Do Your Best Because You Never Know How Short Life Could Be

Last month, I was shocked by the news of the sudden death of someone whom my family knew very well. He has always been a good person in my eyes, so I was completely surprised to learn that I would not be able to see him again. Thinking about his children even made me feeling sadder. I hoped his children could handle this situation well because I could imagine how scary it would be for them to continue their lives after their father’s death.

Four years ago, my Dad was hospitalized for a week, and throughout that week, I cried on and off. It never crossed my mind that my parents could leave me alone in this world permanently. That one time event has changed my point of view about life and specifically preparing life after someone’s death.

Events, such as serious illness and death are not the things that I specifically receive in school. Thanks to age and maturity, I learned to understand these events wisely. Out of the things that I read and heard from people, getting over the regret feeling is the hardest one. Too often, we do things without thinking of the consequences, only later we regret from not doing it the way we should be. I’ve heard so much from relatives how sorry they were from not taking time to listen and spend time with their loved ones while they were still alive.

This new understanding has then shaped the way I interact with my parents and do my everyday activities. I started to pay attention to my parents’ health and do extra miles in my own way to ease their burden. Of course, we still have disagreements here and there, but I have done at my best to make things better for them, as possible as I could. Likewise, in my own personal life, I learn to not take things too personally. I also learn to always think pros and cons before saying and explaining something to clients. Definitely, I have more things to do while I am still alive, and I try to do each of it with genuine heart. This is because I don’t want to feel bad later on. It is because I understand that life is precious and so I must use it wisely.

I Learn How to Love and Forgive from My Son

*All the names and characters in this story are fictive. This story is written to increase awareness about Autism and to encourage people to be mindful when they meet someone who has Autism.*

I remembered how happy I was when I learned that I was pregnant. I was married at 35 years old, and my in-laws were worried that I would have difficulty to conceive a child. My marriage itself is kind of outside the norm in our Asian culture, mainly because I am married to a guy who is four years younger than I am. My husband is a loving guy who treats me equally. He allows me to work and do things that I like to do. In short, our marriage is a happy marriage.

I gave birth to a cute baby boy at 36 years old. We named him Jeremiah, and we celebrated his presence by throwing a fantastic party. Jeremiah grew healthy, and his milestone was on track. At 2 years old, I noticed something odd with Jeremiah. His speech skills seemed to regress. He used to wave and call me “Mama,” but his words were disappeared. We took him to a child psychologist and were advised to take ADOS test. The psychologist suspected that Jeremiah might have Autism. I cried when she said that, but I braved myself to take the test. Four weeks later, it was confirmed that Jeremiah had mild Autism. I cried every night for about a week. I tried to tell myself the result was wrong, but I also recognized that he lost his speech and he became avoidance. Our daily schedules were changed ever since we found out that Jeremiah had Autism. Therapists were coming in to our house and we also transported Jeremiah to see another therapist outside home. I signed up for ABA courses. I even attempted to put Jeremiah on a strict diet. However, my husband was against this idea. He said we better kept him in behavioral therapies instead of strict diet.

Jeremiah started to talk a bit at four years old. We were able to put him in a regular school, though it was a hard work. My husband used everything he could do to keep Jeremiah in school. We demanded his school to give Jeremiah extra lessons to catch up missing work. It was an exhausting process, but we would not give up for Jeremiah.

Bad words about me started to show up, as soon as people learned about Jeremiah’s Autism. They blamed me for bringing bad genes. I wanted to smack them, but I knew it wasn’t appropriate. Jeremiah knew when I was sad. He would come and hugged me tightly. He said “It’s ok, Mommy.” When the school called me to inform that Jeremiah had a hard time in the classroom, he would look at me with teary eyes and said “Sorry, Mommy.” Parents who did not know about Jeremiah’s diagnosis often blamed me for not teaching rules to him. However, parents whose children also have special needs, though it is not Autism, understood my situation. We made a group chat via WhatsApp, and we shared tips. This group chat has supported me to survive and raise Jeremiah. I deeply thank my husband who against all odds and difficulties, he is always on my side.

