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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Healthy Death Thoughts

This is a picture of my beautiful grandma when she was a young lady.

Isn't it cool that most of our old folks have got super nice, classic, posey photos? These are so so precious! And look at how all the 'gold' parts of the pictures has turned to yellow :')

Oh, did I mention that every piece of clothing seems to be extremely fashionable too? I mean, that photo was prolly taken at least 50 years ago, and now the trend is back. Look at those shoes! 

My grandma makes her own clothes. She made her own wedding gown and cheongsam for tea ceremony, which fits me perfectly! I'm still keeping the cheongsam. Love the wedding gown. Collared wedding creative :)

These are my grandparents when they were young! I think my grandpa was really handsome, but he grew more good looking and charming as he aged. I think that happens to most guys...which explains why I'm more attracted to older men such as Johnny Depp than like, Zac Efron.

Check out my grandma's dress man! I'd buy this dress off the rack anytime! Check out the collar, the clincher, the hem of the dress, and the red lipstick. So vintage!

 That photo was probably taken during their engagement or wedding. I'm not sure, and I guess I'll never be sure cos I can't ask my grandparents anymore. 

My grandma passed away a week ago on 14th May, 2013 around 7.30pm in the evening. We were told that she was in a critical condition on that same day, so we quickly settled all of our commitments and drove back to Malacca to see her. 

But, we were a bit too late. I remember reading the text from my uncle on my dad's phone, saying that grandma has passed away. Upon reading the text, my heart sank immediately. We were still about an hour away from Malacca, and the remaining journey was a real quiet one. All of us didn't know what to say. Slowly, tears just started to well up. It was a painful journey.

Oh, reason why it's 14th May - 18th May was because those were the funeral days, from her death til the burial. Some people were confused by it thinking it represented her days on earth. I know usually it's written like that la but oh well. Hehehe.

My grandma is one helluva generous lady. If I'm only given one word to describe her, that would be it. During Chinese New Year, even the postmen and rubbish truck workers get angpows (red packets). Sometimes it makes us feel quite geram because we think she may be overly generous! The entire Lion Dance troupe would get angpows (including those who tag along and did nothing) on top of their already high payment. 

I won't forget all the times that she secretly, sheepishly puts money into my palm and tells me to spend wisely. She'll say, don't hesitate to spend on good food, but on other things like clothes and decorative items, don't splurge. She's loving, gracious, generous, kind, strong, sacrificial, family-oriented. All her life was focused on raising and providing for her family. I wanna be like her when I become a grandma in the future.

Ever since my grandma's passing, I'd been on a rather emotional ride. Her burial fell on the very same day of my convocation. Paid in full and been anticipating that very day to graduate together with my dear uni mates and take portraits in my robe with my loved ones. But I couldn't make it. It was quite disheartening, but nothing was more saddening than losing my grandma at that point. Without a shadow of doubt, I decided to stay back for the burial instead. But that doesn't mean that seeing graduation pictures on my Facebook timeline didn't affect me la T-T

Anyway, that's not the point of my post today.


I would say that to date, I only faced a few deaths of the people around me in my life. My grandparents, some distant relatives. I count myself blessed. 

But as few as it may be, these few deaths have taught me that Death is a teacher. Death has taught me so much about life, what it means to really LIVE. It has taught me so much about the people around me- who truly cares and who doesn't; who truly loves, who doesn't. 

Death exposes people. Their best, their worst. Who's genuine, who's not. Who truly walks the talk, and who only talks the talk. After all is said and done, it does leave a bad taste in your mouth. You'll never see them the same way again. Nonetheless, I'll still try to.

I respect religions and traditions, but I personally feel that sometimes, death becomes such an event that it keeps people from truly grieving. 

Isn't it ironical that the bereaved are obligated to entertain guests who come by wake services and funerals? Chat with them, keep them occupied.

Isn't it ironical that people are more afraid of protocal, laws, rules and regulations, do's and don'ts, fearing that things they do and say would prevent the dead from smoothly reaching his/her final destination, than to be truly concerned about what the dead now sees in his/her spirit, the things that you do and say when they're gone?

To me, these things rob away the grieving in funerals. People become more preoccupied with doing than feeling. At the end of the day, you become so tired from doing so many things that are "required", that you don't even have time, space, and energy left in you to grieve. To me, this is completely missing the point.

Having said all that, I still respect with all my heart the practices and beliefs of others that differ from mine. These are only my honest views and feelings.


I came across this amazing video on Facebook yesterday. I'm so glad I watched it. It changed my life and point of view about Death.

It's 20 mins long, but it's worth your time. 
You should watch it :)

To think about it, it must be pretty sucky to have a team of video crew follow him around in the last days of his life. But I'm glad he did it, because this video has blessed millions of lives. 

