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.


Elle grew up in Singapore and now lives in Australia with her partner of many years. She is 25 years old, and works as a healthcare professional. She identifies as Buddhist and non-heterosexual.

Mindful of myself
“What are you?”
 “What do you mean by what am I?”
 “What race are you? Are you Indian or…?”
 “I speak English at home, so I’m English!”
Mindful of my partner
“Is there anything going on between you and her?”
 “No, I don’t think so. We’re just friends. Anyway she’s a lesbian, I’m not.”
 “Then why are you spending so much time together?”
 “We’re really good friends.”
 “Would you ever consider getting together with her?”
 “No way!  My parents would never accept it!”
Mindful of my family
 “I’m going to tell our parents.”
 “What? No, you can’t. They are going to be so disappointed.”
 *     *     *
“Mum, Dad. Jo and I are together.  We’ve been together for two and a half years now.”
“You’re not gay. “
“Of course you’re not gay. I know, because you’re my daughter. You are not gay!”
*     *    *
“Is the relationship worth it if it is so hard? Do I really want to alienate my parents in order to have my own happiness?”
“Are you OK? Come here to mummy.”
“What happened?”
“You know what happened!”
“I want to help…”
“No you can’t, because you’re the cause of it.”
*     *     *
Mindful of yourself
Over time, I’ve realised that the more I was able to accept myself, the more I began to accept my relationship with Jo. A lot of things have changed since then. I think it had to do with coming back to Singapore again, as a couple, spending time with the people close to us and just being ourselves. I became more comfortable with myself, with our relationship, and thought that perhaps this could be for the long term. Once I had accepted myself, it became a lot easier for me to protect myself by standing up to others, and not allowing myself to be judged or criticised by them. Over the years I think I’ve coped relatively well, and never had any thoughts of self harm or giving up hope because of all this. I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of support from the people around me, especially my close friends.
One thing I’ve really learnt, which I’d like to share with you, is for us to be compassionate to ourselves, even as we’re being patient with others. Ultimately, what matters is you are happy with yourself. This is what keeps me going, because I know this will be my own happiness.
*     *     *
The above are excerpts from Elle’s full story, which can be read in  the book.