Jeremiah is 17 years old now. He will graduate from high school next June. We are not sending him to a college. Instead, we bring a teacher in to teach him baking and cooking. Jeremiah loves baking cookies. Ever since he was young, he enjoyed watching Food Network and asked me to buy ingredients so that he could bake and cook. We plan to sharpen his skills and hope that he could earn money through baking and cooking. Through Jeremiah, I learn how to love unconditionally. He is teaching me to forgive those who talk bad about us. Jeremiah is a loving child. His Autism does not stop him from being a lovable person and most importantly do not block him from pursuing his passion.

Under the Foliage Maple Trees.

I love hearing the sounds of leaves rustle.

Such a comfort after a busy day.

I love walking on the paths that is covered with colorful leaves.

It is a treatment to soothe a weary soul.

I love the smell of trees during Autumn season.

Such a romantic day for a non-romantic person like me.

Walk with me and hold my hand.

Hold it tight even when I want to release it.

Just keep walking.

You and I.

We, us, together, in eternity.

As Pretty As Red Roses

Lady, oh lady

Yes, you lady

Such a sweet lady

Aging makes you look graceful

Lady, cast your worries

Embrace the world with confident smile

Walk straight and straighten your collar

Crazy?

No, lady, you aren’t crazy

You are a talented lady with gracious vision

Lady, oh lady

My sweet lady

Hope all your wishes come true

Let this year be the prettiest year ever for you

As pretty as the red roses

Happy Birthday, my Lady!

5 Tips Before Sending A Bouquet of Flowers

Have you ever heard words saying, “say it with flowers?” Do you know that certain flowers have special meaning, for example, Cala Lily represents purity, while Lavender represents admiration? This is why we often see people holding flowers bouquet when they are visiting family or going on a date. There’s nothing wrong with giving or sending a bouquet of flowers to loved one, but you must give that bouquet with all your hearts. Following is the tips on how you could make your bouquet meaningful to your loved one.

#1. Make sure your loved one is not allergic to flowers.

You could obtain this information by directly asking the person whom you will give the flowers, or you could ask friends or relatives who know that person very well.

#2. Check with the loved one whether he or she is fond of flowers.

Some people simply don’t enjoy flowers. If your loved one falls under this category, don’t waste your money on flowers. You could give something else. Again, you could get this information by asking right away and asking friends or family members who know that person.

#3. Choose the flowers that convey your feelings.

Flowers have meaning, and when you want your loved one to know how you feel, choose the flowers that represent your feeling. You could ask florists to help you, or do your own research to find out what flowers you want to order.

#4. Include a special message in your bouquet.

This message hopefully will cheer your loved one and emphasize the hidden message of why you send this bouquet to her or him. It will be great if you write the message, and not copy paste from Internet or ask secretary to write it on behalf of you, because your loved one will know it.

#5. Deliver the bouquet personally.

Try at your best to deliver the bouquet by yourself because this will brighten your loved one’s day. If you live far from your loved one, you could call shortly after the florist delivers the bouquet.

Sending a bouquet of flowers without thoughtful actions is meaningless. These five tips will guide you in determining whether it is necessary to give flowers. The tips also help you to choose what message you want your loved one to know when you send that flowers bouquet.

The Return of Hans

**All names and characters in this story are fictive.**

The last time Susan spoke with Hans was on Christmas day, 5 years ago. Hans is neither her best friend nor her special friend. He is simply a mutual friend, but he has been around her for 8 years. Susan doesn’t say much to him because she thinks if she has no special interest toward him, she should not try to get his attention. On the other hand, Hans occasionally sends a random message on important events, like birthday and Christmas. Not every year, it’s only when he feels he wants it.

Susan has been keeping herself busy with her job as a hospital director. Seeking a love mate is not her priority. She thinks getting married is a hassle and even if she decides to get married, finding the right guy seems a hard task for her, perhaps even harder than running a hospital. She fell in love twice in her life, but Cupid was not on her side. She had a nice guy back when she was in school, but she decided to let him go because she thought it was too early for her to commit in a romantic relationship. Hans was among the guys whom she was introduced with when she was in a college. Hans was a serious guy at that time, and perhaps still, and this somewhat scared Susan. A friend asked her why she did not want to date Hans, and Susan said Hans was too serious and appeared to be rigid. She disliked that kind of feeling. Too much expectation. Susan left every possible romantic relationship up in the air with any guys who is fond of her. This becomes her expertise. Love life is just not her thing, and she can’t explain why.

