General

Get me to the church on time

I would like to share with you the news that I am getting married very soon, that is, if you have not already got wind of this. I have been very happy about the whole thing; though I have found the process of organizing dinners and tracking down friends somewhat tiresome. Could it be old age?

Her name is Su, an Indonesian Chinese by descent. She was born in China and came to Hong Kong for her secondary education, and she would not apologize for her accented Cantonese. She is petite which makes her appear even younger. She had a career in financial services and had been used to working long hours and taking snap decisions.

A common friend tried to get her interested in me, in the autumn of 2008. She was not a bit interested in the beginning, making it quite clear that she would not date any man over 60. “What can a man over 60 do?” she asked of this common friend.

Fate had it that we met by chance in late November. We had a dim sum meal with a bunch of friends. We exchanged name cards, and she said good bye firmly afterwards, feeling confident that she would never meet me again. Indeed, nothing happened for a few weeks. Then came Act II and Fate struck again. She could be feeling a bit listless or it could be pre-holiday syndrome – she found my name card and even looked up my website. Having read a couple of letters, she formed a view that this man who put up such aloofness at the first meeting might not be as boring and uninteresting as he appeared at the dim sum lunch about a month before. After all, looks can be rather deceptive and the mind is a very powerful thing.

She then sent me an email in which she discussed my articles on the website and some general issues. I sent her back a polite reply and got confirmation that she was the lady at the dim sum lunch. We then exchanged a few emails and both agreed that we could meet sometime for tea or coffee, if opportunities presented themselves. Indeed, we had a second chance meeting with the common friend and we had tea. I had to leave early for some Rotary matters and I left the girls to pay for my coffee, which upset them a bit. It became a talking point at our subsequent meetings, but we are glad that the social faux pas had not caused irreversible or irreparable damage. More importantly, we had arranged to meet on Boxing Day – at a BBQ with friends, mostly hers.

So that was our first date. We wasted no time after the BBQ: we had a couple of white wines before adjourning for dinner at a Korean restaurant and were content that we would meet again in a few days at an expanded birthday party. Then came New Year Eve and New Year Day and we began seeing each other every day.

In the meantime, Su began to upload pictures on Facebook, thereby exposing our new relationship, and by mid January, I was her official new boy friend; and I had actually confided in a few very close friends this new appointment.

She began to ask me to mark my diary for visits to various places and would make sure I knew and understood her other appointments. We began to explore each other; and there was no shortage of topics for discussion. It seemed that we were both intent on finding out more about each other in the shortest possible time. Very quickly, we learnt about each other’s attitude to life in general, and to friends and family, friendship, values, beliefs, likes and dislikes, and temperament in particular. We did not agree on everything, but we very quickly learnt to understand each other’s viewpoints and almost as readily accept the differences and were able to agree a way forward between us on most issues.

Su went on a short trip by herself mid January to see a good friend. It was a very valuable few days during which I took stock of our relationship and asked myself some searching questions. I’d like to believe that she did the same while shopping with her friend.

Now, Rosita had gone for four years and a quarter. For the past three years, I have been living alone, and have yet to assemble my electric cooker or steam a fish at home. During the same period, however, I finished a Masters Degree in Buddhist Studies with the University of Hong Kong and am half way with a Doctor of Education programme with Durham. Shortly after Rosita left, I took up daily Mass at Ricci Hall partly because that was where she was baptized and where she went for Sunday Mass with me in her last months before she was hospitalized. I had been sick a couple of times, each time lasting for more than a few weeks. I had suffered minor injuries at home while I was shifting furniture and fixing household appliances. It was not exactly fun living alone. Indeed, I told one of my Buddhist teachers – who is a monk – recently, in response to his question on why I had decided to get married, that I experienced dukkha (suffering) living alone.

Accordingly, the next appropriate step was to take steps to remove or reduce such suffering. In practice, it meant actively looking out for a life long companion. Now, the term “life long companions” can mean different things to different people, and there are people who would advocate having a number of companions so as to satisfy their various needs at various times or at various stages of their lives. It all sounds rather complicated, theoretical and may I say selfish. By corollary and reciprocity, these companions could then take on more than one companion, possibility of different gender, which would further complicate matters. I don’t think my simple mind can cope with that.

Increasingly, I have learnt to live life as I find it and to manage my own expectation. Specifically, I recognize that everything happens for a reason, but that the desired result would only turn up when all the necessary conditions are assembled in the right proportions and at the right time. It means that it would not be possible or practical to set an agenda or a time frame for Operation Life Companion. That is why I find it odd that certain people in Hong Kong had seen it fit to ask for a road map for a fully elected legislature by a certain date. It seems that they are oblivious of the fact that the timetable for the appearance of the necessary conditions has yet to be available.

Against such background, Su appeared on the horizon out of the blue and unannounced. Soon, the writings were on the wall that both of us were ready willing and able to commit ourselves to a long term project, having satisfied ourselves that we both had the motivation, mindset, capacity and maturity to achieve the objectives, which are to build a life together for 40 years during which we would be happy together and make those around us happier.

There is no time to lose. Towards the end of February, Su consulted her parents and I broke the news to the children. I then consulted my spiritual mentor of many years. He was so supportive and happy for me. The stage was set and we began the tedious process of registration and booking a slot for a church wedding. The rules have changed since and there are more hurdles to go through.

We had decided to have a simple quiet family dinner of not more than six tables, but it did not take long for us to realize that our friends, initially Su’s and then mine, had other ideas. From six tables, we moved to 16, which is the maximum capacity of the venue. On 19 March, I took Su to the 35th Wedding Anniversary Celebration of Past Governor Tony Wong and hell broke loose.

A few friends – old friends – told me in the face that I was joking when I introduced Su as my fiancee. In the end, most our friends are happy for us and people began to ask questions, ranging from the obvious to the absurd, but all being asked in good humour and with the best intentions.

It is getting late; and I need to prepare for tomorrow and the rest of the week. We are happy that so many friends are working very hard to make things smooth and seamless and to make us happier. Both Su and I have already received so many good wishes and blessings and we are certain that more would be in the pipeline in the lead up to the Wedding Day.

We were asked whether we were excited. Well, actually, we are not, but we are very happy. A very close friend – one of the closest – of Rosita called from Canada Sunday night, or early Monday. She chided me gently for not giving her official notice of the Wedding and thus deprived her of the opportunity to turn up at the Wedding on Wednesday. I said I was sorry. I really was and really am. I wished I had been more and better organized. Still there are friends in Hong Kong whom I have failed to notify, and we can only pray that they would understand our situation and forgive us.

Rosita’s friend who called from Canada asked me whether I had notified her best friend. Of course I had. I had prayed to God and to her for guidance; and I thank God for putting us together. I hope you would all pray for Su and me.

With prayers and metta, I hope to see you at St Joseph’s Church on Wednesday 22 April at 3:30pm to share our happiness and God’s blessing. I would talk to you later.

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