Wednesday, 27 June 2007

What if there is no second chance?

Let's imagine this, you get the news from your doctor that starting from tomorrow after your operation, you will not be able to eat any ice-cream at all. And this is going to be permanent. But today, you can have all you want. How will you react? Most probably, you will head out to the stores and buy tonnes of ice-cream with different flavors. You will also buy a lot of very expensive ice-cream that in normal circumstances you will not buy or you will not buy as much. You probably will forget how fat ice-cream can make you. After all, it is just one day, right?

What if the operation is rescheduled to next week and you have one week to devour all the ice-cream you want? Will you care about how fat ice-cream can make you? Probably not. You probably say, worry about the dieting and exercising later.

Let's see another scenario. What if you know you are going to die tomorrow or in a week? Will you decide to go to work as normal from 9 to 5? Will you decide to spend your last moments with those you love and care to tell them how much you love them? Will you call all your friends and people who you care to say goodbye? Will you do the things that you want to do all along but just do not have time to plan for it? Will you decide to pack some of your precious thing and give to others? Will you compile all your secret recipes of your special dishes which you keep to yourself all along and decide to pass along to others so they will not be lost? Will you blog ?

I probably will do all of the above except working from 9 to 5 and I do not think I have any secret recipes so far. :). I think I will still go to the office to bid all the people farewell and pass my last wisdom, but I will not do any works. I imagine I will get mad if someone ask me on my last day on earth about work - how to do this thing or where I put that file?
Don't get me wrong. I like my work and I am a responsible person. And I definitely want to advance in my career. But that is not my priority anymore if I only have 1 more day or week to live.

So, why people have different priorities when they know they do not have enough time? Will the workaholic and ambitious guy who spent most of his time working in the office but not enough times with his family and friends felt regret when he was suddenly hit by a bus and died?

One wise man told me I got my priorities wrong when I chose to go to my colleague farewell instead of finishing my work and meeting my deadline. After all, according to him, what difference did it make since the colleague was not going to be with us anymore.

I felt guilty because I could not meet my deadline. But it was not because I did not treat my deadline seriously. I did, but sometimes a lot of new and ad hoc things I need to work on keep me from meeting the original deadline. Things are changing everyday. As long as I am still very committed and dedicated in my work and focusing on result, I do not think missing a deadline for 1 or 2 days matter that much. Unless, the deadline has significant direct business impact (means a customer will be dissatisfied).

Anyhow, I chose to go to my colleague's farewell for different valid reasons, both emotionally and strategically. Emotionally, it was good to remember being able to celebrate his (the colleague who was leaving) last day together in a joyful moment. Strategically , other colleagues are going too, so that is good for building some relationship with them also. After all, it DOES matter who you know and not only what you know in order to be successful.
Believe me, this is not a selfish act, as I do not prefer to use strategic reason to determine my action. But this what I and my other friend debated the other day.

There was another emotional reason, which is the pact I made to myself that I would not like to miss out on any special occasions or moments, even if they matters to other people more than to me. After all, I told myself, the moment when I am dying, I think I can reflect on all those memories rather than the memory of me sitting at my cubicle and doing my work.

That's what most people say, when you are dying, flashes of images of your whole life will come to you. I think the images will be some special and beautiful places and faces of those who you have connection with. Those you dearly love and care and those whose their life are changed because of you. On the negative side, if you have hurt someone in the past, their images will come to you also with their look of contempt or grieve. On the other hand, a funeral or a graveyard (which you visited) can be a beautiful image to you because you been there to pay respect and share the moment with those who endure the pain of losing someone.

My mission in life is to increase the beautiful images in my database. :)

So, these are the things that I think everyone should do whenever there is a call cause most probably there will NOT be second chance. DO NOT WAIT. I learn these through some painful experiences myself.

1. Visit those who are sick, especially in hospital.

In my adolescence, I had a close cousin brother who contracted cancer. He was my peer and my playmate since we were small. Then he was admitted to the hospital . It was sometimes near Chinese New Year. It was a bad year for him and for my family as almost my whole family had fallen sick at that time.

Nevertheless, I was intending to visit my cousin brother in the hospital with my aunty. However, I did not manage to go because I got sick waiting for my aunty in the car while she dilly-dally and then my mom asked me not to go at the last moment. I complied. Was it my lack of persistence or was it the dilly dally of my aunty? How would I know I would regret this for my whole life? I never had chance to visit him again. My cousin died some days later.

