When Separation Comes Too Soon

A tribute to my late wife

By Winston Kok | 26 April, 2018

My extraordinary wife and life partner passed on in May 2011, after 20 months of battling stomach cancer.

We loved each other very much, and had been married for 30 years. She always was my supportive wife, friend, confidante and trusted helpmate.

I first met Connie in 1978 on a special occasion – we watched a live SBC variety show at the RTV studio and met through a mutual friend. The rest, as they say, is history. Through her influence, I learnt to trust and submit myself to Jesus through our shared faith. We got married after 3 years of dating.

Connie was intelligent and thoughtful, an inspiration to everyone around her. She also had a unique laugh and a sweet voice, which I miss very dearly. She liked me to kiss her and whisper “I love you” in her ear. I would oblige, even when I was tired and felt half-hearted about it.

When my job took me all over Asia from 2002 to 2005, she not only took good care of our 2 children and maintained the household excellently, she also served in church on top of her own office job.

Her work ethic and passion for God still live on in our children today. Our daughter leads the youth ministry in church despite her busy teaching schedule; our son and daughter-in-law actively volunteer in their church’s Sunday school.

In the earlier days when our children were younger, we would clash over how they should be raised. Connie was firm on them doing their best in school, and would dole out punishment when she felt they were not doing so. I thought she was too harsh, compared to my softer style of reasoning and use of rewards to encourage them when they do well.

We once had a major fight about who should do more of the household chores, when she claimed men were unwilling to take on more at home. It frustrated me because I was the sole breadwinner then and was emotionally present for her and the children, even though I wasn’t as detailed a parent as she was.

Yet in all of these disagreements, I preferred to resolve conflict quickly, so I would make the first move to reconcile. I wasn’t always happy to do it, but for the sake of our marriage and children, I knew that was something I had to do. We would go out for a movie or a meal, and it would help thaw the ice.

Although we had our fair share of disagreements about parenting, my wife set the rules within the home and gave our children a sense of security, self-discipline and responsibility, setting the foundation for the independent and reliable adults they are today.

For the sake of our marriage and children, I knew I had to make the first move to reconcile after an argument.

One of Connie’s greatest desires was to see our two children get married and welcome many grandchildren into the family, so she could visit and play with the kids. I’m sure she would have ensured that they would grow up healthy and happy, only leaving with happy smiles and full bellies whenever they visited.

Unfortunately, she fell ill. That visit to receive her biopsy report was the toughest meeting I’ve ever been in. I thought I was prepared for anything, but the prospect of losing my best friend shattered me. When we were in the doctor’s room together, I recall holding her hand and squeezing it so tightly when he broke the news. The words “in sickness and in health” came to mind, along with many other thoughts.

After surgery and radiation in 2009, Connie was cancer-free. But that joy didn’t last. I was thankful for the period of respite, and I was adamant to make her feel comfortable. We went on short holidays when she could manage them. I wanted to enjoy her company, her smell — just her — as much as I could.

In 2011, the cancer returned with a vengeance; it had spread to her intestines and the prognosis was bleak. The doctors did all they could, but alas, they could not save her.

My son got married three days before she passed on, so at least her wish to see her children marry and have their own children was partially fulfilled.

I wanted to enjoy her company, her smell — just her — as much as I could.

Oh, how I wish we had spent more time doing what made her happy. Before she fell sick, I thought we had a longer future together. Our marriage seemed good, but it wouldn’t have hurt me to make her happier. I wanted to make her happy, but I also wanted to make myself happy then.

Life as a widower is often challenging. The hardest part lies in managing my own emotions and grief even as I provide and care for my family.

She was the person our children shared their feelings with; they sought protection and comfort from her, and she is no longer here. I have to take up that role to meet their emotional needs. It was so difficult at first, coupled with the intense emotional pain as we all struggled to adapt to a new normal without my wife.

I still wish Connie was alive — even as we near the 7th anniversary of her passing — as I would love to see her happy and healthy, living life to its fullest. If she was here, I would give her all the love and affection I can muster.

Although we miss her dearly, she has left in each of us a legacy of love, faith and hope that unite us as a family. As a single parent, I’ll always remember what she has done for us, and will do my best to pass her baton of love and virtues on to our children and grandchildren.

© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Winston is a loving father and grandfather. Now in partial retirement, he enjoys spending time with family and dear friends, and finds joy in volunteering in his church.

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