Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Memorial Service - Eulogy by Tony

The overall service consisted of 1) the paddle salute and song from her dragon boat team, 2) The Eulogy from Tony, 3) Eulogy by Alicia, 3) A poem read by Ella Brady, Ciara Brady and Josie Raza, 4) a word for thanks from Ms Kwek, found of the Breast Cancer Foundation in Singapore, 5) Michelle reading her final letter to Shin and reading Shin's letter to everyone, 6) the photo slideshow, 7) the balloon release.

Below is the Eulogy from Tony:

Eulogy for Shin
By Tony Raza, her husband

The English Language
Anyone who knows Shin, knows this is a sad day for the English language. Shin was truly extraordinary when it came to her proficiency with language, and anyone who knew her would be reminded of this repeatedly.

I would guess she would be in some unique upper percentile when it came to grammar ability. She would read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal and highlight mistake after mistake and complain that nobody cares about grammar anymore. My theory is that if you can find more grammar mistakes than the editor of the NYT that should make Shin one of the top .001%. Which when you combine with her type A personality made for an interesting combination. Shin would walk around town with a pen marker and correct sign after sign. Misspelled word here, improper use of “its” – as an abbreviation for “it is” it needs need an apostrophe, but in the possessive form it does not, confusion of lie and lay since everyone should remember that the past tense of one verb is the same as the present tense as the other. She would walk into a store and demand of the befuddled clerk that they take down their front sign that had a mistake. It drove me crazy at the time, … but yes, I miss it already.

The Blog
I think many people here today may be here because of the blog. To me its only a small part of Shin, but it offers a good window into the type of person shin was, so let me talk a bit about the blog.

I had originally suggested to Shin to start a blog so that she can keep family a friends updated on her condition. It was time consuming to make 20 phone calls after every development. Also, we had started reading other blogs about people with cancer and we found it very useful to build our understanding of how the disease could progress and how it affected people. I think if it were me, that was all the blog would have been, a way to update family and some more informational data points for other cancer patients.

But Shin being Shin, she turned it into something more. At some points, She was getting thousands of hits a day and was noted by various newspapers and television reports. Shin would walk through malls or hospitals and people would come up to her and say “you are the woman with the blog”. One time a group of teenagers recognized her at borders and gathered their friends. They said they were Christian and wanted to pray for her. Shin was charmed and agreed. It was a funny scene with 10 or so teenagers kneeling and praying around Shin in borders while she smiled and giggled.

I’ve thought a lot about what was it that made Shin and her blog catch on the way it did. Her gift for words was obviously a strength for her. Her feisty spirit made her posts more interesting to read. Pictures of cute kids probably helped. And there was a lot of sharing of personal details and feelings that I think was appreciated.

But I’ve also long thought that Shin was one of the unique individuals described in the book the Tipping Point. In the book Malcom Gladwell says “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social skills." He describes the different type of people that are needed to make change and the most important are rarest type is what he calls a “connector”. Connectors are the people who "link us up with the world ... people with a special gift for bringing the world together." They are, "a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances". I thought about Shin in that light ever since I read the book years ago, but watching the blog catch on confirmed it to me. I was lucky to have been with such a person.

And of course, the other really special thing about the blog was the connection it made to so many people. Shin and I would read the emails and comments of stories of similar challenges and loss, words of encouragement or admiration and Shin and I would lie in bed and get choked up reading them. I have similarly been reading the comments on the blog that past few days, and I’m very very touched. The kind words, the memories of shin, the sharing of similar experiences are all appreciated. Thanks to you all.

