Homage to my Mum- Defying Death a Few Times

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Wednesday, 13th February 2013
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Tuesday, 12th March 2013

Homage to my Mum- Defying Death a Few Times

My mum was present at the birth of my second daughter, in England.

Most of us love our mums. We dedicate a whole Sunday to her in may parts of the world. In fact, the UK just celebrated Mothering Sunday a few days ago. I know for a fact, many daughters will have a love-hate relationship with their mothers, no matter how dedicated their mums have been in their lives.

I am one of them. I have a love-hate relationship with my mum. Not hate per se, but more annoyance with each other, when I was growing up. I guess we are so alike in so many ways that we keep grinding horns. How are we alike? I have been called strong by many and I know where my strength came from- she that is EMAK (mum in Bahasa) have passed on her never say die attitude to me.

Recently, my mum almost faced death. AGAIN! At around 9pm Saturday night 2nd March, my elder half sister called me from Singapore with news that my mum has been brought to the A&E department with severe vomitting for the last 4 days. I sat waiting for news for further development. At about 11 pm, my sister called back to say it wasn’t life threatening and to just go to bed. I was about to collapse on my bed with a snotty nose and a fever when I heard the home phone rang past midnight. My elder brother living here in Kuala Lumpur was in a panicky voice, saying we need to rush back to Singapore to see her ASAP.

I called my elder sister who was a bit tired from all the stress and saying it got worse when she couldn’t get through to me (I had my phone switched off for once going to bed). She told me that a surgeon rushed after her as she was leaving the hospital with new information after the MRI, that my mum needed an emergency heart surgery. Apparently it’s been scheduled for the next morning, Sunday 3rd March. Exactly at 1.30am, I called the National University Hospital in Singapore, straight through the Cardiac ICU and was put through the consulting cardiologist. He apologised for not being able to give me better news at this hour and that the chances of my elderly mum surviving a what is potentially a long and arduous operation is very low. He asked that if I’m able to zoom home for a 9am meeting with the operating team, he highly encouraged it. He said, it could potentially be our last goodbye. My heart was like a lump in my throat.

I debated with my husband for 30 minutes what we should do. I do know that my elder brother and younger sister were both rushing to Singapore to be with her. I have 4 kids who were all sleeping and 2 of them were down with the flu too. It was a tough decision to decide which kids to bring or leave behind. In the end, out of fairness, we decided to bring all 4. My husband proceeded to fall asleep for an hour so we can make the drive by 3 am. It took me another half hour to read up more about mum’s procedure before I could fall asleep with tears in my eyes. Exactly at 3 am, my phone alarm buzzed me, all bleary eyed. We took another 3o minutes to pack all the last minute supplies for a possible 3 day trip and by 3.40 am, we bundled 4 sleeping children into the car.

It was a slightly dangerous trip as both husband and wife were extremely tired, not least me, as I have been awake since 5 am, about 24 hours ago. My husband relied on the much maligned Red Bull drink to keep alert and when necessary, we took short power naps by rest stops. We arrived exactly at 9 am for the meeting with the surgeon. Her body language belied her confidence spiel. I seriously felt that she didn’t think mum could make it out as if nothing had happened. She told us the long surgery (about 8 hours down) could be the end for my mum or that after, her other organs could just give way. So many scenarios. Not many were positives. We had a chat amongst us 3 siblings (1 is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, working on an oil rig) and we gave permission for her surgery to go ahead.

I approached my mum and we chatted about her impending ‘time out’. I decided to practise my NLP Life Coaching on my mum to keep her spirits up and positive, before her life changing event. If before our conversation, we was a bit apprehensive- asking to defer the surgery for 6 months or even days- now she herself said, “I’ll make it!”. I reminded her about her cheating deaths a few time and how this time, she’ll come out alive again!!

Yes, my mum is like a cat with 9 lives! When she was heavily pregnant with me, she fell of a ladder while cleaning out her employer’s kitchen cabinets as a housekeeper and subsequently cut her head up pretty badly on a ceiling fan during the fall. The hospital was amazed nothing happened to the baby inside. That was more than 30 years ago.

About less than 10 years later, my mum got hit by a bus while carrying heavy sacks of curry puffs to sell at her factory, to make extra income. I was only a little girl then and didn’t understand the impact of that injury on her. She still has shoulder ache from that accident.

A few years later, my mum was a pillion rider on a motorbike and they crashed. Thank God, she didn’t break any bones, just some badly burnt skin on her legs.

