Friday, April 20, 2007
To be appreciated as I appreciate someone?
To be loved as I love a person?
To be honoured as I honour man?
To be cared for as I care for a lady?
To be assisted as I assist them?
To be remembered as I remember people?
Or should I never expect at all?
The absence of expectations maybe the beginning of no tears or no pain,
but remembering something:
Isn't that sound a bit too utopian then?
*weili once asked, how long will it take for a broken heart to heal,
I now ask, how long will it take for tears to just dry?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Hey there! How have you been doing? Have you been brushing your teeth the way daddy has thought you to?
Mummy wrote this letter to you, hoping that you will be able to read this letter on your 15th birthday – that is if daddy can remember to give it to you – so if it’s your birthday today, Happy Birthday sweetheart! No matter how old you may be right now, you were once that little sweet Natalie that I cradled when you were born, you were that same little darling that I’d swing in the air and kiss and hug. There are just things like that that will never change dearest girl, and memories never change.
You might have very little memory of me now that it’s almost 15 years since I passed away. Perhaps, daddy might have got a new mummy for you. Perhaps, daddy might have raised you up alone single-handedly. Perhaps, you might have been the one that took care of daddy too. I know you are a very capable daughter, and that if daddy falls, you will be there to hold him up. That’s you! Maybe it’s something that you got from me, the spirit and the determination to just go on and hang on.
Darling dearest, maybe you might hate me for leaving you when you were only a 3 year old daughter. Yes, you have every right to hate me for not being there for you throughout your school years. You should be angry at me for not being responsible for your meals, for your laundry or for helping you in your studies. Daddy’s always busy and I don’t think he will have the time to spend with you, am I right? He’s a doctor in A&E, he won’t be home most of the time. He won’t be there to have dinner with you most of the time, he won’t be the one to iron the clothes for you or put the shoes up on your rack for you when you come home from school.
If that’s what you are feeling, if your heart is so burdened with hatred and anger against me or your dad, darling girl, I’m so so so sorry. Please forgive me, but most importantly do forgive your dad. Your dad is a good and great man. He chose to give up his life for me when three terrorists shot towards me in an airport back 24 years ago. He ran up to me, pulled me behind his body and shielded me with his life and soul. He didn’t do it because he was heroic or brave. You know daddy, he’s even scared of chickens that run around. (I’m sure you do know that by now!) but he saved me because he loved me. Darling, daddy may not always be there for you, I may have not been there for you when you needed me the most, but guess what? Both daddy and I have never forgotten you. Never.
You might ask and challenge me. You might demand to see proof of existence. After all, mummy’s already 7 feet underground, so how would I know?
When I was younger, my nanny would take me out to play in the rain. Every time after playing in the rain, she would dry me in this nice big, warm towel. Wiping my face, body and draining every single bit of water from me, she would always tell me how the rain was a promise that my dad and mum never forgot me. No matter where they were, no matter whether they were alive or dead, the raindrops were messages of friendship, promises of a never ending companionship, and the assurance of a love that will last and never die.
I asked her, why so?
“Because those raindrops are the tears of your parents.”
Darling dearest, you see, I too was an orphan. I didn’t even know how my dad or mom looked like. My nanny told me that they were lost in the war, and later on my school teachers said that they died in a car accident. Till this day, I’m still not sure about what really happened to them. But that didn’t matter to me. I still grew up to become a lady that could believe in myself. I was determined to be the best that I deserved to be. I worked, I strived for excellence, I pushed, I challenged the fates of disease and illness, I even challenged my body and nature itself.
And I was rewarded. I was rewarded with your daddy. A man who loved me despite where I came from, despite the disease that I had, despite the fact that I was an orphan and had no family. Your daddy, loved me, not for what I was, but simply for who I am. He’d wrap me in his strong arms, and he’d just cradle me the way I once cradled you.
Darling dear, death was never an option for me. It wasn’t a choice I made, it was a decision beyond my control. Right now as I write this letter for you, I am struggling with every single word that I place in this piece of paper. That every word, every alphabet, is all blood and energy. I’m already into my 3rd day of writing this for you, and even if it is going to drain all the energy left in my body or soul, still will I do it for you, because I know that this letter in your hands, will make a difference in your life for good.
