Birthday Reflections, Holiday Highlights, Friends that become Family & More
Updated: May 17
I have been in reflective mode since my last piece and it sure has been difficult to write again. I was not sure if I should write about what has been weighing on my mind and heart, however as the days sailed by I knew it was good to share my thoughts with you all. The next few paragraphs may evoke some emotions and if you have been experiencing a feeling of melancholy lately, I would recommend that you skip to paragraph nine.
Last November I mentioned that the Fijian Sisters in Brunei treated me to a Birthday dinner (https://www.maramaalliance.com/post/a-balancing-act-life-in-brunei-and-g-britain), my Birthday is a season in my life that I do not take for granted anymore. For me it is a day to be grateful for another year and being blessed by the support of loved ones. It is also a season of deep reflection, for 3 days after my birthday in 2007, my beloved Mother died in New Delhi, India. Hence, my birthday week since 2007 has been filled with joy and sorrow.
I remember the day and the last few hours I spent with my mother so well as I was the only member of my family there with her. I was meant to deploy to Poland with my unit in November 2007 when I received a phone call from my mother who stated she was having a knee replacement operation and it would be great if I could be there for her. My mother had never made a request of that nature and I felt that I needed to be there with her, so I approached my hierarchy who were so kind in allowing me to fly to India for 3 weeks to support my Mother.
The operation for my mother went well and she was recovering nicely, however on the second week they admitted her to intensive care due to pneumonia and she never recovered. The night before her death we were singing Fijian hymns, something I loved hearing her and her siblings do whenever they were together. My mother was just singing and smiling as I’m sure she was trying not to laugh at how awful I must have sounded as I always found it difficult to hold a singing note and it is a lot of pressure when both of my parents are from singing families!
I found myself that particular evening repeatedly telling her that I loved her not knowing that it was my last evening with her. As I write these lines, I am feeling very emotional as if it was yesterday when I was singing with my mother. I will always miss my mother and she is in my heart always. She was so special, full of love, humour and generous with her time. Those that knew her loved her unless you were one of her students who misbehaved in her class then I do feel for you!
I have chosen to hold onto the good memories to make me smile, and the painful ones, I have learnt from and tried to become a better person. One thing that I was so thankful that I learnt from my mother and will be foreign to many of you was how family in Fiji handled a deceased loved one ready for burial. In the UK everything can be done for you where you pay a funeral director a fee and they do a variety of services depending on the package purchased. When I was growing up in Fiji, family members had to go to the mortuary to dress the deceased family member ready for burial. My mother used to take me along for close family members as if she knew that one day it will come in handy.
In November 2007, that responsibility fell on my shoulders where I was so far away from my family, I was fortunate to be assisted by two Fijian ladies where we dressed my beloved mother ready for the long journey back to Fiji for burial. I remember my younger brother Leone was still flying from Australia when he received the heart wrenching news, never had I needed a more comforting presence of a sibling until that day. I don’t think I could have managed to prepare the last elements for my mother without my younger brother. We both knew that our mother deserved the best send off. Thank you mother dearest for your deep love, for the memorable years we had together and the invaluable life lessons you gave me.
Everyone experiences grief differently and at times if things are not shared or dealt with in a manner to heal one’s pain, it can negatively impact you or those you love. Grief or loss is not only limited to someone dying, it can be a loss of a marriage, friendship or work. In the military environment where a great number of personnel move every few years individually or with their families, loss may have been experienced at a certain juncture during the constant change of location. If we can feel the emotion of loss as adults, one can only imagine the impact it could have on children.
Last December, we bade farewell to the Naqasima Family as they returned to the UK after their 2 year stint here in Brunei. Mrs Tema Naqasima became my walking buddy and a great friend in the short space of time I got to know her. Such is life in the Army, if you are on a 2 year assignment, one finds themselves moving into a location and it takes about 6 months or longer to settle into the new environment and just as you have adjusted to the new surroundings, you are packing up to move again.
During the last Christmas holidays Paul and I decided to explore Bali and Kuala Lumpur, as both destinations are only a 2 hour flight from Brunei. We both love travelling with similar taste in adventure but not necessarily in the same order of events! If Paul had his way, we would be out exploring whole day, I on the other hand would like to enjoy the facilities provided by the beautiful hotels where we stayed. I decided to negotiate with my husband and stated that I will go exploring in the morning so long as we were back about 2pm to have a chill by the pool before we ventured out for dinner.
Part of my justification was if the locals were hardly out after lunch which normally is the hottest period in the day, then why did we think it was great to explore further when we could be relaxing and unwinding ready for the next day’s adventures. Paul was sold on the idea when he found himself snoozing the first afternoon of our break! I know it is difficult for Mr Riley to state and thank me when I am right.
We found ourselves immersed in beautiful landscapes and scenery from the rice paddies in Ubud, to the stunning beaches of Bali, the numerous wild animals and the epic Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. Here I could not resist and asked a wonderful young couple (Sadtiyaseelan and Kavienmathi) with their young son (Vidharth) who gave their consent to have their picture taken and what was the occasion of their visit? I knew it was something special as their son was dressed in their traditional attire and looked so peaceful sleeping in his father’s arms. Batu Caves houses several Hindu shrines and the family had travelled from Penang to have a special blessing for their son ready for the New Year 2020. I admired their dedication especially scaling the steep steps leading up to Batu Caves in ensuring that their son was blessed for the future with regards to their Faith.
My Christian Faith has been invaluable during my time here in Brunei where I have experienced various emotions, not having Paul to share my thoughts with coupled by the time difference with the UK. I have found peace and comfort in my Faith being far away from loved ones. We all cope differently with our emotions and have varying coping mechanisms, I would recommend you explore what makes you happy and invest in it.
Another beautiful lady who lifts my day when I receive her letters is Mrs Sylvia Kydd who pens the most delightful letters. I have asked her daughter to print my previous posts as she would not have read it and I would like to thank her for always thinking of me, even when I was not great at replying promptly to her letters. I remember on my last letter to her I mentioned seeing a Hornbill on my balcony and since that day I have captured a few pics of Hornbills although none as clear the photo of a Hornbill perched on my balcony. I hope to capture more pictures of the stunning wildlife and the beautiful landscapes in this beautiful area of Borneo.
This piece is written for Marama Alliance United Kingdom (MAUK) which is a network formed to assist Fijian women in the United Kingdom. MAUK had their Scotland Network event in Inverness on Saturday 7 March 2020 and those attended found the event powerful and impactful. Visit the MAUK website (www.maramaalliance.com) for more information and to read the inspirational stories (blogs) of my fellow Fijian Women in the UK, wonderful book reviews and networking events. The next MAUK Networking event is due to be held in Wales and do subscribe to the MAUK page if you would like to be kept updated on future events.
If you feel you are experiencing bereavement after reading this and would like to access support, I would recommend contacting Cruse Bereavement Care (www.cruse.org.uk) or contact your local medical centre where they could sign post you accordingly. Within the military community you can engage with the Army Welfare Service (AWS) or equivalent for Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. There is also Nelson’s Journey (www.nelsonsjourney.org.uk) which is a Norfolk charity that supports children and young people who have experienced bereavement.
March is the month we honour and celebrate International Women’s Day and to all the women in my life, I thank you for being a blessing and continuing to support me through my seasons of growth. For the women that are reading this and I do not know you personally, thank you for taking the time to read this piece and I hope you will be blessed with great women who will support and empower you through life. To all the Ladies in the UK in a mothering role directly or indirectly from Grandmothers, Mothers and Aunts, I would like to wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday 22 March 2020.
Until next time..
Lots of Love,