Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart??

There used to a popular song by the Bee Gees, 'How Can You Mend a Broken Heart'
The song aptly sums up the pain of losing someone you love dearly. 
Someone asked Reu's mother just recently "So how? Is everything back to normal?" 

I guess the person meant well and showed his concern in asking about her well-being. 
However, perhaps some thought could be given before choosing the question to ask. 
A broken heart is not easily healed. 
Do not imagine that with the passing of time, that things will be "BACK TO NORMAL". 
The pain may become less intense, but the void will always be there. 
Especially when someone is taken away suddenly, before his three score and ten years are up. 
So don't expect things to go back to "normal".

It is the norm that a son should bury his father. But why should a father bury his son? 
My heart still aches even today (even after 15 months) 
and I cannot imagine the pain Reu's mother feels. 

I try to adopt some sort of daily routine. 
Yet everything is different. 
So, dear friends, Please DON'T ask if everything is back to normal ?!! 

Things can never be back to normal. 
My son is no longer around, so try some other conversation/question. 
"Hi, its nice to see you today", 
"So what do you think of President Obama" 
If you ask "How are you today?", then be prepared to listen IF I want to "unload" on to you. 

Please don't avoid me, but try not to make inappropriate questions or statements.
Maybe you can ask "Chiak Pa Beh" (ie Have You eaten) and offer to buy me a nice lunch. LOL

Here are the song's lyrics...
"I can think of younger days when living for my life 
Was everything a man could want to do. 
I could never see tomorrow, but I was never told about the sorrow. 

And how can you mend a broken heart? 
How can you stop the rain from falling down? 
How can you stop the sun from shining? 
What makes the world go round? 

How can you mend a this broken man? 
How can a loser ever win? 
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again. 

I can still feel the breeze that rustles through the trees 
And misty memories of days gone by 
We could never see tomorrow, no one said a word about the sorrow."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It was not under the safety panel's purview in the first place to pinpoint who was responsible for the tragedy.

One year on, the pain still remains

November 24, 2008 Monday, 06:00 AM

Carolyn Quek looks at questions lingering from the dragon boat tragedy.

YESTERDAY marked the first death anniversaries of the five rowers who died tragically in last year’s Cambodian dragon boat accident.

As family and loved ones held a commermorative service to remember the five men, several questions remain.

For example, was the welfare of survivors and their parents being overlooked?

Ms Pamela Seeto, mother of one of the survivors, thinks so.

The housewife still remembers Nov 24, 2007 - the day her friend came knocking on her door, asking her to read the newspapers.

"When I saw the headline, five dragon boaters missing... I went screaming and crying," the housewife, who is in her 50s, recalls as she spoke to reporters at the memorial service.

Her younger son, Darren Tan, now a 21-year-old first year undergraduate, was one of the 22 rowers representing Singapore in a traditional boat race in Cambodia.

There had been no calls or messages from him and she started to panic.

"Then I realised I had turned off my handphone," Ms Seeto recounted.

Switching on her mobile, she heaved a sigh of relief when she saw that Mr Tan had sent her a text message at 9.08pm - Ms Seeto can remember the time precisely.

It was also a few hours after his team mates went missing in the Tonle Sap River.

The families of the survivors too have been through a lot, given that the surviving men had also had near-death experiences.

Ms Seeto felt however that follow-ups on the part of the survivors and families after they returned was not enough.

She cited how the parents of the survivors were not invited to a closed-door briefing about the Safety Inquiry Panel report when it was released at the end of May.

The panel was set up in the wake of the accident and had met only with the families of the rowers who had died.

But Ms Seeto felt it should have been extended to parents like herself. After all, their sons were involved in the same accident, and their families had a right to know how their safety had been compromised.

Also, besides a few group counselling sessions that the survivors received on their return to Singapore, the survivors have been largely left alone, she said.

One year on, the hurt also continues to run deep for the families of the five rowers.

Differences, it seems, remain unresolved between the families and the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SBDA).

While they had called for a press conference in July to ask for an apology from the SBDA, the association had responded a few days later by saying that it was not going to do as as it was found not responsible for the accident by the SI panel.

But family members at the memorial service pointed out, it was not under the safety panel's purview in the first place to pinpoint who was responsible for the tragedy.

At a regatta also held yesterday, the parents had also noted that there was no minute's silence observed for their boys.

