WHAT I LEARNED FROM “GOODBYES”

Puppy Love

I was 15 when I had my first crush. He was 4 years my senior and we went to the same church. My aunt would tell me countless times about how smart he was. I guess that was one of the reasons why I was besotted with him and felt that he was the perfect guy for me. When he left this country to further his studies, I was sort of “heartbroken”. This was my first “goodbye”. I was sad for a while and learned that life goes on with or without the “love” I thought was meant for me. As with all “puppy love”, I soon got busy with my studies and forgot all about him.

Being an adult now, I have had my fair share of falling for guys and when love is unrequited, I comfort myself by saying, “I am a child of the Divine, it’s okay, let’s move on and find love again.” I have heard stories of marriages gone wrong, relationships went awry and people falling out of love. I learned that to love is to be vulnerable, which means hurt is inevitable, but then good moments are also hard to come by, so I learned to cherish the good and say “goodbye” to the not-so-good. I believe that love will eventually find me or it could be the other way around.

Bestie Love

The second “goodbye” came when I was a young working adult, fresh out of tertiary education. My “bestie” or what we term as BFF (best friend forever) nowadays, passed on suddenly. And I wasn’t around to say my last words to her.

She was one of those rare friends that I have ever had. We were classmates from primary to secondary school. My dad was very strict with me and I was not allowed to go anywhere, except school. I was not even allowed to attend co-curriculum on Saturdays!

One day, she walked to my house from school, which took about 20 minutes, and asked for my dad’s permission for me to stay overnight at her house! Wow, I have never met anyone as brave as her — facing up to my dad. And she became the first friend that I got to stay overnight with; my first experience of being away from home.

I was an introvert and she would tell me to just talk, about anything! Because of her encouragement and “shelling” for me to come out of my shell, I became more independent and confident with myself. I also learned to be more considerate and sociable. She had this habit of bringing a gift or what we termed as “buah tangan” in Bahasa Melayu while visiting and her habit has since rubbed on me. We kept in touch and met frequently even after we left school.

The Missed Call

After graduating as a lawyer, she moved to another state for work. One day, she contracted a virus that attacked her body and made her ill. She was scheduled to return home for a check-up and she rang my house. At that time, I didn’t carry a handphone as I had just started working. Back then, the handphone was not a “necessity” like how it is now.

I returned home late at night due to work and only got the message the next morning when her dad called to tell that she had passed on. I remember tears just welled up every time I thought of her and I wish that I had spoken to her that very night. Since then, I have got myself a handphone and it is now one of the “necessities” for me.

Nowadays, I always make it a point to get in touch with my closer friends and catch up with them, no matter how busy I get. I learned to appreciate good friends and to never take them for granted.

Mother Love

The third “goodbye” was very painful and I don’t think I will ever forget that fateful day. It’s the passing of my mum 10 years ago due to cancer. I couldn’t believe it when she was first diagnosed. Even after she underwent an operation and chemotherapy, I still tried to deny the fact that she was sick. I kept myself busy with work when I should have spent more time with her. I regretted it till today.

She always gave her best to the family. Even though we had financial constraints during my school days, she never failed to buy me my favorite magazine every month. Just like what my mum had done, I too learned to give my best no matter what.

It took me a while to not cry every time I talked or thought about her. The saying “time heals” holds true and of course the “force from above” helped in the healing process. I can now talk about her without tearing, but it still saddens me each time I think of the things that I should have provided for her when she was still alive.

I learned now to make time for my family the best that I can amidst work and serving in the church. I am also more compassionate toward others who have lost their loved ones. Just as Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, so I try not to let those tears go to waste. I hope I can be a comforter for that someone who is experiencing the same loss, though it may be a different degree of loss.

Hello & Goodbye

The journey of life continues and with each “goodbye”, I believe that there is a “hello” to something new that my Creator will take me into. “Goodbye” can sometimes be good, such as saying “goodbye” to bad habits, toxic relationships, negative people or broken things although “goodbye” mostly signifies pain because it is about letting go of people or things we loved dearly when we least expect it.

May the “hello” we come into after each “goodbye” means sunshine or rainbow for someone who is going through the journey we have traveled before. May we leave a legacy that becomes footsteps for others to follow. May our final words be, “I have no regrets passing through this life.”

I would like to leave you with this quote I found on the internet.

“Never regret a day in your life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.” ~ Unknown

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Irene Lai gained much wisdom in her journey from the corporate world to being an educator. She authored the book “Awesome Kid: The Secret of Confident, Not Coddled Kids” from her vast experience of teaching children and teenagers. She introduced online classes at her education center when it was still a novelty and pioneered online tuition for marginalized students in Sabah, Malaysia. Irene hopes to make a difference in the lives of today’s children and youths so that they too, will build their legacy of contribution to society. Connect with her at visimu12@gmail.com.