The Hardest Goodbyes Are Those You Never Get To Say

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I always saw myself as an efficient writer. Not particularly fast, but always fast enough. This however, took days to put together, and came out in bits and pieces. Sometimes it would be a blurb filled with anger, blaming life for slicing you away from me like hot knife to butter, other times an iteration of certain memories we shared—as though penning them down served to keep them alive a little while longer. But finally, it’s written. Shoddily so, but written and uploaded into the depths of the Internet so if Wi-Fi and Google translate exist in heaven, you’ll get to hear it in Hokkien and know for a fact that beyond the scolding, the shushing and the strict dietary restrictions imposed, we love you and miss you. So very much.

I used to think that death was scary. That the feel of cold lifeless flesh against warm skin would be blood chilling and make your hair stand. But in the moment I was atop you, foolishly compressing your chest while life faded away, I wasn’t afraid. Not of you at least. I used to think that we shun death because we’re afraid of the dead coming back alive or bad luck hopping off a limp lifeless body in search of healthy living host. But in reality, we run away because the mind cannot comprehend a sudden lack of constant in life. It is the embodiment of change and a permanent loss that cannot be replaced.

I won’t forget the way you never failed to sort the post when it came, making it a point to personally hand us every letter, no matter the time of the day. Neither will I forget the way you would playfully tickle the soles of our feet when the sun rose and shone through cracks in the window, to which I wished I had responded with smiles and not annoyed groans. They said you were born a little less because you behaved a certain way, but what they didn’t know was that the less made you more, and it is a more that I will cherish every single day. I will miss the way your laughter sounds and the way your your grey hair curled. I will miss your crooked right leg and the way it made you hobble. I will miss all the lesses the world saw and the mores they didn’t.

I’m sorry we didn’t get to say goodbye. That while your kidneys failed and your b.p. soared, we were so caught up in keeping you a little longer, we didn’t realise you were already slipping away. I’m sorry we never let you have whatever you want, thinking that there would be a time for that. A time for that and a time for us to properly tell you how much we love you and have you say it back. You left our lives so suddenly it feels as though any moment now, we could actually have you back.

I’m not ready to let you go. Walking into your room deals me a huge punch in the gut and seeing your favourite dialysis pillow reminds me of the many times you asked if I could send you for treatment, but I was too slow to comply. We still had countless chances to watch the TV together. We had thousands of dining table dinners and millions of hair perming sessions for the Lunar New Year. We had a whole life together. Then suddenly, we didn’t.

I never understood death, our only encounters happened too early and to people too far away. Not until I found you lying on your bedroom floor did I come up close and personal to the concept of dying. I will probably never fully grasp the idea of losing something I’ve been so used to having and it’d probably take the full course of my life for it to sink in and fade away. But thank you for the amazing memories, and I am glad and extremely thankful that during your final moments, I was there beside you to hold your hand.


My aunt collapsed on Monday night and was pronounced dead when the paramedics brought her to the hospital 20 minutes later. She was found lying on the floor beside her bed in severe distress while we tried to resuscitate her. My aunt was born with an IQ lower than the normal standard and required the care of my mother and her other siblings to get through every day life. She lived with me for as long as I could remember and was part of my life in a significant way.

She suffered from renal failure and required dialysis 3 times a week—which gave her the chance to meet all her siblings as they ferried and picked her from the dialysis centre on rotation. She remained jovial, upbeat and led a happy life throughout the treatment and never once complained, lamented or refused treatment. No matter where she is now, I’m sure God (or whoever is up) there has a special place for special people like her and that she is no longer suffering. We love you, Swee Yi, and don’t worry about the letters now, CY’s got it covered.

5 thoughts on “The Hardest Goodbyes Are Those You Never Get To Say

  1. Wow, I got it from another blog you wrote on Zopim and realized right away your remarkable marketing talent.

    Well, I just love your writing. More to the pint of this article… we share this lifelong feeling as I never got to say good bye to my grandmother before she left in 1986. Lifelong, because, as you mention in this piece, the regret never leaves.

    Life does go on… weird!

    1. Hi Elda!

      Sorry it took awhile for me to respond. Thank you for your kind words. 🙂 You’re right. Life does go on and with regards to the regret, it’s not a bad feeling to keep company. At least that means you never forget.

      Hope life takes you to wonderful places!

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