This 20 mins video has made me realize so many things. 
Ultimately, it changed my point of view about Death.

This is the first time I ever talked about Death in my blog. No one likes to talk about death. It's such a big taboo subject, a big no-no. The superstitious take it as a bad omen, that bringing the subject up might jinx things.

But now, I realized that Death isn't necessarily a fully negative thing. I know this may sound weird, but I actually sort of envy Zach Sobiech. I'll try to make you understand why I made that statement.

After watching the video yesterday, I asked myself this question. If I were put in the same situation as Zach, what would I have done with the remaining days of my life? I was curious about what others would do too, so I posted a question on Facebook that goes...

Some of the answers I got include:

- Take all the loans possible, and spend all my money.
- Not pay taxes, sign up for organ donation
- Leave my loved ones so that they can learn to live without me, and go travel the world
- Spend time with family and loved one til the last breath
- Create my legacy, create a baby (this one came from none other than my husband -.-)
- Confess on the Facebook to you immediately (this came from a Facebook fan -.-)
- Someone asked if I really only had 6 months to live. Hahaha hope not!

Anyway, on a serious note. I think it's really healthy to ask ourselves this question from time to time. Your answer to this question pretty much tells everything about your PRIORITY in life.

I asked myself this question, and my answer is to go travel the world with my family and husband, and to hang out in church as much as I can. If I could do all that, I would die a happy person.

But to think of it, I am already sort of doing it (except travelling the world part. hopefully soon! $$$ required). And I really thought hard about this. If I were to die anytime, am I actually ready to leave?

Many people would say they're not ready because they haven't gotten married, given birth, seen the world, be a millionaire, achieve career goals, etc. Of course, no one is EVER ready to leave. We humans are never satisfied with whatever we have achieved. There's always a higher mountain, a bigger goal.

But when I asked myself that question, I have an unexpected sense of peace in my heart. I thought long and hard about what else I want to achieve before I die. The list is long, definitely. But if I were to forego the list, would I be ready?

I think I am. 

I have a blessed life. I don't have a lot, but I always have more than enough. I have a great family, an amazing husband, and I'm at peace with God and myself. I am truly happy, and I wouldn't regret anything.

If God were to call me home, I'd be ready. I know some of you might tell me not to jinx my life up by saying this, but I'd rather dig deep into this scary topic and ask myself this question honestly. Because if I were not ready, I need to know why, and I should fix it.

No no, I'm not being a depressed pessimist. I still want to live and am looking forward to what God has planned out for me. What I'm saying is that it's important to have peace with yourself, with God and the people around you. You don't want to die regretting not making peace with some people in your life, and not correcting your mistakes while you still could. 

Just, don't die regretting.

We, humans are annoying, really. We need DEADLINES for us to be efficient. It's sad but true.

Try giving students an assignment without a deadline, chances are no one would pass up anytime soon, or anytime at all. Try asking for something from your subordinates/team mates without giving a deadline, chances are they would only give you what you want when they happen to recall about it.

Deadlines help us do things more efficiently. Deadlines help us produce work with quality.

Perhaps, deadlines could help us live more meaningfully?

Zach Sobiech had a deadline. The doctors told him he had 6 months - 1 year to live. 

Because of that, his family spent so much time together, probably more than they ever did.
Because of that, people go out of the way to fulfill his wishes and make him happy.
Because of that, his dates with his gf are more special, love becomes sweeter.
Because of that, he pursued his love for music.
Because of that, he started assuring the people around him how much he loves them.
Because of that, Zach probably lived more meaningfully in those few months than he ever did his whole life.

The truth is, we don't have to wait until we have a deadline to start doing all of the above.

"I want everyone to know, that you don't have to find out you're dying, to start living" - Zach Sobiech

We've heard quotes like 'Live like tomorrow is your last day' and 'Live like you're dying' for far too many times. But it never meant so much to me until I watched Zach's story. It spoke so much to me. My view about life and death has changed. Thank you, Zach.

This has always been one of my favourite songs. Fits just right for this post.

Truly, it is not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.

Just some thoughts about death. Healthy thoughts about death.

love, careen


  1. one of the toddlers she took cared of a long long time agoMay 23, 2013 at 2:44 AM

    may your ahma rest in peace and her legacy flourish on.

  2. Careen, your granma was just exactly like my granma T__T She left us in December 2011. It still hurts now whenever I think of her. She was very generous, kind hearted, loving and cute! She would also secretly tucked money into my palm. When I said I don't want it, she would asked me to keep it because I need to spend for my studies and makan. Asked me not to starve myself.
    Just like you, I wanted to be like my granma when I grow old. Granma...I miss you!


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