I don’t know how you’re feeling now, there’re probably a hundred things crossing your mind now. That’s not important right now, because at this point of time that I’m penning all my thoughts down, 15 years before you opened this letter and even read a single word in here, my heart is burdened at the thought of what my darling little girl will be. Growing up in a notorious world without the loving wings of her mother, exposed to the perils of loneliness and haunted with the absence of both daddy and mummy. No tears will be able to express what sorrow I feel now, no words can possibly or sufficiently paint a picture of the pain I feel now. And I ask God, why must He take me away from you as much as he takes you away from me, at such a time, where you are still young, still unshaped in character, still unable to make the right decisions for yourself?
And I stumbled upon this verse.
“For I have plans for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to bring you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
How can that be? I argued with God furiously. My darling daughter is going to go through the exact same things I went through in my younger days, my dearest Nat is going to undergo the same pain that I endured for the last 35 years of my life. She is going to be lonely, she is going to face this world alone while her dad is struggling to save as many people as he can with his medicine box.
But it became clear now to me, and that’s what I need to tell you here.
As much as I went through what I’ve went through, you too can go through what you are going through now.
As much as I fought my way to becoming what I desired to be, you too can fight to be what you want yourself to be.
As much as I was lonely and alone with no one to listen to my cries, I made a new friend.
A friend that never betrays.
A friend that never leaves me alone when I need someone beside me.
A friend that I can call ‘Saviour’
A friend that I can call ‘Companion’
A friend that no man can ever be
The more I was lonely, the more I spent time with Jesus. The more I was devastated, the more I hung on to the only promise I had with me.
Darling, your horizons are out there, the skies are in your reach, the rewards are there for harvest. What are you waiting for? Or is there something holding you back from being the best that you know you could be? Is there a struggle within you that you refuse to bend to, or is there a problem that you will never allow yourself to commit to God?
Is there an emptiness that nothing, or no one perhaps, not even your daddy, can fill?
Here’s something. Even if I was still alive, I too couldn’t fill that loneliness in you. Only God can fill that empty cup of yours up, and that can only take place the very moment you chose to open the door of your heart to Him.
Be all that you can be and be all that you believe you could live up to. Remember, I’m watching over you from heaven, and am always beside you even though you may never notice.
I love you dearest. I love you darling.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Snapping the loaded cartridge in its place, he reflected on the whole scenario that unfolded over the last 6 hours.
The longest 6 hours in his whole life.
He was touring in the Pihsrow unit, the infantry’s “Storm Troopers”. Busting tanks and breaking enemy lines, they were the advance team specially trained to pave the way for the bulk of the infantry to progress in battle.
Scanning the area that they were planted in, it took nothing longer than awhile for them to realize it wasn't the enemy tanks that were advancing. Rather, it was the infantries, the footmen that were chugging ahead. Clearly the Pihsrow unit was no match against the sheer number of enemy troops, so they headed back to base.
But he was left behind to spy and scout.
'You should be safe here colonel,' the Captain told him before he left with Pihsrow squadron. 'The enemies will never be able to find you here.'
Unfortunately, the Captain was terribly wrong.
“Captain, I’ve been spotted,” he radioed urgently after running helter skelter from a scout unit. “Request emergency removal, I repeat, requesting urgent removal.”
What came from the other side of the radio shocked him to the core.
'Pihsrow unit is out of enemy base and is back in base.' He could recognise that was the Captain's voice. They left me behind!
Desparate, he franktically called through the radio shouting and yelling into the receiver that he was of the Pihsrow unit and was left behind, still behind enemy's lines and required back-up or a transport out. Situation was worsening, enemies were approaching and he was locked in a tight spot and…
“THERE HE IS!”
Gunshot. Another shot. And another shot.
Branches and leaves cracked at the impact of the bullets that skid past him, turning them into shrapnel and darts. He turned back to see probably a couple of dozens of troops running towards him, yielding Kalashnikov rifles in their hands. Aiming at him, a few half-kneeled and pulled their triggers. He didn't need a warning or a command to know what to do. Dodging the gunfires, he jumped over a huge rock between some tropical trees, threw the radio down and turned around to face the enemy. Pulling his trigger at the enemies, he saw a distant figure collapsing.