After so long not talking each other, Susan was surprised to hear news from Hans. Their conversation was about holiday activities, and as usual, Susan kept it short and simple. Two weeks after their first phone talk, Hans sent him a message. This time he said, “Hey, I will be back home for a vacation. A short visit, a week. Would it be okay if I visit your workplace when I am in town?” Susan kept that message, not sure what she would say. This morning, Susan replied. “Ok. Come to my workplace. I’ll send you the address.”

Three weeks later…

Hi, I’ve just arrived this morning. Are you busy this afternoon? Can I stop by?

Susan replies immediately. “Sure, How about 1 o’clock?” I have free time about an hour and after that I’ve got to see a client at 2.”

Yes. That sounds good to me! I will visit my sister after that.”

Hans’s little sister is married already, and she has three kids. Her little sister is a chatty person. Her personality is the opposite of Hans’s personality.

Beep..beep…

Yes.”

Maam, your guest is here. His name is Hans. Should I let him in?

Yes.”

Hey, Susan! Long time no see! You are looking great as always and doesn’t change that much since the last time I saw you.”

Hahaha.. how are you Hans? How’s life on the other side of the earth?

Both Susan and Hans are studying in the United States. They both worked in the States, but in different cities. Susan left home for good, while Hans remained in the States.

So, this is your office. Looking nice and you have a nice view from here.

Thank you! So, what’s up?”

” Nothing new. I saw your travel pictures on Instagram. It looked like you traveled to different places. Meanwhile, I worked like a hell. Your last picture on Instagram made me to come home.

What???

“Yes, I’ve always read your captions. The last picture made me booked a ticket. It’s last minute. But, it feels good to be back home.”

How long are you going to be in town?

A week. I have a few important meetings next week, so I must return to work next week.”

I see.”

Hm, are you dating anyone right now?

Nope.”

Why? You are not young anymore, you know?

Yes, I am aware of that, but I like to live this kind of life.

Are you serious??

Susan doesn’t know what to say. She smiles. She wonders why this guy is here and asks such a direct question.

Susan, I am here because I have been thinking of you all these years. The last time you rejected me was my devastating moment. I was mad at you, so I didn’t look for you for a while.”

“I see. I am sorry.”

However, you are always on my mind. I even remember your birthday. So, I still text you even if your answer is short.”

“I know. I am sorry again for giving you a hard time.”

“No, you don’t have to feel sorry. So, this is the reason I am coming home. I want to ask you to go on a date with me. What do you think?”

“Susan, listen to me. We both are not young anymore. You have impressed me so much years ago and still. Don’t you think we should try?”

“Hans, thank you for expressing your feeling. Can we talk about this another time?”

“Susan, what are you waiting for?”

“I just need more time. You come home and suddenly ask this type of question. I am not ready to answer.”

“Sigh. Fine, Susan. Let’s talk about it later. I’ve got to go. Let’s meet again before I fly back to the States.”

“Sure.”

Hans is still a guy with straight forward personality. Susan, again, feels the pressure. The same kind of pressure that Hans asked him years ago.

Susan remains quiet. She meets Hans one last time before he returns back to the States. They eat together and spend hours talking about almost anything. Hans could date another girl, but he insists on dating with her. Susan doesn’t get it, but Hans is a good guy. Even if she doesn’t end up with Hans or when he is giving up on her, Susan hopes that he will find a nice girl who will treat him like a king and treasure him like a diamond.

Should she accept him? Should she say no? Susan does not know when it is the right time to say “yes.” Her mouth is just so hard to say it.

Love Without Borders

Lela wakes up with the sound of birds chirping outside her window. She has unusual dream, a kind of dream that she never expected it. Today is her birthday. She is officially 34 years old and has no intention to celebrate it. Feeling lazy on her birthday, she grabs her phone to check if her parents called her. Instead, she sees 100 notifications. All of them are birthday wishes. Lela feels shock as she spots a message from her long lost friend, doctor. His real name is Dave, but Lela called him Doctor.

Hi, Lela! It’s me, Dave. How have you been? I am back home. Happy Birthday! Can we meet?

