Today, I Am the Same Age as my Mother When She Died.
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
"Hey mom, it's me."
Today, I am 35 years, 7 months, and 17 days old - the same age as my mother when she died.
Today marks a significant day for me. For the longest time, I never thought I would live to be this age.
I shared a fuller story here, but my mother's sudden and premature passing when I was merely Five set me down of a path of fragile immortality. This lasted for most of my childhood and adolescent life.
From the lens of a child's eyes, I had believed for the longest time that my life was like water held in a brittle glass cup that could shatter and spill at any moment.
People could disappear for no reason, and so could I.
Nearly thirty years have passed since the last time I saw her. Those days are hazy remembrances of visits to the hospitals and a melancholic home environment in my mind.
Yet, thirty years have passed. I stand different now, a grown man, with an entire past to look behind me.
Just like she did when she died.
I took today to visit her at her resting place.
It's a quiet little grassy spot in the Lim Chu Kang Cemetery. I arrived in the late morning by car. As I drove slowly to where she laid, I couldn't help but notice how blue the skies were and how slowly the white clouds were moving overhead.
Some wilted flowers still lay atop her grave. Left by my relatives, usually her older brothers, I assumed. I brought fresh flowers with me, and I replaced the dead ones with those, gently assembling them in what I thought was a pretty display.
As with my usual practice, I took some time to clean her marbled burial plate with a cloth I brought with me. The plate bore, in faded golden letters, her name, birth date, date of passing, as well as the words:
"In Loving Memory, we miss you dearly".
I do miss you dearly, mom.
I prepared something unusual for this significant day - a handwritten letter which I had written the night before.
I contemplated whether I should include the contents of this letter on this blog, as it was and still is so deeply personal. Yet, I thought that if it helped some of you out there to process your grief and to do the same, then that's fine with me.
I unfolded the letter, slightly crumpled from lying in my pocket, and read to her the following:
"Hey mom, it's me."
Today I am the same age as you were when you died.
I miss you dearly, and so does Dad and my younger brother. I hope you can see that from where you are in Heaven.
Thank you for giving birth to me.
I am Thirty-Five years old now, having spent most of my life not knowing you, much more than the five years you spent with me.
I can barely recall any memory of you now.
Please forgive me, I was too young when you died. I wish I had a fond memory I could recall of you, but the only memories that remain of that time was when you were dying and of your funeral itself.
I wish I could tell you that I've lived a full and happy life. However, if I did, that would be a lie.
When you died, you didn't just leave on your own. You took an important part of me with you.
Your disappearance left me feeling empty for many years afterwards, like God left out a part of my soul when you asked Him to create me.
Mom, I never said these words to you, but your sudden passing left me damaged.
I was a broken child that no one even knew was broken. Thinking back of those early times, it hurts. It really hurts.
I spent so many years alone, pretending to be okay.
Across my life, I was often met with an insurmountable wall of hopelessness. Life felt so meaningless so often. I really couldn't understand what was the purpose of all of this.
At those times, I hated my existence. Why did I feel this way? Why was I so different to the other kids, youths, or people around me? Why was I feeling so empty and broken?
I hate to tell you this mom, but at times I even blamed you. I wondered what my life would be like if you didn't have to die.
I even wished you hadn't created me if you were just going to go away.
Yet, don't worry mom, those were just misguided beliefs from when I was an angry youth. I had no one else to blame. I had already blamed myself enough, so I blamed you.
Deep down, I've always known with all my heart that you tried your best to stay. I'm sure you fought hard. It wasn't your fault you had to leave. You probably begged God with all your might to let you live.
I know you did. I know...
Hey mom, it's me.
Thank you so much for giving me life.
I stand before you Thirty-Five years old now. Even though my life hasn't always been happy, it's been a life that is rich.
I know what suffering is now, but I also know exactly what Happiness is too.
Hey did I tell you? I'm married by the way. Two years ago to a beautiful girl I wished you could meet. I talked about you in my wedding speech too. Your mom, sisters and brothers were all there.
See, I remember you.
In some ways, when you left, you not only took a part of me with you, but you left a part of yourself with me too.
It's like a fraction or a piece of you that has stayed with me all this time. It really took me a long time to understand what that was.
It's kind of hard to explain, but if I had to put it in the simplest terms, it's like a deep yearning to live.
Even on the darkest days of my life, I never crossed that line into where you are now. Yes, there were times when I contemplated it, and there were also times when I did foolish things in the effort to keep my mind quiet, but that will to live was always there.
These days, I see very clearly this strength that you've given me in exchange for your life, coursing subtly and quietly through mine.
It has allowed me to make suffering my friend, and to use my own life to help others with their own suffering.
I'm doing good things with my life now mom. I'm happy most days, and my wife is happy too. I'm even working on building a charity. Dad is a part of it too.
It's been quite a long journey, but I hope you're proud.
Hey mom, I have to go now. I'll be back again soon, I promise.
Thank you for giving birth to me and for giving me life. Thank you for that last five years of your life you poured your soul into me.
I still wish I could have known you better, and learn more about what you did in those Thirty-Five years of your life. What were your experiences? Why did you want to be a lawyer? What kind of music did you like? Why did you decide to give me my name?
I've long accepted that you're gone mom, but know this, you're still a part of me.
So thank you mom. Please watch me live.
I love you,