Celebrating Life in a Minor Key

May 2008

The last few days of March seem somewhat surreal to me. Having spent a lovely day out on Easter Monday with some sisters at a picnic on a farm just outside of Nairobi, I returned to the convent to receive the devastating news that my dad was dying in Singapore. I caught the earliest flight back home but was too late….

The support from friends and relatives through calls, notes, and especially prayers and physical presence was a great comfort during the days that followed. (Thanks so much you guys!) Yet the suddenness of my dad’s passing left a numbness of shock that is still lingering. At times I still can’t believe he’s gone. Then there are moments when a wave of sadness would envelope me. I guess the mourning process takes time and I don’t think one can quite fully recover from the loss of a loved one since a part of your life is gone too. Yet my dad’s spirit continues to live in me and in all whom he touched during his life. His funeral service was a celebration of the gift of his life, one that was filled with honesty, gentleness, humility, kindness, generosity, a wonderful sense of humour and love. (Am currently re-reading Joyce Rupp’s “Praying Your Goodbyes”- a wonderful book for anyone who’s mourning any loss.)

I am grateful to my congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul to grant me a month’s home leave to be with my family, especially my mother. The month of April was life in a minor key for us yet we continued to celebrate life – in faith, Dad’s birth to eternal life, Mum’s birthday, and many other occasions which gave rise to an acute awareness of the preciousness of life and loved ones, both near and far.

Night out with the Fun Sophisticated Princesses (FSPs)
The FSPs (cleverly adapted from the initial of my congregation which actually stands for Figlie di San Paulo or Daughter of St Paul) are a wonderful bunch of young ladies whom I journeyed with when I was the vocation directress in Singapore. They bonded so well together that they not only gave their group a name but now hang out quite often. And when I’m in town, I get the privilege of being invited to some of their fun nights out. This time it was at a Christian Rock concert with the Planet Shakers and Tim Hughes last April 11, 2008. The floor of the venue (at Expo Hall 10) was literally shaking with the mostly very young crowd jumping up and down for most of the night. It was an incredible experience witnessing and being part of the passionate energy for music and for Christ. I was especially touched by the testimony of one of the worship leaders who shared how he encountered Christ through a Worship CD. Indeed music and songs are powerful tools to reach out to people, inspire them to change their lives and even better, when healed of their brokenness, move them to love themselves and others.
I like Tim Hughes. During one of his songs, I felt like I was at an REM concert while for another song, one of the FSPs said she thought she was at a U2 concert!

Planet Shakers

Tim Hughes

Peranakan Bash
Being a nonya, I was delighted that the New Peranakan Museum (http://www.peranakanmuseum.sg/) in Singapore was officially opened last April 25, 2008. To mark the occasion were various festivities and activities including a Peranakan bash on the evening of April 26. A kind cousin treated my mum and I to the feast followed by joged – the Malay word for a Malay dance. And so after a buffet of Peranakan fare, we found ourselves on the dance floor jiving to folk songs with a twist of jazz from the band The Melodious who came all the way from Malacca, Malaysia. I thought of my dad and knew he was dancing with us in spirit too. Visiting the museum and the evening experience made me appreciate my ethnic background even more. I’m proud to be a Peranakan. Saya suka makan sambal belachan dengan limau perut!

We Will ROCK You and West Wing
Two other memorable shows I was fortunate to attend were a university production called The West Wing and the smash West End hit, We Will Rock You. West Wing (http://www.nus-tww.com/) was a Chinese opera makeover in English with contemporary rock and pop songs blended into the show. Although the cast were all students and mostly amateurs, it proved very entertaining. The script was rather risqué though!
Another great treat was We Will Rock You, based on the music of Freddie Mercury and Queen. It was an Australian cast and a very sleek production with fantastic use of lights and other stage effects – a truly high-tech stage production. The music led me to reminiscence the wonderful ‘80s and the nun in me found a number of Christian parallels in the story line.

While clearing some of my stuff in Singapore, I discovered some old photos of my days at the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (early ‘90s). Under Photo Albums - SBC, you can check out my previous (pre-nun) look and encounters with entertainers with whom I had the privilege to meet and interview, like Isabella Rosellini below.

Returning to Kenya on the last day of April, I slept most of the way, totally exhausted and trying to combat the onslaught of an impending cold. As the plane descended upon the African continent, I switched to the video channel displaying the camera’s view at the base of the plane. I beheld wonderful combinations of orange and green, forming beautiful patchwork patterns, and inspiring immediately some verses in my mind for a possible song and what the continent, and Kenya in particular, means to me. But it’s not quite finished yet…..

Speaking of songs, the online New York Times has come up with a great blog on songwriting called Measure for Measure with 4 regular contributors including Suzanne Vega (but of course! It would be pure crime if she was not included!). Check it out here: http://measureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com/

Meanwhile, for those who were spared being bombarded by me to help raise funds for the ONJ Cancer Centre, our dearest Olivia, with a bunch of cancer survivors and celebrities with a heart, have been walking along the Great Wall of China during the month of April for this cause. It’s still not too late to contribute to the Centre which aims to be a world class Cancer centre for research, treatment and a wellness hub for patients. Please contribute if you can. http://live.greatwalktobeijing.com/ "Give and it will be given back to you, pressed down and overflowing.”

On that note I bid you adieu for now. Just want to end by saying I truly appreciate all your kind thoughts, sentiments and expressions of condolence during the passing of my dad – they mean a lot to me. And to my dearest friends in Singapore, thank you in addition for all your gifts (I’ve never received so much moisturizers, sun blocks and lotions at one time ever before! I’m certainly more prepared to face the drier weather and stronger African sun now!) Thank you for your concern and love!


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