There were no obituaries placed by the association to mark the one-year anniversary of the rowers.

It led the families to wonder, had the SBDA forgotten about the five men?

But the families clearly have not forgotten about the men, as they sought to commemorate their lives at the emotionally-charged memorial service.

The sobbing younger brother of Mr Chee Wei Cheng was the first to take the stage.

"This one year has been very hard for me and especially my mother," Wei You told those who had gathered at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Jurong East.

"He was our life... without him, our lives are so empty."

November 27, 2008 Thursday
Home > ST Forum > Online Story

Dragon-boat deaths last year: Still much on mind of fellow rower
I REFER to Monday's article, 'Dragon-boat deaths: Pain still lingers'.

I read with heartache as it brought back sad memories of how these five young men perished in the prime of their lives while representing their nation. Time and tide wait for no man and it has been a year since their departure from their loved ones, but the recollection of how they left is still clear and painful, even to someone like me who knew none of them. I can understand the shock and sadness suffered by their loved ones when they were taken away so suddenly. Like these young men, I am involved in this field of sports. With their sacrifice, I told myself I need to be as committed and passionate about this sports as they were.
I was present at the first day of the regatta race on Nov 23, the day before what I reminded some comrades would be their first death anniversary. I hoped the organisers would have coordinated a brief memorial or tribute to these national heroes. To my dismay, I was told there would be no service.
I can empathise with how Mr Freddie Kee and Mrs Cathy Loh felt on losing their dearest sons. Keeping close tabs on this incident since last year, I could see Mr Kee was visibly upset that the Singapore Dragon Boat Association did not wish to apologise nor take responsibility for the mishap on the Tonle Sap river in Cambodia on Nov 23. Its apology was only for the misleading message to the families that the rowers might not have been good swimmers.
Dragon-boat rowing inculcates team spirit, bonding and accountability. To row as a team for the association and for the nation, every single member of the national team, from the individual rower, captain, team manager and coach, to the sponsors and the association that guided, coached and ultimately sent the team to an unfamiliar race site, should be accountable for what went wrong. Accountability is an indication of how a mature adult, organisation or country functions, so it is unusual that the tragedy report took longer than expected and found no one at fault.
If the association had apologised to the families of the dead, it would have assured them that their sons had not died in vain. Sometimes in life, it is not about technicalities of an investigative report that finds no one at fault, but accountability.
As to whether the dragon-boat fraternity has progressed since a year ago, I would say there is still room for improvement. Go to the association headquarters and you will find only two toilets with no water from the tap to take a shower (the nearest is about 1km away). There are no carpark lots for the many avid rowers, and no proper equipment storage.
As for the recent Singapore River Regatta, the briefing was done only four days before the event, giving team managers little time to communicate to the rowers. The race site was packed with teams along the narrow stairways leading to the pontoon, causing safety issues. Strong currents moved the boats dangerously. And the race was delayed by almost two hours, so some teams that had gathered since 7am got to row only in the afternoon.

Desmond Koh

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another death: Isn’t it time we learn?
see full article at

Under the panel’s recommendations:
The IDBF water safety policy makes the wearing of Personal Floatation Aids (PFAs) conditional as dragon boaters generally compete in sheltered or placid waters.
Where the conditions are otherwise, the Safety Inquiry Panel supports the IDBF rules which makes it compulsory for PFAs to be worn, as PFAs do aid in the saving of lives.
Crew managers should therefore demand participants wear PFAs in adverse racing or training conditions.

The IDBF Members Handbook adds:
In a formal competitive event and on a placid water course ...
the IDBF Rules of Racing do not require an experienced competitor to wear a PFA (Life Vest)
However, even in perfect racing conditions, both the boat helm and drummer are advised to wear PFAs
In an informal competitive event, such as a festival race, all competitors are advised to wear PFAs
In adverse racing ... especially in open water or rivers, crew managers of experienced crew should advise all their competitors to wear PFAs
Note: Open water is defined as large and very large inland lakes and reservoirs, tidal estuaries, open harbours and the sea.
It is the crew manager’s responsibility to ensure that ... any weak swimmers are provided with PFAs

Friday, June 6, 2008

Closure? More Pain, More Questions

So the Safety Inquiry report is out. So is the response from the SDBA.
The Today paper weekend edition however aptly proclaims the status.
"Dragon Boat Tragedy: Questions remain. see online at

Seems that no one is to be blamed. Nothing could have been done to avoid this unfortunate accident???

