Sunday, February 22, 2009

Its Never Too Early To Prepare

Shin asked me many times in the months leading up to her passing to make sure people with a terminal illness know how important it is to be prepared.

Over two years ago one of Shin's friends sent me through a link to a website that talks about preparing children for losing a parent.

Maybe six months prior to that, after a chemo visit one day, I asked Shin if we could go and buy the memory boxes we'd long been talking about preparing for Toby and Josie. She was reluctant. She said it was too early and that she had no plans of dying any time soon. She said she thought it would be like admitting that she was going to die when she had no intention of letting the disease win any battle.

I persisted, as I do, and Shin finally relented (which she rarely did) and we went out and bought the most beautiful memory boxes in the world. That started us on a roll of adding to them. Shin was already writing in journals, but that accelerated. We bought presents for future birthdays and found things that Shin had when she was younger that the kids would cherish. The boxes started filling up.

By the time we reached January 2009 and Shin had decided to stop her chemo, she started talking regularly about how unprepared she felt. She would often say "hell of a deadline Shelly, do you think they'll give me an extension? I have so much to do!"

It was then she realised that us buying those memory boxes all those months, even years ago, made a whole pile of sense. She was relieved that she had so much to leave for the kids, for Tony and me.

She wanted us all to know she realised that getting prepared is not about "giving up". Its not about admitting defeat. Its about making sure that while you are able, you do the very very best you can to make sure you give everything you can. To your kids, your family and your friends.

Even Shin writing her letter to us, her "final words" a year ago brought relief to her in the end because she was so happy we would be able to hear from her and that what she said was articulate and to the point.

Five days after I arrived back from Singapore and the memorial service there were two letters in the post addressed to my kids. She had written them on the 14th Jan 2009, just 13 days before she passed.

I feel we are all very lucky that Shin was prepared. We all have so much more of her to remember. Her essence of life and love for it is so much more present because of everything she has left behind.

Thank you Shin.



Ben Lee said...

Yup agree. I guess the worst form of death is that you can never foresee it and there are so many unsaid/ undone things that you want to do for your loved ones.

At least Shin managed to do these with the memory boxes.

Anonymous said...

very true..

everything seems to be happening so fast.. one moment she is still blogging, another moment she left..

i really hope tony, toby and josie and all frens of shin will pull thru this difficult time. to me as a 18 yr old, i really cant imagine having to grow up without a mum. i really feel a little sad that toby and josie have to go through all this..but im sure with tony and close fren's of shin guiding them..they will grow up to be adults with the characteristics and qualities of their beautiful mum.

life may be different without her, but time will heal. im sure memories of her shall be kept alive in all our hearts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle, is nice to read your post.

Are the boxes being feature in the mandarin doc show are those you all bought?

btw, I remember a few of us did post about asking Shin to keep all those things in a fire proof safety box...wonder if that was being done...not necessary in case of fire but just to prevent from any kind of loss.

Shin is a real brave fighter who never give in! :)

She is really a very responsible mother who wanted to do as much as she can and that's never enough for her...can understand but I also told her that she has done her best and don't give herself too much pressure though I can understand.

Shin really teach us a lot and she still want to share even after her passing...Thanks Shin! :) Thanks Tony and Michelle for sharing with us! :)

I am sure all of us won't forget her and where is she? in our heart too! :)

Kathie said...

Hi Michelle,

Thank you for this reminder.

Perhaps we should all live this way, to be prepared for the unforseen. Shin is fortunate to be able to prepare knowing what was coming. Imagine some of us may just 'die' suddenly, totally unprepared.

Just thinking aloud.

Emily said...

We should live like there's no tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

The way I like to remember Shin is one day when I was driving her back after she had spent hours in Borders... (maybe after Chemo, I don't remember) - she told me the short cut home because there was so much traffic on Orchard Rd.. we ended up getting caught up in the worst floods that I have ever seen, I think we were in the car for 2 hours trying to get home, it should have taken 15 minutes. Shin was in the front seat with her legs tucked up, telling me about everything and everyone, she didn't stop.. just like Shin - at one point I did a U-turn to get away from the traffic, to find an alternative route, and we had to go into a gas station to exit from the other side - Shin was like "please, please, lets get some crisps, potato chips," I looked at her, she was just like a little kid, and I said "Shin, do you really want to?" and she said "no, I guess not, but I miss them so much"

Shin, you were / are perfect!!

Anonymous said...

The way I like to remember Shin is one afternoon when I drove her back from Borders, in town. I can't recall whether it was after chemo or whether it was just a random town visit to Borders. Shin bought a lot of books, some about cancer, but others about life. I had gone to the hair salon and I met her after. There was a huge queue in Orchard Road so we decided to go by another route. Shin was directing me, and we got into a huge jam as a result of massive flash floods - it took us about 2 hours to get home instead of 15-20 minutes! I just remember her curled up on the front seat like a little girl, talking about life, talking about people, talking about things, she was so animated and it was a nice way to spend one's time in a jam. I did a detour which meant that we had to go via a gas station (in and out) and Shin was like "wait, I have to get some potato chips, please" - I looked at her, (this was after she had been talking to me about a healthy diet) and I said "Shin, really, do you want them?" and she said "no, I guess not, but it was a nice try"

Anonymous said...

What sort of memory boxes are available?
It is such a nice idea, I'd like to prepare one for my daughter.