Lela doesn’t sure what she should type back at him. Her mind wanders to the last time they spoke to each other….

17 years ago….

“Hey, Lela! You must check this out,” said Anny.

“Whaaat?? Don’t you see I am busy???” replied Lela.

“Come on! Look! Our school got a new transfer student yesterday, and he is super smart.”

“So what?” said Lela.

“Well, he is smart and has a good body, like the one you see in a movie.” said Anny

“Hah! You are ridiculous! I’ve got to go. I have to help my Mom cleaning the house.”

“Lelaaa!! You are so boring!”

“Hahaha” Lela swings her bag and kisses Anny’s cheek.

Lela is the youngest child in her family. Her older sister is already in a college, and Lela is excited to start her college, too, next year. She wants to be a nurse, so she makes sure she gets accepted at the nursing program. She is not interested in discussing any other topics except nursing program.

Lela meets Dave for the first time during science lab. Dave is her lab partner. Earlier, Anny has been telling her that Dave is the guy she told her about the other days. Lela glances at Dave, and she doesn’t see anything spectacular from him. She admits that Dave indeed has an athletic body and doesn’t look nerdy just like other typical smart boys. The problem is that Dave is a straightforward guy who will point every mistake Lela has made during lab, and this bothers her so much. Dave criticizes Lela almost about everything, up to the point that she swears she won’t meet Dave again.

The turning point of their relationship happens when Lela is coming to school with a pale face. She insists to come to school despite of her diarrhea because she doesn’t want to miss a test. In the lab, Lela hardly could concentrate because she feels dizzy and weak. Dave notices that Lela doesn’t look well, and when he sees that Lela is fainted, he quickly catches her and brings Lela to clinic. Lela thanks Dave for helping her, and they become friends since this moment.

Lela and Dave argue less during science lab as they become friends. They often chat at the cafeteria after school is finished. Lela later learns that Dave wants to be a surgeon like his Dad. He hopes to attend a medical school in the University of Pittsburgh. Dave tells her that his Dad is a doctor, too, and he graduates from the University of Pittsburgh. He wants to follow his Dad’s footstep.

Lela and Dave occasionally do movie dates and dine out whenever possible. Dave convinces Lela to apply for the nursing program at the University of Pittsburgh, so that they could stay together. She agrees to apply for the same school, but fate says something else. Lela is not accepted at the nursing program. She feels devastated and decides to take one year break joining Peace Corp. Dave feels bad, too because he is looking forward to spending college years together with Lela in Pittsburgh. Right before sending Lela off to India for Peace Corps, Dave gives her a Tiffany’s key pendant. He tells Lela that the pendant is a promise from him to her that he will wait for her.

One year post Peace Corp…

Dave nervously stands among other people outside the international arrival gate at JFK airport. Lela is coming home after completing her Peace Corp assignment in India. He spots Lela and quickly waves at her. He hugs Lela tightly. Lela gets tanned skin, loses a lot of weight, but still has pretty smile. They spend one night in New York before getting on a bus to Pittsburgh the next day. While on the bus, Lela tells Dave that she has been applying for a school in the Fall. She decides that she wants to be a teacher, so she applies for the special education program in New York. Upon hearing this, Dave feels disappointed because again, he wants Lela to stay close to him. Acknowledging Dave’s feeling, Lela explains to Dave that her feeling towards him won’t get affected by the distance between them. The distance between Pittsburgh and New York are not that far, visiting each other shouldn’t be an issue. Dave remains quiet as Lela said this to him. Inside, he just dislike the idea because he wants Lela to live in the same town with him. He has no worries with his school because he knows that he is excelled in this part, but living separate from Lela somehow worries him.

September that year

Dave helps Lela moving in to the dorm. They spend the rest of their afternoon strolling around the city. Dave asks Lela to come to Pittsburgh during homecoming weekend because he wants Lela to meet his parents. The last time Lela met Dave’s parents was on the high school graduation. Dave’s face looks exactly like his Dad. His younger brother was still in middle school at that time. Dave is a family man and will prioritize family matter above anything else.