Preparing the kids
One night in the past couple of weeks when Shin was getting more tired, I told her that I had just gone to the check on Josie and Toby who were sleeping in their room. I told her they were so cute and I was so lucky to have the treasure She has left me. She held up two fingers and said “two treasures”.
Shin wanted to be honest with the children and she wanted them to be prepared. When Josie was only 2, Shin told Josie that Shin had breast cancer and that some people die of it, but that the doctors were helping Shin do everything possible to get better. Josie got used to seeing their mother in various stages of treatment, with or without hair, and in or out of bed. And then 2-3 weeks ago we started explaining that the doctors don’t think they can cure the cancer any more and that Mommy could die and in might be soon. I explained that I will take care of them and their grandmother will be here more to take care of them. Josie asked what if something happened to me, and I explained that there was nana and my brothers family, Shin’s brothers family, and friends like Michelle, Deb and Alicia that love and would take care of them too. Surprisingly, it was Toby who asked what if something happened to all the grownups. To which I said well, then I guess the children will be able to eat chocolate and watch movies all day without grownups to boss them around. Which seemed to get the kids positively excited about the idea and they spend the rest of the day imagining how great it could be.
A few days before Shin passed away, Josie, Toby and I talked about what we would miss the most. Josie said she would miss her love, I said I would miss her smile and Toby said all of her. Josie said it was ok because she could always find Shin’s love in her heart, and I could find her smile in my heart, and then Toby piped up “yeah and I can find all of her in my heart”.

To the Kids in the room
We have a fair number of kids in the room. Thanks for being good friends to Josie and Toby. I want to say some thing directly you kids here. Sometimes adults have saying that are clever but a little hard to understand. Lets see who can understand these sayings: ready?
- Ok first one – “It not the years in your life, but the life in you years” – That sound confusing right? To Josie, it means is that your mom may not have lived to be very old, but she sure was happy a lot and helped others a lot with the years she did have. Some people live much longer, but never do as much and love as much as your mom did.
- Here is another: “Don’t cry because she is gone, smile because she was here”. Its going to be hard for us because we are going to miss her so much. But we should remember that it was such a joy to have when we did and really aren’t we lucky for that.
- A friend wrote: “Shin was a small women who made a big impact, she was a force to be reckoned with” - Right, you don’t have to be big to do big things. Mommy was a small person but she made a big impact on a lot of people. Look at how many people are here now.
- Last one: “When death smiles at us; all a man can do is smile back” – That one is about being brave like your mom. When you face scary things in your lives, think of your mom who faced something scary like cancer with a smile.

Shin’s heart
Shin’s English language skills and the blog are interesting points about Shin, but I was really just warming up to trying to say something about what it was that really made Shin special. The was something special about the way Shin was so full of life.

Josie and Toby would know what I’m talking about right?. Josie, do you remember when mommy would come home and squeal “Josie!” or “Toby!” with the biggest smile in the world. Didn’t she just make the whole room fill up with happiness. Its not quite the same as when Dad comes home, right? I say hi josie!, you say hi dad. That is something we will miss.

I recall when I was first falling in love with Shin I had this epiphany about why I was falling so deeply for Shin so quickly. I felt her love and affection would light up a room and make me feel like I’m the only person in the world. I started to tell her how I felt and she said, “yeah that what all my boyfriends have told me”. I actually felt a bit deflated at the time, but I kind of look back at if fondly now thinking about her string of boyfriends that were as spellbound as I was. I guess there is part of it that is true to everyone in love, but trust me, you can only imagine the force that emanates from Shin’s love. I think friends feel it too, and that’s why she has so many strong friendships.

Shin probably would have wanted me to talk more about causes Shin worked for, environment, recycling, saving energy, cancer awareness, kids in need. As many of you would know she would hand out pamphlets on breast cancer awareness to everyone she meets. She saved her head for the children’s cancer foundation only a month after it had grown back after chemotherapy, raising and amazing $20k in the process. She should be proud of her accomplishments, but personally I think it all really starts with that bundle of loving energy the radiates from her.

Good friends
I’ve found there are some benefits to dieing relatively young. I’m comforted to think Shin went out as well as one can. First the nature of cancer lets you prepare. Shin had 3 years since her initial diagnosis and a little of a year since her recurrence to set thing in order. There will always be more that one can think of doing , but Shin prepared well and I think helped put her at ease that her family would be ok.