One down. He pulled his trigger again. Another down.
But the enemies just seemed to keep coming. There he was, in the middle of the thick tropical rainforest that ressembled the Vietnam battlefields in 1969, a single Pishrow soldier against the hundreds of enemy forces. Coming in wave after wave, he wondered how long his rifle can last him. He realised that his bullets were limited, and he too realised that even if he made sniper one-shot-kills, he will not be able to last long.
Throughout the whole duel, the radio kept blaring updates of the enemy movements. Apparantly the enemies were approaching Zanotopia base in his direction, and there will be waves of footmen coming in by the hour. He checked his watch to see how long he has been in there. 5 hours. How much longer? How long can he hold?
He took down one more enemy and crouched behind the rock, waiting for his next prey. But the firing ceased. No more gunshots. The quiet of the valleys returned to the smoke-filled forest. He turned around, and apart from lifeless bodies, there was no one left alive but him.
But he knew another wave of soldiers would be coming in no time to come.
For a moment, he wondered how he managed to survive. Scores of soldiers falling dead feets away from the rock he stood behind. He sustained superficial wounds and bruises with no serious harm done thus far.
Then it was darkness that crept into his soul. The darkness of alone. The darkness of fighting alone when his companions are safe and sound back in their base. I was left behind and left alone. His unit abandoned him on the grounds that he would be safe from his hideout only to discover that it was a sabotage.
The shadow of betrayal, the night of deception... It could not have been felt or experienced greater than that very moment.
His army deserted him. Despite the number of calls he made to base via radio, still no one responded to him. Why aren't they responding? Why aren't they hearing me? He questioned the Zanotopia code. The code of the Zanotopian military that 'No man will be left behind'. It was a promise that the Sergeant, the President's son once said to the unit while they were still fighting in the mountainous desert terrain. He promised that no soldier, dead or alive or injured, will be left in the battlefield. He even demonstrated it in front of his very eyes when he ran out to rescue the wounded soldier.
I shouldn’t, he reprimanded himself. But how could I believe them again? How can I believe in them anymore?
He, at that point of time, had no such assurance.
Leaning on the rock, he heaved and pant as he changed the cartridges of his rifle. Pulling out the empty cartridge, he reached for the loaded one in his pocket only to realise that his hands were shaking so badly that he could no longer feel much with his hands. The firing of his rifle the whole morning probably took a toll on him. He lowered his gun to allow his mind to wander for a while. He saw the face of his girlfriend Nire. He was supposed to wed her after dating for more than 10 years until the war broke out. He was called to serve in the military and they had to postpone their wedding. The war lasted for 3 years, and he last heard from her almost 2 years ago.
Does she still remember me? His eyes became moist at the thought. The days where he would be dodging bullets and mortars, the times where he had to dash across vulnerable open fields with no cover and snipers camped on every side, the only thought that held him alive and breathing was the mere thought of seeing his darling again. But where was she?
He heard the rumours. Even his brother called him up to tell him that Nire might not wait for him after all. His heart shattered and broke, but he couldn't do anything. It was war and it was battle. There was no time for emotions or love.
Not then, not now.
Wiping away his tears, he realised that it wasn't the time either for softness or tears. He was no longer serving the Zanotopian army, he was no longer fighting to protect his country. He was fighting to stay alive. It was a brutal. It was survival for the lone soldier against the incoming waves of troops besieging him.
They’re back. The marching tremors resonated from the ground. Just as he was about to turn back and aim, the tree by his side exploded and burst into flames, the impact throwing him off the ground. A searing pain tore through his face and shoulder, and he could even smell the odour of burnt flesh. He looked into the reflection of his watch and saw that half of his face were remnants of a fire. Grimacing in pain, he grabbed his gear and ran in opposite direction.
It felt like he just ran a marathon before he reaching a cliff. No further land from there, and the only thing across that edge were the mountains over the valley. One more step and he will be left alone in the ravine.
He found himself a spot where he could hide and crouch for a while as he recollected all remaining energy he had. He was badly injured and his face was half blown off. He was down to the final cartridge of rounds and his four limbs to do the job. The enemies that trailed him were now in range.