And I missed out the chance. I never can imagine what was the condition of the hospital and his room. How he looked like with all the tubes. How he had suffered. Especially, how he would react when he see me. I never had that chance.
I heard he did ask his parents why I did not come. That sadden me more because though I could not do much for him, I might have been there for him to give him moral support.

But I was small at that time, I think around 10 . I really could not remember. But I was young and I was easily persuaded by elders who felt hospital is not good for young sick girl like me. Of course, they also would not have realized that can make me remorseful for my whole life.

I learnt another lesson when I was in Form 3. My mum was admitted to the hospital to perform a small operation when I was going through a big exam. As I needed to study for the exam on the next day, I decided to only go visit my mum after the exam was over. It turned out, my mum was back at home the very next day. My mum was not too happy with her only daughter seemingly not being caring enough to visit her in the hospital. I said to her that I had planned to visit her the next day.

However, looking back, it did not really make sense that I have WAITED to visit her. It did somehow seemed like I did not really care for her. But that was not the case. It was just I was ignorance. I took that as a lesson ever since. Fortunately, my mum had nothing untoward happen to her in the hospital. If not, I would not be able to forgive myself.

Do not make the mistakes I did. Do not put hospital visit as second priorities below your work or your study. You never know what will happen to the those hospitalized and you can never understand how glad for them to see you or how they appreciate your support by just being there for them. Even if you are not very close to the patients, showing you care at least will give them some warm feeling.

Ever since then, I have visited my friend who became new mother, sick colleague, ex-classmate who had accident, boyfriend's grandma, etc. And I never DELAY the visit to the next day.

2. Attend funeral

Not only I missed out seeing my cousin brother for the last time in his life, I also did not attend his funeral. Unfortunately, I was sick again at that time and was told not to go.

I could not remember how I took the news of his death. But I think it took sometimes to settle in my mind and heart. It was like a large part of me chose not to believe it and not to languish in sorrow.

It was easy to let go afterwards. After all, I have not seen him for quite some times and I could not imagine his sufferings and his funeral. I did not believe I had cried either.

What was funny was it took me another year later for me to understand and cry for him. I was in another funeral for my cousin sister, who was less close to me . She died because of cancer too and coincidentally she was also same age as me. Anyway, at one moment during her funeral , it suddenly dawned on me that I have not even pay my cousin brother the last respect. I could not imagine how his funeral looked like. Was there a lot of people paying him respect? Was there the usual funeral ceremony? He was so young. The images what I would most wanted to remember was blank. It is like you are reading a story book but you never ever get to read the ending and the book is lost forever.

I try not to repeat my mistake........

I found that by attending funerals, I have more empathy. I can understand more on how painful it was for people to go through the experience of losing someone they loved. They really have been very strong.

It also taught me life is very fragile and I have to cherish people around me.

Another important thing act of kindness is to chip in the money to pay "pak kam" (money to contribute to the funeral as in Chinese tradition). Whenever your friends, relatives or colleagues have someone important to them who passed away, it will be good to at least contribute some money as token of respect.

During somewhere around the year of 2000, my grandma passed away and I had to go back to hometown. I called up a close friend to tell her the news and that I was going to be away. Before I went away, my friend had collected some money from my several other friends for me (all in a very short time). I did not even expect that because I did not really know the Chinese tradition. But I felt warmth and grateful to them for their contribution. I remembered feeling proud when I gave the money to the collector - it was like "you see, my friend cared that I lost my grandma".

I encountered or heard some quite bad acts that was against what I am trying to tell here. Here are 2 of them:

1. My boyfriend's aunty passed away early this month and had her funeral in Seremban (1 hour drive from city). I could not understand why one of my boyfriend's brother did not bother to appear at all. It was from Thursday night until Saturday morning. I could not believe he had been so busy and did not even have few hours to spare. After all , she was his aunt. I have only seen her once. But I learned something from her also as she was telling me how hard of her ordeal after each chemotherapy. It was like you may be very normal although the cancer will attack you once in a while and make you really painful. Or, you can undergo chemotherapy and after each sessions, you will become a very sick person because not only it kills the cancer cells, it also kills many of the other cells and it is painful ordeal to recover from that also.

2. This is really really unconventional bad act- it was about my friends' infamous boss. A colleague recently lost the loved one and people was asking for the "pak kam" money. When he was asked, he replied , "Wait for next time." and avoided paying a single cent. That was the clear message he sent out to all the people that day why he did not manage to get any respect from all the people in his department and even those who barely know him. And such a people got to be a boss in a quite large corporate in Malaysia.

And next time???? "Oh, let's wait for the next people to die, then I will pay!!!" It was really awful!!!!

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