A Month of Goodbyes

My brilliant cousin, renowned in the UK medical world as an accomplished spinal surgeon, passed away from Covid-19 recently. We probably met once when we were children, but we never met again.

I was made aware of his achievements by his mother. After graduating from Nottingham University in the UK, he made spinal surgery his specialty and became an expert in his field. Some years ago, my aunt proudly announced to all the relatives that he was the first UK recipient of the Medaille D’Or from Madam Chirac, chairman of EEDCM, an organization that honors people with an exemplary professional life.

He made her proud, and we the relatives, basked in some of his reflected glory. When Covid made its way across the world he became an avid anti-vaxxer. In October, he caught Covid, was fine for a week, then became breathless. He was admitted to the ICU, sedated, intubated and ventilated. In November, the family was told to prepare for the worst. Then on Dec 13, the relatives were informed that he had passed away.

In the Oct 2 edition of The Straits Times, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung reported that unvaccinated people are 14 times more likely to need ICU care or die, with seniors at the highest risk. Cousin Khai was only 55, not quite a “senior”.

Could he have lived, if he had taken the jab? We don’t know. And it’s useless to speculate — there are just too many variables.

Goodbye, Cousin Khai. Deaths of friends and family members below 70 years are always jarring. After all, we’re supposed to live from 70 to perhaps 80 or more (Psalm 90:10). Perhaps it was your time to go.

May you rest in peace.

Goodbye, My Friend

She wasn’t judgmental, she had a strong sense of justice, quick to leap to help, either lending a listening ear or praying for the best outcomes. She was willing to share knowledge in her area of specialty. She also set boundaries, saying right from the start to not cling on to her.

Being smart, popular, kind and caring it would be almost inevitable for most people to hang on to her. It was clear she needed space, and so I gave it to her.

When we were introduced in 2016, she was studying for her Bachelor’s; and after accomplishing that, she embarked on her Master’s. In the midst of all the academia, she moved house, and that house had issues for some time. Then, she learned her mother had cancer and she made sure she took care of her until she passed away. And then, she moved again.

In the last couple of weeks of my friend’s life, she was awaiting the results of two papers she had submitted, she was interning at a company that was keen to hire her… and then she had an aneurysm and a stroke and passed away.

Family and friends were shocked.

How to grieve, when she was half a world away? How does one have closure? And then a mutual friend said she baked a cake and ate it as a form of celebration of Kristan’s life. That was new to me, but it was biblical.

Deuteronomy 14 speaks of preparing and eating a special meal as a worship and thanksgiving before the Lord. So I did that, thanking God for the gift of Kristan, being grateful for the time we had together and the friendship that was formed in the midst of prayer battles. And while honoring the Lord for enabling me to know her for a season, eating a small meal while the sun was setting, I saw some of the clouds turn pink. And they were in the shape of a hand, as if waving goodbye.

Goodbye, my friend. Till we meet again at the meal that surpasses all other meals.