I will survive. He raised his rifle and aimed at a figure. His fingers fastened around the trigger and he heard a gunshot, but it wasn't his. The enemy fired before him, the bullet burrowing its way merciless into his right arm. He rolled back in great agony and instinctively pressed on his wound to stop the bleeding.
That's it. I'm a dead meat. Lying on his side, he dragged his rifle with one hand while pressing the wounded hand to the ground. Energy was draining out from his wound along with his warm blood. He could vaguely see a disarray line of enemies forming ahead of him. They were shouting and yelling in their secret codes as they raised their guns. He couldn’t hold himself together any longer, and he slumped into the ground.
There was a noise, pure loud and deafening. Where was it coming from? The enemies raised their guns towards the sky. They aren’t aiming for me. They opened fire. But the very same soldiers were all getting shot. They collapsed right before his blurred eyes, one by one. The line of enemies were breaking. Some even turned back and ran away.
Someone, something, was shooting them from behind. He rolled over his back to check on what thing saved him.
An Apache chopper. Armed with heavy machine guns and missiles, generously spewing 20mm bullets at the enemy line. The enemies and their Kalashnikov were pathetically futile against the Apache’s artilleries.
A dozen black troops armed with heavy weapons ran up to him and knelt in front of him, forming a human shield.
'Colonel, we're the Reyarps, and we're here to take you home.' The leader introduced himself calmly.
The Reyarps! The elite safe-and-rescue unit. The pride and prestige of the Zanotopian army, the squadron that made the worst enemies shudder and tremble. The team that never failed, ever. The squadron famed for having the best soldiers, the fastest runners, the swiftest attackers, the most powerful weapons and the smartest soldiers in it.
The leader took his helmet off and knelt beside him. His face, unmistakable.
'Sergeant?' his eyes turned wet. He came back for me, just as he promised. 'But… but… you didn't tell me through the radio…'
'Colonel, if we radioed back that we were coming for you, we would have jeopardised our hideouts and our positions.' He said wrapped a bandage tightly over his arm. 'You have my word, I will leave no man behind.
The Reyarps lifted him onto a stretcher. A lot of commands came from the Sergeant. 'Radio Headquarters to have the bronze mask ready by evening, we’re turning back to base. Over.'
'Colonel, we've just received word from your girlfriend,' one of the pilots with those huge sunglasses and fully covered earpiece looked over his back to him to report. 'Nire's waiting for you in base.'
In the darkness, he knew for sure, he was never forgotten.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
How could those bunch of idiots do that to my car?
Earlier the morning I walked into a class of 35 boys standing still and straight with their heads bowed low. Not even the usual 'Good Morning' from them, not even the usual chat we engage in before I kick start the class, not even the usual roll call to make sure that everyone's in the class before they take out their books.
What happened? I asked.
John, the smallest boy in my class that had the widest and warmest grin on earth, took a small step in front from his table. He looked up at me but immediately dodged my eyes.
'Sir.. sir.. I..' he stammered. Before he could go on, he burst into tears and a group of older boys surrounded him to comfort and console him.
What on earth was going on now?
'Sir, let me explain and bear the grunt of this whole thing,' Jack the monitor came up to me and said bravely. 'We did something terribly wrong against you sir, and we want to apologise.'
He told the whole story in length. It all started earlier the morning when the boys went for their PE class. Their sport for the week is basketball, and they were happily playing in the basketball court, for a moment forgetting the fact that the basketball court was just beside the teacher's parking lot. Then John got the ball and took a shot. A wild shot obviously, because in of all cars that were parked there the ball landed right on my car.
'A dent sir,' Jack said. 'Probably as large as a moon crater.' The boys giggled a little but was short lived as soon as they saw my increasingly blackening face.
'Sir.. that's not all..' Jack continued.
'Your windscreen sir.. your car's windscreen...'
'YOU BROKE MY CAR WINDSCREEN?!?!?!?' The glass would have shattered had I held my breath any longer that time.
I could swear that I was steaming and fuming. Angry, frustrated, irritated, burning deep within. I dashed out of the classroom not waiting for anything or anyone. Behind me, the boys tried to run behind me but stopped at the door of the classroom. 'We're sorry sir! We didn't mean it!!' They shouted, but that didn't matter anymore.
