CHINESE New Year is a time of coming together to celebrate, a season of welcoming the beginning of another year, hopefully one that is better than the last. It is this hope that keeps us going, looking forward to the next one year with new optimism.
It was an occasion I had always looked forward to as a kid, and even in adulthood. The new clothes, red packets and house all decked out, created an air of great anticipation. Most importantly, I looked forward to the coming together of family and friends to partake in lunch with food served only during major celebrations.
Those were the times when my parents were still around. When my father passed away, it was never the same again. We stopped hosting open house for lunch. The food was less scrumptious. The celebrations were toned down. Chinese New Year took on a sombre tone.
Despite that, my mother’s extended family made it a point to drop by for some merrymaking, light snacks and card games. My mother loved the atmosphere they generated. It was one occasion she looked forward to and took pains to prepare for.
After she passed on, the celebration stopped altogether. Although my maternal aunts and cousins wanted to carry on the tradition in memory of my mother, I declined. I was in mourning. I also felt the get-together without my mother would bring back painful memories.
With that, the tradition of celebrating the Chinese New Year I used to know disappeared from my life. I do not deny I miss those days but all that preparation and cooking was beyond my ability. It had always been a collective effort of the entire family, especially the womenfolk who slaved in the kitchen for hours to conjure up the delicious spread and spruced up the house.
Fast forward to this year. I am exhausted all the time. It is a matter of time before I have to begin dialysis. My feastings have been reduced to nibbling due to my strict dietary restrictions. I was not looking forward to the festivity because of the lethargy and for all the food I can no longer eat. With so much happening right now, I was in no mood to welcome the new spring.
My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are in town to spend the first few days of the Chinese New Year with us. After dinner on the first day, we drove around to see the night sights. As we passed by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, we found it flooded with the unmistakeable faces of foreign workers.
They had travelled long distances to find work here. They had left their family and loved ones behind to look for greener pastures here. Life is tough for them. They worked long hours for meagre pay and lived in squalid conditions.
They reminded me of my paternal grandfather and maternal great grandfather who left everything behind in China and arrived in Penang with nothing but the clothes on their backs. I am sure they never celebrated their Chinese New Year with their families many years after that, although I am certain they wished they had, as they toiled and laboured to eke out a meagre living.
My ancestors were foreign workers too many decades ago just like the foreign workers we have here now. Despite the adversities, they soldiered on, come rain or shine. It was at that moment of contemplation that I was struck with a revelation.
Surely what I am going through now is nothing compared to the hardships they had to endure. They were appreciative of the opportunities they had and made something out of it. Despite what I am currently experiencing, there are still many things for me to be grateful for.
I realised I should not yearn for what has passed and gone but be thankful for what I still have. I began to look for the good in my life to be happy about and there were so many. I did not have to look far. A sense of contentment overwhelmed me as I found one reason after another.
I am grateful my mother-in-law decided to spend the festive season with us in Kuala Lumpur. This saved us the hassle of having to brave the crawling jam along the North-South Expressway to go pay our respects to her in Ipoh.
I am grateful I still have family members to celebrate the occasion with again. It is a blessing we can still gather and afford to have decent meals together. I am grateful to have friends and business associates, who are always looking out for me. I am grateful for still being able to do what I am doing now because of them.
Most of all, I am grateful for an angel of a wife, who is selfless in caring for me as I gradually become more dependent on her for my activities of daily living. This is in addition to her work commitments and household chores. I would not be able to manage even a fraction of my tasks without her.
The more I thought about it, the more reasons I uncovered. It is a wonder how a seemingly unrelated sight can totally change my perspective and lifted my mood. Yes, there is much for me to be grateful for. If I had bothered to look, there is always something that is positive in my life.
This is what I must not stop reminding myself of. I am blessed beyond measure in so many ways. And I am thankful for that. Here’s wishing you Gong Xi Fa Cai. May you too find gratitude in your heart for all that you still have.