy on the phone and convinced me and Tudi that her condition had improved by heaps since we last visited her the week before - will never nag at me to take care of myself or to constantly remind me to blog blog blog so she could know what I was up to ever again.

It was under very strange circumstances that I got to know Rae back in 2005. We got to know about each other's existence through a group of mutual gamer and blogger friends. Because of her illness, she wasn't sure if she would be accepted so she tried to hide behind a made-up cyber identity that she created when she interacted with me. Tudi and I saw through her facade through her blog entries - we knew the level of maturity shown in what she wrote could not have been written by a 20 year old - and were disgusted by her pretence and lies. I still remember the skepticism we had before we agreed to our first face to face meeting initiated by Rae. I am very thankful for that meeting which changed everything we thought of Rae and brought an additional member to my limited circle of trusted friends.

Because of her age and life experience, Rae was more of a mother figure to me than a mere friend. In fact, the care and concern she'd shown me over the years way surpassed what I experienced from my own Mum (not that my Mum doesn't care for me, but that she rarely ever shows it).

Knowing how I always get very bad menstrual cramps, Rae bought me a hot water pack for easing the pain when she saw me off in 2006 as I embarked on a lonely journey to Sydney for a new job. After reading my complaints on how I couldn't find a single decent bolster in Sydney, which affected my sleep, she and Tudi spent a bomb to air freight me one so that I wouldn't have sleepless nights anymore. She also gave me this gadget to replicate those perfectly boiled soft runny eggs from Ya Kun that I love so much such that I may get to have this comfort food away from home.

To lessen my homesickness especially during special occasions, Rae collaborated with BH who was in Sydney on an internship programme to organise a surprise party for the first birthday I spent abroad away from all my family and friends. She made sure BH got the flattering nickname she knew me by - "Chioest", meaning the prettiest - on the cake. Subsequent birthdays were never lacking in presents such as these from her too.

I in turn surprised Rae and Tudi, thanks to my accomplice BH, when I suddenly showed up in Singapore for a 'farewell' lunch she was supposed to have for BH. This is the first ever photo we took together and I had to mosaic Rae's face back then when blogging it due to her wanting to keep her identity a secret to her other younger gaming friends.

We then spent a lovely day just eating our way around, as were what we always did whenever I went home.

Rae loved to eat, just like me. We both loved the same food such as the Dim Sum at Carlton Hotel, frogs legs porridge from Geylang, the daily soups from Soup Restaurant, the economical fried noodles and bee hoon I got for her from Simei etc etc. Up until her condition got so bad she had to stay in bed, we used to feast and pig out by eating at several places a day. As the years went past, we stopped doing that and switched to having homecooked meals at her place instead so she didn't have to tire herself out with all the travelling. In her last days, very fortunately I was back in Singapore the two weeks prior to her passing, Tudi and I got her some Nasi Lemak that she'd been hankering after. I am glad we got to satisfy one of her last cravings on earth.

Rae particularly loved the prawn noodle soup and Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (佛跳墙) - my Uncle's specialties - ever since she tried them for the first time in 2008 when she came over to my place for Chinese New Year lo hei with BH.

We even got down to playing a few rounds of mahjong after the lo hei. It was one of the most memorable CNYs I had.

Rae's condition started to go downhill from late 2009 onwards. My heart went out to her whenever I read about the pain and suffering she went through as documented in her journal. I made a little framed card with the best photo of us 3 spending yet another girly session at Rae's house (below) and mailed it to her with all my prayers for her, hoping it will cheer her up and spur her on a little more. It never got to her thanks to either Australian Post or Singpost and I let it stop at that, never once thought of giving it another go at making another card.

Such a short entry to sum up the many years of friendship and already so many regrets to add to the ever growing list: I promised to learn to cook that prawn noodle soup that Rae loved so much but I never got down to doing it; I never tried harder to send my regards to her either by phone, email or mail; I knew Rae loved reading my blog so much she would click into my site a few times a day to check for updates and yet I couldn't put in that extra effort to blog more frequently; I did not insist on seeing her one last time before leaving Singapore when my visit was cancelled due to a miscommunication with her son when in my heart I knew it would probably be the last time I would ever see her and she did indeed leave us shortly after.

I do not know how many more of such farewells I can take. As I combat my homesickness and grief at Rae's departure this recent month, I can't help but wonder what it is I am here in Sydney for, so far away from everyone I love. Personal freedom? Money? Career? Life experience? Are these worth the time lost in spending with the elderly grandparents who raised me, my Mum and Bro who I have not felt so close to until now, and all the friends who love me like Rae did?

Although it has taken me more than a month, I owe it to Rae to finish writing this. I know she's looking down at me from somewhere and waiting eagerly to read my final masterpiece on her. I hope I can do better at updating my blog from now on so that she doesn't have to get disappointed again if she visits when she gets bored in heaven, and all my friends too will know of what's going on in my life and not get worried unnecessarily again.

1 comment:

fav tudi said...