The Happy Heart School

Living lifelong human care, development, education, learning and service for all.

Living Peace

LIVING PEACE: And what if we had stopped here?

To my dearest heart friends, Dr May Lim, Mr Tadhg Stapleton, and the most heartful 2012 class of pioneering SiT-TCD Occupational Therapy students :

Thank you for your beautiful notes and in many ways, love letters, for my wounded and healing heart. I was amazed that I was able to hold it all together on Monday, to share Keith’s lifework, and Beth’s walk as a sibling, and Tat Jen and my walk as parents, and the four of us as a family, with you, and I was even more amazed how exhausted I had been at that point, as several days after, I was not able to be functional, having had an abnormal pattern in my stress test and an emergency heart scan, the very next two days after our meeting.

I am writing this a day into finding out the results of the heart scan: about whether I have a heart condition. And it was sitting there waiting to go into the CT Coros scan room, with my husband, both of us at peace, and in love, that I realise, through this journey and grace gifted through this journey as special needs parents, that we are both able to face my heart condition, without anger, without denial, without fear, without anxiety, without helplessness, without blame, in other words, without grief. Grief is when we feel we have experienced a loss. All our bodily functions will deteriorate one day, what is left, is the spirit within. In the whole walk of grief, I must confess, for me, acceptance, was the most difficult. Acceptance that we are human, and that we all have vulnerabilities, and that life isn’t about perfection, but about living the joys and sorrows, in grace and love. And in faith-filled acceptance, that is, living peace.

Truth, too, with a big T, doesn’t seem that much of a matter. Anything with a big Cap, now I know is suspiciously egoistic, which many of my friends and family try to counsel me, but I was too much in the anger of grief, to want to accept. Same with Justice, with a big J. Same with Mercy, with a big M. Same with Rights, with a big R. Same with Advocacy, with a big a or small a.

I think I forgot to complete my sentence when I said, “This is not advocacy.” I had meant to expand it to say, “This is an invitation.” There is no specific outcome, there is no fight, or at least there shouldn’t be. There is only heartful moments, presented, reached, spoken, acted, lived. We each do what we can in our given and gifted capacity at the moment, and honouring our gifts, as well as our limitations. There isn’t this big all solution to human conditions. There is, in the words of Jean Vanier, “accompaniment”.

So now, I am someone with a heart condition. My husband shared with me, and most likely to comfort himself, well, a cardiac failure, is never ever predictable, with or without a blocked artery. So, that’s how we just got past this little blip, a blocked artery, and now I am at a stage, as my parents would say to me every time I fall, that it is just an antbite, a youthful bruise, and so, today, we carry on – living. Every day we are alive, we are living, bruises examined, reflected upon, bandaged, healed and all. And some bruises, we just have to bandage one at a time. Some bruises, we bandage all at once, but mostly, we rest the night, and in the day, we get up and we continue to do our work. That is to live. To serve. And for me, to nurture. Each of us is presented with various degrees of challenges, with various multitudes of the sorrows of life, some personal, some observed, some simply hidden, some available. So how did a blocked artery become an antbite? I can only name that capacity as grace and faith. And that so called capacity is not one that can be planned in theory or careful planning – it just arrives, through one daring to live one’s heart in the open and through surrendering to love. So acceptance is about faith, to keep walking into not the unknown; it seems like the unknown, but really, it is simply walking towards the living limitless possibilities.

When I received all your love notes spoken from the heart, truthfully, I just lied in bed and started sobbing away into my pillow. I never knew such power of gestures and gentle words spoken from the heart, and how uplifting that was for me, how life-giving it was for me, that you reached out, for us to be heard, and then you offered that moment of ‘accompaniment’ which was already so momentous for this lonely walk, and further you reached and returned to close our gathering, with so so so so much heart. Thank you for lifting me and carrying me through this season, of closing a very deep grieving within myself, that is so extremely complex and deep beyond words, and likely still being experienced by so many parents and those working with special children.

I recall I said this phrase several times during the sharing. What if we had stopped here? There was Keith at birth with all the negative profiling. There was Keith at 7 months old just barely able to lift his head and his 5 year old sister saying he can walk and do his incy wincy spider.  There was Keith triumphantly doing his handstand at gymnastics. And there is Keith today, still struggling to feed himself, and there is Keith today, still not having a certainty of a meaningful fully inclusive education, and there is Keith today where his intervention programme is still not holistically coordinated nor integrated with education and care support, and there is Keith today triumphantly celebrating his sister’s school concert yesterday, and there is Keith this morning, waking up and joyously going for a walk downstairs with my helper while I type this love letter. And there is me, with a heart condition, preparing in an hour’s time to spend a full family day out with the children and nephews and a family friend, whose late wife had passed on while gifting life to their dear son. There is me in the afternoon catching up with a dear friend before she flies off to Netherlands, having just been called back to Singapore to attend to her dear mother’s sudden passing.

And what if we had stopped at every roadblock? And similarly, what if we had stopped at the apex of every small hump, thinking that is eternal victory?

So my dearest friends, we carry on. And we carry on joyously, and as I’ve learnt, we can only carry on in the community of people. Do we flail? Absolutely yes. Do we fall? Absolutely yes. Do we get up? Absolutely yes, yes, yes. Through you lifting me through these very difficult few days and a very difficult season of an immense heartbreak. And not through advocacy, but through dear ‘accompaniment’, of walking through, and not circumventing around, the deep heart moments of life. No one told me, but I just found out, that whether it is joy or sorrow, it is pain, and it makes us cry, because it touches our tender hearts. And no one told me, but I just found out, that bittersweet moment, is not called pain, but grace. There is another name for that squish in your heart. It is called life. It is called a beating heart, still living, the life of being human.

Live love and peaceful celebration every day, my dearest friends, in your lifework. And live to tell your story with full gusto, always with the little squish in your heart, and be not afraid of that, because that little squish is the biggest affirmation that you are alive, still human, and living – peace, within.

With much love,
Peng-Ean Khoo
October 26, 2012

P.S. The next day: The test results showed that I do not have any coronary condition! Did that make a difference? Yes, truthfully, honest to goodness, yes! For all I could think of and was too afraid to ask, when I was bearing with the suspected blocked artery was this: how long am I going to live, and who would be there for my children and husband? And all I found myself coming back to, and pleading for, and praying for, was this: “Please God, all I want is to grow old with my husband, and see our children grow old, together.”

I feel like I’ve been given another lease of life. I am on my knees, deeply grateful, and thankful, for this one beautiful life, simply being completely human.

Peng-Ean Khoo
October 31, 2012

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