A Young Mother’s Story

It’s 7.15pm at Plaza Singapura’s Costa Coffee when Suanne gently taps me on the shoulder. She smiles at me—the same way she did back in our secondary school days—with cheek dimples pressed against her porcelain skin.

Her pregnant belly protrudes from her petite frame. “People usually think I’m just a Xiao Mei Mei but it’s been three years since I spoke much about my story,” she laughs. She orders Chamomile tea and we sit down for a chat.

Suanne:
It was the year 2003 when I first met Daniel. I was 16 and he was 20.

In January 2011, he proposed to me in Hokkaido because he knew I wanted to see snow. After a night stroll, we headed back to the hotel where he whipped out a diamond ring. “Marry hor” he said and pointed to the box.

In retrospect, it was such an unromantic way of proposing but I said yes anyway.

I found out I was pregnant on 1 April 2011. Daniel wanted to start a family of his own, being the only child raised by a single mother. After we managed to convince our parents it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, we planned for a simple ROM banquet at Fort Canning and took our pre-bridal shots.

We were going to get our keys to our BTO flat at the end of that year. But one month before exchanging vows, I lost my husband-to-be in a car crash.

Life growing up

I first dated Daniel when we were teenagers. Once, Daniel got into a bike accident in Johor Bahru and I spent half of my daily S$4.00 pocket money buying him lunch every day.

He enlisted into the army and I was worried sick when he spent six weeks in Banda Aceh for tsunami relief. The internet access was limited.

Despite scoring well for N’ levels, I lied to my mum that I couldn’t progress to O’ levels so I could start work and look after Daniel. He was involved in illegal activities, but I still loved him despite how much I hated the hurtful things he did.

The night before the crash

One night, he told me he was going to Avalon for a party. Something told me not to let him go, so we had an argument. He didn’t listen and probably thought I was being cranky during the first trimester of my pregnancy.

At 2.00am, his friends told me he got into a fight, so I drove down to pick him up. After seeing how drunk he was, it angered me further. Even though his friends pushed him into my car, he refused to listen so I left.

While in bed at 4.45am, I received a call from the driver’s girlfriend. He called to tell her about the accident right before passing out. I discovered that the driver, Daniel’s business partner, lost control at a bend.

My best friend told me she had bumped into Daniel right before he got into the front seat. He grabbed her and said, “No matter what, please look after Suanne.”

Alone and afraid, I rushed down to Khoo Teck Puat hospital’s A&E and had an odd feeling when I arrived. The nurse told me I didn’t need to register. “Wait here,” she said, while a group of surgeons walked towards me.

And those four words echoed in my ear — “We tried our best.” I stood there shaking.

When I saw him, I knew he was long gone. His limp body had turned cold and his tongue and lips were pale white. His jaw was dislocated from the impact of the airbag, and his forehead was swollen from internal bleeding. Paramedics found no sign of life at the scene.

I didn’t sleep the whole night, but I couldn’t afford to grieve as his mother was too devastated to arrange the funeral. According to Taoists, if a family member of a younger generation passes away, the funeral has to take place within three days. That gave us only days left; one to clean the body, the other to say goodbye.

His final days

No words can describe the feeling during the first morning you wake up. When you open your eyes to the alarm clock ringing at 6.30am, still in a daze, only to touch the cold side of the bed.

Like any morning routine, I checked my phone to see if he messaged. Once, I called him hoping he could wake me up from some sick dream. But as the voicemail played, I reminded myself he was gone.

During the funeral preparation, I couldn’t find a good photo of him so I had to go to the bridal shop to use his groom shots. I claimed his body at Singapore General Hospital’s block 9 but the shifu said we couldn’t send him off lest he remained too attached to this world.

On 5 May 2011, I went to Kong Meng San monastery to collect the remains. We were ushered to a room where they brought his bones out. Each of us had to take a piece and place it inside the urn, before dropping a coin inside. We placed the urn in a temple at Simon Road.

For 49 days, I went down to pray and give offerings. Being pregnant, my family advised me not to, but I said it was the last I could do as a wife.

