Our Future Health & Happiness – an essay by Angeline Koh

Are you afraid of dying?

In Asia, it’s taboo to talk about death. The superstitious believe it brings bad luck. But I learned,
“if not now, when?”
My younger sister passed away at 37. For twenty long years, Cynthia battled with Lupus, a blood
disorder. As a family, we wrestled with issues of life and death more frequently than I’d like to
remember. During the last 11 days of her life, I dropped everything I was doing to be with her.
I asked her, “Are you afraid (of dying)?” She said, “No, I am afraid of living.”
Cynthia had come to terms with death. There was no more reason to live on. All her organs had
failed. She knew that she would only be a burden to us. She had made peace with God. We
cleaned up any unsettled accounts we had with each other. We had heart-to-heart talks, like the
many we had on her good days between each health crisis.
I saw Cynthia go through seasons of depression. In the absence of health, limited activities and
social life, she eventually learned to give thanks for good days when she could go out, meet
friends, watch a movie, enjoy a good meal, play with her dog, chat long hours on the phone.
One day, I took her to the hospital because she had one of her Lupus attacks. We had to wait a
long time for her to be admitted because there were no beds available. When she couldn’t take
it any more, she prayed, “God please give me a bed.”
It wasn’t long after that that the nurse said, “There’s a bed available now.” While I took care of
the registration, the nurse wheeled her in to her ward.
The lady on the next bed asked her, “Aren’t you afraid?”
She said, “Of what?”
“The person who occupied your bed just passed away.”
To which my sister said, “God, I know I asked you for a bed, but your really didn’t have to go that
I currently live with my fun-loving 83-year-old mother. I am grateful she is enjoying good health,
albeit the typical aches and pains of someone in their senior years. We learn (and still are
learning) not to demand that life or anyone owes us anything. We learn the power of
forgiveness. We receive each day with gratitude. Good health gives us the freedom to enjoy
many things. Life doesn’t stop in the absence of health. A forgiving and grateful heart is good
medicine. Yes, mum and I do talk about death, but mostly we talk about life and living.
You can watch my digital story tribute to her here.

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