Then about 20 years ago, just months before I was due to leave to study in the Netherlands, my mum got hit really badly by a car, bouncing her across 3 lanes of traffic. It was partly her fault as a pedestrian bridge lay less than 100 meters away. Her excuse was that she was fasting (it was Ramadan) and it was pretty hot, and she didn’t have the extra energy to climb all those stairs. She survived thanks to her ‘rolls of fat’ as the doctor sighed to me. She came off with ‘just’ a fractured hip and 2 slipped discs, which to this day, is still giving her lots of pain.

The most dramatic death cheat of all happened on 19th December 1997. I remember that day and moment quite clearly. I was having a drink with a friend, Lena H., who’s working in the news industry, at Harry’s Bar in Boat Quay. Her staff got a page on his Reuters pager that a Silk Air flight from Jakarta had crashed into a river in Sumatera. When I heard it was MH 185, I went all white! Lena asked me, what the matter was. I told her that my mum was scheduled on that flight, after doing some business in Jakarta. My mum by then had moved on from selling curry puffs to selling hand made Indonesian furniture to Singaporean friends and family. I couldn’t stay a minute longer and started crying, running for the nearest taxi stand to rush home.

When I rushed home, I told my late grandparents what had transpired. We turned on the TV, looking for up to date news. Only the name of a famous model, Bonnie Hicks, was bandied around. While sobbing away, my grandmother and I proceeded to chant Islamic prayers. Be it for my mum or others who we knew had perished in the crash.

Some time later, a figure gave the traditional Islamic greeting at our front door. I opened the door with huge bewildered eyes and this figure said, “What? Have you just seen a ghost?!”. It was none other than my mum who was surprised at the big hug I was giving her, without letting go, and the teary elderly mother crying behind us. We told her what had happened to her flight and we assumed she was also a victim. We wanted to badly to know what happened.

It transpired that (no) thanks to the famous Jakarta traffic jam or “macet” as it’s known locally, my mum missed her check in time. She begged and begged to be let on the flight, saying that she knew the other passengers haven’t boarded yet. At that time, I guess flight operators and airport staff were more lenient. Since Silk Air was and is under Singapore Airlines, they offered to put her on a Singapore Airlines flight departing one hour later. She was grateful for that gesture as it means she’ll arrive home same day as expected, only just later. She said, nothing was mentioned on her flight nor at the airport, of the suspense happening just across the ocean. No one mentioned at the airport that a big scene was being expected there shortly.

Yes, humans can be like cats, with many lives. Back to her heart surgery, the surgeon mentioned that we couldn’t have operated on her any sooner. She congratulated us siblings on our quick decision making. A day or 2 further delay, my mum’s artery could have burst, due to her hypertension (or high blood pressure) and the pressure from the constant vomitting and also blockage in there. So she was saved literally by food poisoning. And before that her rolls of fat. And before that, her tummy with a little being inside.

My mum is a fighter and has passed on her spirit to me. So I deemed it necessary to pass on that spirit back to her when she was faced with another life threatening situation. I am encouraging her to live on, if not for the sake of her 4 children, it’s for the sake of her many grandchildren, one more expected to come within weeks of writing this. I will not let her continue sleeping from her coma. We kept on whispering in her ear about living.

She is now on the road to recovery. There’s lots of work to be done to get her back to 100% health. But I’m up for the challenge. I told my husband, when it’s time for my mum to go, there’ll be no drama. Just quietly and with a smile, the best way to go. After a few more good years of living and loving…..

I dedicate my post to my super human mum- despite our differences in opinions, we’re more alike than you think mum! <3



  1. Arlyn says:

    Life is all about timing.. That’s what I believe in. For some reason, some clicks here and there, I come across this beautiful post. Thank You Ar’Nie.. I see now where that super human strength you’ve been inspiring others come from – Your Beautiful Emak. Such a blessed woman she is and now you.. And I see many more of it already in your next generation. Nothing inspires me more than power of human spirit. This post, came to me, perfectly as a Post-Mother’s Day gift to myself – affirming me more that the best of what I have to offer in this lifetime, has yet to come.. Once again, Thank You Ar’Nie.. *hugs+kisses*


  2. Hartini says:

    I didn’t know mak nyai cheated deaths that many time… O_o

  3. Nor akmar nordin says:

    This is a lovely post Ar’nie. I enjoyed reading it. Wishing your mum speedy recovery.

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