New Year Message 2005

It is New Year Day again, whether one is prepared for it or not. For that matter, one can say of every day, every anniversary or every year.

I had meant to do a year ender to go over the main events in the family in 2004, but there is only one that will last me for a very long time, probably forever, one that would never go away, needs no reminder and so on. Then many of us woke up to the shocking news on Boxing Day, which deeply saddened the Queen and caused our Chief Executive extreme concern. What I had gone through could never match what these people had and would be going through.

My children and I were in Phuket on holiday a few days before Christmas. We had never been there before, and we had not spent any holiday together for sometime. We had thought of spending the public holidays there because Lawrence is now working and may have problems with getting leave, until Stephanie decided that she would need to leave on Christmas Day. Some of our friends had known about our holiday plans; and many were calling me since Boxing Day to find out where I was. I am very thankful for their concerns, and I thank God that my children and I had not stayed there longer.

The Year 2004 has come and gone; and let me quickly go over how we had been doing.

Stephanie was back three times last year, twice for her mother and the third time to spend some time with Lawrence and me. In her first trip back which lasted ten days – prompted by a mid-night call from me that her mother was not doing well – she hardly left her mother’s bedside and had no time to shop or see any friends. We, all four of us, went out once for dinner, and that was all. Rosita kept telling me and everybody how pleased and grateful she was for having Stephanie as her daughter. Stephanie is now doing her second year in UC Davis as a veterinary doctor. She went to Peru with a friend during the Thanksgiving holidays and was thrilled by the experience. She is very focused and would not tolerate any nonsense, even from me, or maybe especially from me rather.

Lawrence came back in June to see his mother shortly after his Commencement, initially planning to stay for a month. He then extended his stay by three more months when it became clear that his mother was not going to get better shortly. Rosita had the planned departure date and flight details clearly marked in her diary. In the meantime, he began to look for jobs. He took up an offer shortly after Rosita’s funeral and began to find out what the working world was all about. It is not a good job in every sense: the pay is low, there is no formal or informal training, working hours are long, more than 12 hours a day, with no overtime or traveling allowances for outside duties. Finally, on Christmas Eve, he decided to quit. “Enough is enough,” he said. He has yet to formulate his longer term plans. In the meantime, he stays in the flat.

Turning to myself, as I turned the pages of my 2004 diary, I found that I was out of Hong Kong for some 65 days in 15 trips. Rosita was with me in a trip to Bangkok during the Chinese New Year, a weekend golf trip to China, and a trip to Taipei in April on Rotary matters, altogether in 12 days. I did not attend five weddings and two funerals because they took place too close to Rosita’s death, but I did attend three funerals, hers of course, her father’s and that of a close friend.

I would not go over what Rosita did except to confirm that she passed away in September after a brave struggle with cancer. I thought that I had broken the news to most friends, but one can never be too thorough. These days, I still receive enquiries on and regards for her, which at times, could reopen old wounds.

I spent quite some time in grief, deep grief. They told me that it would be difficult to get over the grief and that it would take time. They also assured me that time would heal everything. But they never told me that it was that difficult, excruciatingly difficult and painful, and nobody could tell me how long it would take. I had actually begun the process weeks before Rosita left and I had made private notes.

Friends had called to offer help and advice, ranging from the bizarre to the hilarious, but they all meant well and I thanked them for their concern. However, this is really something for myself, something that I have to go through, at my pace, and in the manner and fashion I choose. I have found that faith in God is helpful, indeed the only helpful means so far. Reliance in God and an admission that one is weak is conducive to achieving peace of mind. In the end, we must submit to the fact that matters of life and death are not and cannot be controlled or decided by human beings.

I am not short of things to do though. Maybe it was because I was away for a rather long time in the past six to eight weeks. It takes time to go over the mail and to pay bills and it took me a while to settle the financial matters left by Rosita, for she did not leave a will.

Life goes on and indeed life must go on. The year that has just ended tearfully for many will remain in the annals, and we all can look forward to brighter and better days ahead. I wish all of you out there a fruitful and prosperous 2005, a year during which you would find renewed faith in your God and in human nature, forgive all those whom you think have wronged you so that your God would forgive all your sins, make new friends and renew friendship, find new things to be happy about, not just every day or every hour, but every minute, be thankful for what you have, love life and enjoy life, love others and enjoy being loved, and above all love yourself and your enemies. In the meantime, give generously to whatever charities involved in relief work for the tsunami victims.

May God bless you and keep you always.

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