Sorry? Tell me more dudes. Tell me more about being sorry.
For me to reach the carpark from the classroom, I had to take a long flight of stairs. Thanks to some British architects who first designed the school building back in 1915, I had to walk 5 flights of stairs every morning just to reach their class. At times like this, I sure wished that it was a modern building with fewer flights of stairs, or perhaps a elevator.
All along going down that flight of stairs, my mind was no longer on the car or the windscreen. It was on the boys. How could they have done that to me, after all the things I've done for them? So much for being grateful for the teacher that taught them English and Maths when no teacher in the right mind would want to teach them. So much for being appreciative by wrecking a car that took me almost 6 years to clear off the installment fees.
The first day in school, I remembered my colleagues warning me about that class.
'They are a bunch of gangsters son,' an old and wise senior teacher said. 'Stay out and away of that class! They're nothing but a bunch of donkeys that are here only for the attendance.' I laughed and thought that they were just joking. If only I had listen to his advice from the very start..
They will pay for every single cent of the repair! I swear!!
I reached the ground floor in record time and dashed for the carpark. At the back of my mind, I was imagining the worst scenario. Shattered glass everywhere, a large dent that probably stretched the metal hood of my car to breaking point, alarm blaring...
And I stopped right in my footstep.
No alarm. No glass on the floor. No dents.
My car, apparantly, was untouched.
I thought it was a joke or a prank, and I took a closer step ahead to inspect my car, making sure that it was still in one piece. It sure was in perfect condition, exactly the same way I left it at 6.30am, only with a little difference.
Underneath the wiper is a little blue note.
Gently removing it from the windscreen, I opened it up. A neatly folded crisp piece of paper with the lyrics of my favourite song 'You raised me up' written meticulously on the left side, and on the right side was a memo.
For all the times that you were with us
For all the days that you spent with us
For all the hours that you taught us
For all the moments that you adviced us
For all that we could ever be
For all that we could ever achieve
For all that we could ever dream of
We owe it to you.
To the greatest teacher in this world, not because you were a Cambridge A1 graduate in English or because you were the national Best Teacher recipient, but because you were more than a teacher to us. More than teaching English, you taught us as students. More than being a teacher, you were a friend and a companion.
We love you sir.
p/s: Sir, does 1st April strike you? :D
Folding the note back, I suddenly remembered. How could I have forgotten! It was April's Fool!
The walk back up to my classroom took longer than ever. This time, I was so full of remorse, so full of anguish and anger. Angry at myself for misjudging them, angry at myself for thinking so lowly of them, angry at myself for not giving them a fair opportunity that they deserve, angry at myself for being so materialistic.
During that climb up the stairs, I recalled all the times I spent with them. It was hard to motivate them. They were mostly poor boys that came from broken families of single moms or runaway dads, having to work part-time for to help support their siblings. Coming to school was meaningless to them. No teacher had ever gave them the chance to learn, but I stood to the promise and believed that no student deserves to be left out.
And I left no student behind. From the very start they noticed that I was teaching them with everything that I had, and they gave me that chance to learn from me. The principal told me not to waste too much time on them and focus on other better classes, but instead I spent most of my time with them. Exercises after exercises, workbooks after workbooks. Most of them couldn't afford it, I told them to take loans that would never be claimed for from me. Weeks before the PMR test, they begged me to give them extra classes so that they won't fail their tests. With more than half of the class nearly going down to their knees in desperation, I was moved and touched by such determination. I gave them what they asked for, and their results shocked everyone in the school. They performed better than students in classes above them, and no one in my class failed. Eventually they were supposed to be shifted to better classes, but they protested.
'We want the sir to teach us! He and he alone!' They marched to the principal's office and demanded. 'After all he was the only one that would teach us when no other teachers would teach us, so why shouldn't he continue to teach us?' The principal had no choice but to finally succumb to their demands "on the conditions that you don't fail any tests in the near future".
Walking into my classroom with my eyes not focused on what was in front of me, my boys scared the daylight out of me.
'SURPRISE SIR!!' They shouted in unison. Jack was holding a chocolate cake with 5 candles on it. John was a changed boy from the sombre and sad self earlier on. Back to his normal self, he was beaming with pride as he held the cake with Jack.