Just like ST Friday June 6th. Open verdict on teens who died in crash.
A sports car carrying two teenagers crashed and burst into flames along Sixth Avenue in the early hours or Aug 25 last year. "They could have been in high spirits, and may have been enjoying the sensation of high speed, and a momentary distraction could have caused the accident." STATE CORONOR VICTOR YEO,
In the case of our National Dragon Boat Team, it seems that no one is willing to say that they failed to do what needed to be done.

from the ST forum June 3rd,2008.
"The inquiry panel failed to take action against those accountable who placed our Singapore youth at risk."
Ms Caron Chan: "When it comes to problems, we dig at the roots and find out what went wrong. This time, however, we dug into what happened in Cambodia that caused five deaths, but came up with no firm suggestions except to affirm some basic safety procedures which should have been in place since we started sending teams to competitions overseas."

One of the SI panel's findings was The Low Safety Awareness of all involved.
My question is WHO is responsible to ensure the safety awareness of the team?
Why weren't the IDBF's
Water Safety Policy followed before Nov 2007?
(International Dragon Boat Federation see

Someone needs to ensure that there is no lapse in following the IDBF guidelines from now on.
Not just for the National Team but also all Dragon Boat teams (schools etc).

Find out why the IDBF want teams to practise Capsize drills.
Perhaps it is because races are held in open water and/or with non-standard dragon boats, where there is a possibility of capsizing?
The officials must find a safe way to practise capsize drills.
Maybe the SDBF can bring in a typical non-standard/traditional boat used in overseas races?

Should our rowers bring along their Personal Flotation Aids (LIFE VESTS) and also their oars (if those in the competition are of different sizes)?? What needs to be done to make sure our children come home safely to us??

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Six months on, life goes on but ...

Last Friday was the 6 month anniversary of Reuben's departure. The family still misses him dearly. Life goes on, but somehow things are no longer the same...

I have to make sure that I don't listen to 'sad' music, especially when I am alone in the car, else the tears start to come. I wish I had spent more time with Reuben, to know him better. To tell him that I am proud of him and that I love him.

The Shi Tsu puppy we bought helps to cheer us up a bit cuz she is so lovable and intelligent.
Ha, the one time mummy gave Reuben a hair cut, she used our dearly departed poodle Muffin's hair shaver. Reuben had bought his own hair shaver and used to give his team mates a hair cut at our house. Now I am using his shaver to trim our new dog's hair. Tit-for-tat eh?
We named the puppy Clavi, after Reuben's Clavinova. She is a clever dog, very intelligent, playful and very sociable.

The SSC called yesterday and said that the inquiry results will be out on Friday.
Somehow, it makes me feel uneasy. They asked me if we want to meet the press, but I said no.
I am afraid that I will become angry and bitter if the inquiry's conclusions do not meet my expectations. I have been saying that it was an accident and that we should not 'blame' anyone. But my son (and 4 others) are gone, and somehow, someone must accept the responsibility for their deaths.

It pains my heart to see Reuben's mom cry each time she misses him. Her health has suffered and her asthma from 20 years ago has come back. Reu's sister has been strong, but I know she misses him very much.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Life back to "normal"

Just after we said farewell to Reuben, someone asked me, "Well Freddie, everything back to normal?". Can life be normal again when u have lost your only son? A son is supposed to bury his father and not the other way round. Every now and then I question God why? And then I put my heart in His hands to trust Him, to remember that this life is not the life that God meant for us to live. God wanted us to live forever, in love, without pain and suffering and sorrow (and stress).

Today I finally used up the tube of Loreal hair gel that Reuben liked to 'use' sometimes. He also liked to use the Spalding shampoo that I had. It will disappear from my bathroom because he would borrow it to use after his training. I love that shampoo and so did he. But I don't use it daily now because I cannot find it in the shops and ...

Anyway, God is taking care of us. I quit my "paid" volunteer work Dec 1st 2007, and have been trying to go back to my financial consultancy work. It has been hard to start up the 'work' motor. But yesterday and today, 3 of my clients actually contacted me so...

I managed to pass my CEHA exam last year, so I am hoping for some work opportunites there.
Yesterday I went to donate blood (I am a regular blood donor, I donate 3 to 4 times a year) and someone there introduced a potential client to me.
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