Breaking down during childbirth

The daily reflections at night kept me awake for days. The longer I lived without him, the more real it became. Crying was inevitable, but what hurt me more was seeing my mother cry, to a point where I had to walk to my car every time I needed to mourn.

I broke down when I was in labour, but after an emergency C-section, Danson was born.

During the confinement period, my psychiatrist increased my dosage of antidepressants which made me too light-headed to function. It made me worse. After several weeks, I realised paying someone to listen to me talk wasn’t going to work so I stopped medication and looked towards Buddhism.

I felt unfair towards Danson for not giving him my best, but my family showed the most unwavering support. Their love made me realise I shouldn’t neglect the people who are alive while missing the deceased.

Carrying on Daniel’s business with the driver

After Daniel’s passing, I took over the new car business and continued working with the driver. Friends couldn’t fathom how I could work with the man who killed my husband. They told me to sue him, but I knew it wasn’t right to destroy his life just because he destroyed mine; I did it because it was the only legal business Daniel had and I wanted to support him.

Eventually, things didn’t work out, so I spent the next three years working from home to help my father’s business (Samtronics Engineering).

Danson growing up

After Daniel’s death, I struggled to date again in 2014. I met a guy and we dated for 6 months. But, one day, he told me he couldn’t accept my son and that I had no backbone to support myself. I wondered, “What did my son do? He’s innocent, why does he deserve this?”

His cutting words urged me to go out and work. But, it wasn’t easy coping with separation anxiety when Danson was enrolled in a childcare centre. Despite being a bright kid who knew the numbers and alphabets at two years old, Danson wasn’t socialising with other kids. His iPad was his best friend.

Once, he came home from playgroup and asked, “Where’s my daddy?”

I told him, “He’s up in the sky.” He looked up and said, “I cannot see him,” and I replied, “but he can see you.”

Juggling family business and a full-time job

To earn more money, I took up a full-time insurance job while juggling my dad’s business. I figured, if I couldn’t help myself emotionally, I could help myself financially. Working round the clock, the only hobby I had was reading.

Call it coincidence or uncanny fate, but I met my current husband, also named Daniel, through work. Despite my personal policy not to date co-workers, Daniel broke down the walls I had unknowingly built to avoid getting hurt again. We married in September 2016.

Rebuilding the family

Danson now addresses Daniel as ‘Daddy’ after years of treating my father as his surrogate dad. With patience and effort, both our families nurtured him to accept his new life. I daresay my father treats him better than he treated me when I was a kid.

My second child is due in February 2017 and Danson is eager to meet his younger brother. He said, “When didi comes out, I will give him all my toy cars.”

Being pure yet naive, he asks me silly questions sometimes, like “Where’s didi? I can’t see him.” When I told him didi was inside me, he asked, “So your stomach will get bigger and bigger and then explode?”

Lessons learnt

My late husband’s death taught me how to appreciate the little moments we often forget in the hustle and bustle of modern society. Apart from that, here are some of my daily reminders:

– Change your mindset to let fear go. What’s the point of sweating the small stuff?
– Value moments instead of materialism.
– Health and safety are the most prized gifts, treasure them.
– The ordinary things that make you happy are blessings if you look close enough.
– You are not alone. Don’t be afraid to draw strength from people who care.
– People will try to dictate your feelings. But you don’t owe anything to anyone, except your parents for raising you.
– You won’t know how far you’ve gone until you look back. Keep going.
– Take your time, you are a work-in-progress.
– When someone hurts you, you don’t have to hurt them back.
– By helping others, you help yourself.

My family and my faith were the pillars that held me together when I crumbled. When I cried in the hospital, I felt like Danson was there to experience it with me, even as a fetus inside me.

With spiritual healing, meditation, and time, I started paying more attention to the flowers than the thorns. Till today, I still keep in contact with my late husband’s mother and she too has found the strength to carry on.

Coping with Loss

After Suanne and I parted ways, she dropped me a text saying, “I hope my story helps those who are down and hope to draw strength from somewhere. Despite my circumstances, I’m fortunate for what I have for there are others who have much less.”