'5 candles for the amazing 5 years that you taught us sir!' John exclaimed proudly. 'But we aren't that sure of how many teaspoons of sugar should go into this cake, so...'
'You boys baked me a cake?' I couldn't hold my tears from rolling this time. My boys baked me a cake? Not even my girlfriend ever baked me a cake and here are my boys going to such trouble for me..
'Thank you! Thank you boys!' touched with such sincere gesture and act of sincerity, I blowed out the candles and hugged my boys one by one.
That day we had very little lessons taught. Perhaps that was because for once, they taught me how to love and be loved. We spent the whole morning laughing and talking about the earlier days we enjoyed together. That April's Fool day, they were the teacher and I the student. That April's Fool day, they saw me both laugh and cry. That April's Fool day, they showed me what it meant to be remembered and appreciated. That April's Fool day, I learned that the essence of being a teacher is not the subject you teach but the students you educate.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Crying from within, he yelled out as loud as he could. No one would ever hear him yelling, not because the cafeteria was just full of noise and chatting of poeple who couldn't care more about him, but because he never yelled out loud. He shouted and shouted, only in his heart for his very self from within to hear.
Perhaps he thought he could handle things better now that he has learnt his lesson. Perhaps he has learned to wait upon the Lord and seek His kingdom first. Perhaps now that He was called into the ministries, he would be more focused on serving God.
He was serving God, but it became such struggle, such pain, such a burden.
He was struggling from within. His struggle was with his studies. He recently flunked an economics paper and scraped through with a miserable 'pass' for his accounts. He thought he's going to fail the upcoming calculus paper, and he said, why bother studying if all that's going to happen is just another failure?
His struggle was with a girl. He never learn his lessons. From afar he would watch his favourite girl yacking and laughing with other people. Again he wanted to be that guy that could always make her laugh. But I'm just not that guy.
And he was devastated. He wasn't getting what he wanted the most. He didn't achieve what he set his heart out to do.
Dejected and defeated, he walked back to his classroom on the thrid floor and stared blankly into the open skies. Wondering what would be coming next, he saw something he never saw before.
It was a beautiful bird that glided across the skies in front of his very eyes. At first sight he thought that it was a dove. White feathers that blanketed its small and yet sturdy body, as it gracefully made its way through half the horizon of his vision it was just at such ease and worry-free. He started to envy the dove, wishing that he could be just like that dove. Living a life of no problems, no troubles and no tears.
Then he suddenly stopped wishing. He saw the bird flapping its wings, revealing the lower part of its wings. He gasped at what he saw next.
The bottom part of its wings were black. He rubbed his eyes, thinking that it was just an optical illusion or it was the late nights that caused the hallucination or such, but he couldn't have mistaken after seeing it again. It was black at the bottom indeed. Not just at the wings, but the whole body.
From the bottom, people who looked above would have saw the black part of the bird and thought it was a crow.
Looking below from above, they would have saw the snow body of the bird and said it was a dove.
He realised that God was speaking to him with this bird.
A rare species of the bird it may be, but God's will is indeed a rare sight. People from below may never see the dove He gives to us, but it is indeed a dove. For what Man sees from the bottom up is a crow, a curse, a problem or a catastrophe; but beyond the crow that Man only sees is a gift that God Himself has sent from above, for what He sees and has in His great mind is not a crow, but a dove.
Struck with remorse, he prayed and repented. He knew that for him to be able to see His great plans and the dove of his life, he had to stand from where God stood and look down from above.
Maybe he could never get there. Maybe he will never ever be in such position, but that never did matter anymore. All that truly mattered was that now, he will never be alone without a friend or a companion, for in the fortress of his solitude, he cried out for help in despair, and God being the friend of the times and trials heard, and sent him what he needed most.
As published in Lifextreme blog
But then there were just no skies. Head facing upwards straight towards the heavens, eyes looking up and ahead into the skies, there were just no stars at all. Not a single light, not a single shining star, not a single glimpse of flickering stars. All that there was were nothing more than just raindrops that fell unto the glasses of my spectacles.
Tears mixed in the raindrops, I couldn't make out either. I just know that I missed the stars, simply because when the stars were once shining I never took the time to look up and appreciate it.
Now that I need it the most, it's gone.