And being young is helpful when you have young and capable friends to help. Which brings me to friends like Michelle and Alicia. Michelle has been an amazing friend to Shin, taking on the role of being her cancer buddy, which involves organizing an overwhelming about of information, tests, scans and research, and holding her hand during treatment. Michelle and Alicia were in our home 24 hours a day during the final week as we took shifts in caring for her. I was very comforted knowing that Shin had the luxury of being cared by loved ones at home. The hospice doctors and nurses from Assisi hospice were wonderful. And I am so happy that Shin in her death was at peace with setting things in order, and surrounded by an abundance of love that made her parting as comfortable as possible.

Shin’s father wrote in an email to Michelle and Alicia that he was so thankful to them and he thought they were truly angels. Our friend Rahul wrote to Michelle that she was an angel sent from a place Shin says doesn’t exist.

And to the kids in the room, when you want to learn what it means to be a true friend, think of the example of Michelle and Alicia.

On my very first date with Shin …. Not really a date, a lunch. She was a tv producer at CNBC and I came on her program to talk about stocks, and through that we met and agreed to go out to lunch. She told me then that she didn’t want to get married and didn’t want to have kids, and told me emphatically she could never be a stay at home mother. She fancied herself a smart world traveler that was going to live a lot of what this world has to offer and do something good for it. The people she admired were her friends like Kate Webb, the highly regarded, brave, no-nonsense war correspondent, who passed last year. Its ironic really, because, as I write her Eulogy, what it all boils down to for me is that she was a wonderful mother and wife, and ironically, I truly think that is how she would want to be remembered.

In the end, I think Shin was comfortable with her allotment of life. Before kids we talked once that if the plane we were on went down, we’d be ok with that. We’ve traveled the world, we’ve studied at great universities, we had interesting work, and we’ve experienced deep love and various worldly pleasures. We’d prefer more, but if that was all we got, we would have to admit that our lives were among the most fulfilling in the history of the planet. Children changed that a bit, as our hearts become completely engrossed in making sure they were taken care of. Children made it harder to let go. But with the time we had to prepare, I think Shin was finally confident that everything would be taken care of.

Its my promise to you Shin, I’ll take good care of Josie and Toby. You don’t have to worry about a thing. You can rest in peace. Thanks for making us so proud of you. And you will always still be alive in our hearts.


Anonymous said...

I am very very touched and lost of words for Shin, Tony, Josie and Toby. :)

Jayden, Shannen and Jonaven said...

My eyes well up even as I'm writing this. Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt eulogy with us, Tony. Shin's definitely someone whom anyone and everyone will be proud of. She's one of the most remarkable persons I have and ever will come across.

Leighbee said...

I'm not sure I have ever known of such love...I guess Shin helped us all learn to love ... as friends...as family....as aquaintances BUT to Tony...what you have is and always will be incredible - elite - rare and PERFECT... there's an old saying "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved before" I've always cast it aside - until now... you deserved each other... your love will never be forgotten...it is eternal... something very special... xxxx PS - Shin - if you are reading in... as promised I only used 2 elipses... Thank you for educating me in so many ways... I wish we'd had more time together BUT am so very grateful for the short while I was allowed (and YES - I AM shouting because you deserve to be shouted about!)

Anonymous said...

Tony, while reading, I tear for missing Shin, can picture her "joke", her smiles, her funny yet "annoying" acts and words,etc,......and I can understand what you meant by you you are missing what drive you "crazy" ... but I am sure this all in your heart and mind, so whenever you miss, you can just "call them out" :) ... sorry, just try to be "funny"...

