In many ways, this is not the kind of December I’m used to – my wife and I just returned from a funeral, our second this ‘festive’ month. It was a child’s funeral – a 14 month-old baby girl, who died suddenly in her sleep, leaving behind two very distraught parents.
The first funeral was held in honour of our dear friend’s father who suffered a stroke from a medical complication and within a week, passed on. The funeral, although somber, had a mood akin to that of an alumni gathering where friends gathered and shared the life stories of the dearly departed. My friend and his family were blessed with so many anecdotes of his father from all who came. For the grieving family, these meaningful recounts concretized the great legacy he has left behind.
I turn 44 next year, and if all goes well, I hope to outlive my own father who passed away at 44 due to cancer. As a young teenager who lost his Dad prematurely, I strive daily to be the best husband, the best Daddy and the best employee – very tall order for just a regular bloke. Even tougher as my wife and I are standing at some major crossroads in our lives – having just adopted a newborn son in June this year; our daughter entering Primary One in Jan 2015 and both of us having increased responsibilities at work. These add to the stresses of life and we all know stress does not augment well for one’s health.
The second funeral – the death of the baby girl was more tragic. Children and caskets should never be in the same frame, ever. Having been through child bereavement (a path less travelled), we knew how important it is to have someone there to offer condolence and support. And we did. We met up twice with this well-mannered young Christian couple who had to bear the tragic loss of their beautiful 14 month-old girl.
Children are a blessing; they are precious and entrusted by God for us to love, for a season. Children are not a ‘status symbol’ nor should they be part of our ‘marriage life’ that can be conveniently ‘taken out’ and put back when it suits our convenience.
In Singapore, it is easy to confuse being a busy parent with being an engaged, effective parent. Enrichment classes, camps, parties, performances are all legitimate pursuits but do not be fooled into thinking that we are engaging our children. I’m very much guilty of that.
In this regard, there were moments, too frequent to even recall that I have failed as a Dad. Too busy or tired from work to answer my curious 6 year-old’s questions, and getting easily impatient with the crying newborn. It is tempting to let my daughter do her own thing since she is now more independent. It is tempting to let someone else care for the newborn after a hectic workday. But each moment I don’t engage my children is a moment lost forever. We only have so much time to make precious connections with the precious children God has entrusted to us. Every moment spent with them are opportunities to forge memories that matter. Quoting the movie ‘Interstellar’, “We are here… to be the memories for our kids.” But first, to be in their memories, we need to be present.
I hope to engage my children and my wife more. Anything… to just enjoy their presence and engage them intentionally. For without engagement, there can’t be a relationship. And without it, it would be tough to be an effective parent in this modern, messed-up world.
‘We’re all travelling through time, together, everyday of our lives… All we can do is do is our best to relish this remarkable life.’ – About Time
‘About Time’ stars award-winning actor Bill Nighy and is a fictitious story about a father and son who have the ability to travel through time. Due to the biological randomness of conception, to go back in time and return again would mean the son having a different baby each time he returns. The challenge arrives when the father is dying of cancer and the son is about to welcome his newborn. They have to choose a moment where they would relish it for one last time. The moment they picked was when the son was much younger, playing at the beach with his Dad – a simple moment where a powerful connection was made – just a tender moment between father and son.
I wonder what moments my children and wife would pick to remember me by. I hope for those to be positive moments – simple, meaningful and yet powerful enough to make that all-so-important connection which stand the tests of time. One that leaves many good stories for them to tell and one that sums up a good legacy I’ve left behind.
This is my hope as I continue my journey into 2015 and beyond.