Brothers and sister

Leng is the youngest of four children, and is in her early 40s. She is a social worker and as part of her job spends a lot of time walking the streets and travelling on public transport.

I was sitting with my mother one day while she was having a very severe headache.
“What will you do when I die?”
It’s not something you expect your parent to ask when you are only 15 years old. I didn’t know what to say in response, but in my mind I was imagining all the possible scenarios of what would happen if she did pass away. Not long afterwards, she was admitted into hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumour. They performed an operation on her, and she lapsed into a coma from which she never woke. She died within days.
My father was heartbroken, as were my three older brothers. Maybe it was because I had been prepared by my mother for what was to come, so when it actually happened I didn’t cry, not even at the funeral. I was too caught up with thinking about what to do next, worrying about my dad and looking after him, as well as trying to take care of myself all at the same time. I always thought I was a tough person who could take charge of things, and was too proud to let myself succumb to grief. I became very rational, and wanted my father and brothers to stop crying and just get on with living.
But thinking back, it was a really hard time for everyone, as it all happened so suddenly. As the only woman left at home, much of the household responsibilities fell upon me. Although my brothers helped with some of the cleaning, I still had to cook for my dad and was expected to look after everyone. While preparing a meal at home one day, I accidentally cut myself with the kitchen knife. That was the first time I cried since my mother’s death. I thought to myself, why did she leave me this way?

*     *    *

I’d like readers of this story to stay positive after reading this. I once  picked up $20 from the ground outside a lift, and was really happy about it; a couple of days later, I couldn’t find my wallet and was saddened to realise I had lost $20 in notes from my trouser pocket. It reminded me that in a way, nothing stays forever; not happiness, not sadness. Enjoy the happiness when you have it; enjoy the sadness too but don’t indulge in it. The sadness will not endure forever. There will come a time when you will be happy, and you will feel as if your life is lifted up again.
If you’re a young questioning woman reading, I hope you will have the patience for the necessary process of growing through your twenties and beyond. It can be a hard time, a period of searching for a lot of things, finding reassurance and re-confirming your own sexuality. Sometimes we get depressed and feel down while going through all that, because we don’t understand what we are facing. But after having gone through that stage, I feel it’s important to stay patient, and slowly journey on. Years later, you will look back and it will be something you can be proud of. Given your capacity and your circumstances, you know you would have already done your best.

*     *     *

The above are excerpts from Leng’s full story, which can be read in the book.
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