Josie and Toby are such a wonder and 2 "treasures". Shin and you have helped each other and prepare all and without you and Michelle, the 2 kids,etc, I am sure she may not be able to live to her fullest and live till the moment she died...Like what Alicia and Michelle said, you are a wonderful and strong husband and father. You may not perfect but I am sure Shin never regret marrying you and having the 2 kids! Same goes to Shin, so both of you are wonderful! :) Take care. :)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful husband and father you are!

-- a fellow breast cancer survivor

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony

I can't help but to recollect this song ' Time in a bottle' by the late Jim Croce while reading your words

I like to dedicate this song to you and your lovely kids and also to their unforgettable mother


Time in a bottle ( Jim Croce )

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that Id like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
Id save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
Ive looked around enough to know
That youre the one I want to go
Through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
Ive looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with


Anonymous said...

your words are really touching and it made me cried badly coz I was thinking of Shin as I read.
Even though Shin's gone but shecan be VERY sure that Josie and Toby will be well looked after.
You can do it Tony! you have ALL my moral support!!
Love ,Sharon Ng

Anonymous said...

It is good to be reminded that what we make of each situation is to learn from it and move on. To be overwhelmed or drowned in sorrow would not be helpful but rather take steps that will help to contribute to our and others’ well-being. Apart from their parents, I believe that there are other care-givers or good role-models children can learn from.

ALI KATI said...

Speaking of gift of words - wonderful eulogy, Tony. I've just watched Lynn's cut of it too, so I could hear you saying those words. I'm very sorry for your loss, but also incredibly moved by your love for her.

I'm sure she would have loved it.

Yvonne said...

Thank you for sharing. I cant stop crying, miss Shin, but am also touched by your love for Shin, Josie and Toby. I am so thankful get to know Shin.
Being a breast cancer survivor myself, I am too living my daily life as meaningful as possible, but has not been easy at times. I am too preparing my children (5, 8, 11) value of life and should one day I am not here, they will continue live and love life. Thank you, Tony.

Reader said...

Hey Tony.

I know this is totally besides the point and I don't mean to be a pedant but:

"improper use of “its” – as an abbreviation for “it is” it does not need an apostrophe, but in the possessive form it does, "

Isn't it the other way around?

Tony said...

Reader, ah yes, you are right. Shin has only said it a hundred times, but I didn't realize I'd reversed it until you said it.

I'm conflicted what to do now. Its easy enough to fix the post and help Shin rest in peace. But it is also enters a touch of irony that Shin would have laughed at, so maybe I just let it be.

Shin would thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tony, is ok la, we don't mind la. Just let it be, is really ok. :)

Anonymous said...

Tony, none of us or I would think most of us wouldn't know about that until Reader pointed out, and like Shin said to Michelle and Alicia, I think most of us are really too hard to be taught the use of correct grammar. So you can LET IT BE, not an issue at all. :) Haha maybe Shin would probably be shaking her head and saying that to all of us here. :P

Happy Birthday to Josie! :)

Anonymous said...

Just to add that we won't laugh because that's Shin and we love everything in her just like what Michelle said that she love everything in her...Tony, what most of us love about Shin is her frankness and not afraid to admit her faults,etc...so is alright, we will only remember the positive and good of Shin...All humans makes mistakes and this is just a very very "peanut" one. No worries at all.

Reader said...

Re: it's and its

I think you should leave it.

Shin would be pleased to know that although she cannot be with us physically anymore, there are still others out there dedicated to the cause. ;)

Anonymous said...

Just read Tony's eulogy and he did get it right -

improper use of “its” – as an abbreviation for “it is” it needs need an apostrophe, but in the possessive form it does not

Not sure if Tony corrected it after Reader's comment, or Reader read it wrongly. Guess I'm being pedantic too..but like Shin I get very irritated with the wrong use of the apostrophe for "its"...lol ! Tony , God bless you and the children ! And Shin had God in her as she said in her letter!!

Tony said...

I corrected it. Although, Shin has a good sense of humor, I knew she would never be able to rest until it was fixed, so I figured it was the right thing to do.