Lela enjoys her school and life in New York. New York’s lifestyle suits her life preference because it allows her to meet people from all over the countries. She secretly signs up for another summer global program in which she will work abroad for three months. She has not told Dave about this because she knows Dave won’t like it. Lela is debating whether she should tell Dave about this, or maybe convince him to attend the program.

The homecoming weekend is here. Lela finally meets Dave and his family. It’s a good weekend for Dave because he wants Lela to meet his parents. Dave is very organized and well-planned, while Lela is a free spirit, does things when she feels she wants to do it. This becomes one of the major issues in their relationships.

Lela tells Dave about her plan for Summer before she is returning to New York. She asks Dave to join with her. Dave refuses to do it because he will start his medical shadowing that Summer. He lets Lela to fly solo because he knows there’s nothing he could do to stop her. Lela’s next stop is Indonesia. She will teach students with Autism through Global Autism Project in rural area in Indonesia. Lela begs Dave to visit her in Indonesia so that they could visit Bali before going back to the States. Dave doesn’t say much.

Every time Dave sends Lela to a foreign country, his heart aches. He kisses her forehead and tells her to be careful. Lela smiles and waves to Dave for the last time before proceeding to the immigration area.

Dave stops picking up Lela at the airport. He is quite busy with his medical school. They don’t talk each other until Christmas. Both of them realize that the spark between them is fading. Dave’s mind is occupied with school and getting ready for his residency. Lela, on the other hand, is busy with her global mission to educate children with special needs in developing countries.

Despite their fading relationship, Lela manages to attend Dave’s graduation. She is proud of him and is admiring his work. Dave is moving to New York to live closer to Lela. He doesn’t want to let go Lela. Moving closer eventually doesn’t fix their stranded relationship. People said high school love usually doesn’t last that long. This apparently is a true scenario for them. Lela and Dave agrees to take a break after six years of dating. Dave remains working in New York. He pursues a speciality program in New York, while Lela is working as a teacher in Brooklyn. She travels abroad every Summer. They don’t talk much, but still manage to see each other every major holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas. One night, Dave calls Lela and asks to meet. Dave tells Lela that he will join Doctors Without Borders. He gives Lela a wooden box and asks him to open the box tomorrow morning.

The next day, Lela opens the box. Inside, Dave left instructions to ask Lela to open the letter one day at a time. Lela cries as she opens the first letter.

Hi Lela, how are you today?

I must be on the plane en route to Africa. I never been to Africa before, so this must be exciting, right?!

Do you miss me? I missed you that much the first time you were off to India.

Ok, that’s all I have today.

Kiss and hugs,

Dave.

Dave left 730 letters for Lela. Some letters were blank, some were filled with poems, and some were photos they were taken years back. Lela and Dave lost contact after that because Dave apparently extended his job contract.

Here and Now, present time (2018)

Lela’s mind is back to a reality. She types back to Dave.

Hey! Are you in New York?

I heard from your brother that you finally finished your specialty program last year. I was in Australia for the past 2 years. I taught special education and just returned back to the States early this year.

Yes, we can meet.

3 secs later, Dave is texting…

Yes, I am in New York.

Do you want to meet in Laduree cafe downtown? Today, 6 pm?

Lela types back, Suree. See you!

Lela feels nervous as she has not seen Dave for a long time. Lela spends her day searching for a nice dress to wear. She decides to wear a green-jade color dress. She still wears the pendant necklace that Dave gave to her long time ago.

Dave waves at Lela. He looks a bit old, while Lela still looks the same just like the old time. He wonders how that’s possible. He hugs Lela and wishes her a happy birthday. They enjoy dinner together, and before they leave the cafe, Dave presents her with a Tiffany’s box. Lela opens the box and sees a ring. Dave tells her it’s a birthday gift. He also expresses his desire to reconnect their relationship, now that they both are living in the same town.

Lela nods her head. Reading 730 letters that Dave left for her convinced her that she and Dave will reunite once again. And when they reunite, she will stay with him, and so she fulfills her promise.

34 is not a bad age. She gets her long lost soul mate. Her old high school crush. The one she used to miss days and nights. Time and distance prove that a true love eventually will bring you back to the same person.

Epilogue

Lela and Dave hold their initimate wedding in Bali in December that year. The wedding is attended by their family members.