Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Death and dying

"We are alive, therefore we will die." This is the simplest, most obvious truth of our existence, and yet very few of us have really come to terms with it.

Although intellectually we all know that one day we shall die, generally we are so reluctant to think of our death that this knowledge does not touch our hearts, and we live our lives as if we are going to be in this world forever. However, to cancer patients, death is never far from their minds.

It was in July that Chang told me that his condition had deteriorated and that he was preparing for death. At that time, I didn't want to encourage what I assumed were negative thoughts. (which he battles with now and then). We all do not wish to hear our loved ones or close friends tell us that they will be leaving us. It is hard to imagine a world without them in it. We sometimes forget that  our loved ones' wellbeing and wishes are paramount. And when the time comes, to let them go peacefully and without guilt.

Chang told me that he had to counsel a few friends who came to visit him over the Raya holidays. These friends had told him to "hold on". Though, these friends may have meant well, Chang was obviously irritated.

Yes, talking about death is taboo to many people. Yet without talking about it and facing it honestly, how can we prepare the dying as well as ourselves for the process of dying? How do we help the dying to die well?

We do not know what the future holds but Chang has been mentally preparing himself since he discovered he has cancer.  He said that he has no regrets about his efforts. To quote him in an earlier post titled The Joy of Dying in Peace, "While, I would certainly like to find a cure for my cancer, there comes a time I will recognise that it's no good. I have tried all that I know (of course, you can say there are many more I have not tried) which I think will work for kidney cancer. I am satisfied with my actions and prepared to move on".

"I take a different view. I am actually preparing for this day so that I can die peacefully. To this end, my doctor loaned me a book called The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. To approach death without fear or regret and welcome our passage of death. To live peacefully you must also learn to die peacefully."

I will miss him dearly if he goes,  But I also wish him, what is best for him and a peaceful journey ahead. And I ask for forgiveness for my imperfections and thank him for his generosity, support and being my wonderful, wonderful friend.

(Updated by Chang's friend)


  1. Dear writer, i thank you for spending time each day to update Chang's reader of his condition. you write very well, and very poignantly. Through your feelings, I could imagine Chang's predicament. Chang has been brave throughout his cancer journey, and he has been a blessing to so many ppl in the same predicament as he is. We have all benefited from his honesty and openness in sharing. Thank you Chang.

  2. I was introduced to this blog by a friend that I get to know through internet. At that time, I have a funny feeling that he was 'stubbornly insist' that I must visit this blog of Chang in a way that I could help Chang in one way or another.

    Upon reading Chang's posts and his response to commentators of his blog, I told myself that I must get to know Chang in person, a person that is so profound with Buddhism, a person with the strongest mind that I ever met before. To my honour and surprise, he came to my vegetarian restaurant (Gary's Garden, 山河园) accompanied by a lady friend of his. We had a good chat and how I wish to meet Chang again.

    I wish Chang, live on or pass on, a smooth and peaceful journey ahead. You are always on my mind, Chang.


  3. Oh dear Lord, Our Creator.. continue to shower Chang with grace through his friends..and dont forget to send him a harvester and a comforter...

  4. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
    (New King James Version)
    To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
    A time to be born, And a time to die;
    A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
    A time to kill, And a time to heal;
    A time to break down, And a time to build up;
    A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
    A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
    A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
    A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
    A time to gain, And a time to lose;
    A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
    A time to tear, And a time to sew;
    A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
    A time to love, And a time to hate;
    A time of war, And a time of peace.

    Ecclesiastes 7
    New International Version (NIV)

    7 A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
    2 It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
    for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
    3 Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
    4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
    5 It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
    than to listen to the song of fools.
    6 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
    so is the laughter of fools.
    This too is meaningless.

  5. 4 Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”

    5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
    and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
    6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
    though a person may be weighed down by misery.

    7 Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come?
    8 As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
    so[a] no one has power over the time of their death.

  6. In death, Christians have a place at the right hand side of the Father; Muslims, with Allah; Buddhist, Amitabha Pure Land; Hindus, with the Creator. I am sure other faiths have their God-promised Heaven too. With such assurance, why do we still fear death? I am sure Chang understands the uncertainty of life and so he does not fear death.