Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Saying Goodbye to a Sibling

The siblings in 2015: (L-R) Mike, Mae, Me & Lanny

In 2008 I participated in a Systemic Family Constellation group session facilitated by Barrie Musgrave and I hugely benefited from the experience. 

Family Constellation is a dynamic, interactive emotional therapy (developed in the 1990s by Bert Hellinger) based on the principle that every soul enters into physical embodiment via a soul cluster, never in isolation. Hence any attempt to release emotional trauma has to be approached in the context of the family into which we are inserted at birth. All I can say about Family Constellation is that in just one session, I found myself at peace and at ease with my blood family and acknowledged them all as cherished components of my extended being.

As the youngest of four siblings who arrived 8 years after my next brother Michael was born, I grew up feeling like an only child because of the age gap. My other siblings were sent off to boarding schools in their teens and by the time I reached puberty, they only featured in my world during term breaks, when I suddenly found myself sharing the house with a sister and two brothers. 

Michael M.F. Lee @ 18
During the Family Constellation session I found myself standing in a nuclear family circle with a huge space between Michael and myself. The facilitator asked if there had been other siblings that were aborted or stillborn and I remembered my mother telling me she had conceived twins before I came along much later. She told me the twins were stillborn (but later my sister insisted that the twins had been aborted). 

When two other participants (one of them my biological daughter Belle) volunteered to stand in for the etheric twins, the family circle finally felt complete. We acknowledged and welcomed the twins into the family and there was a palpable sense of joy and fulfillment in the atmosphere. Then we blessed and thanked the twins and released them back into the spirit realms.

As the youngest child I had an easy time growing up. By the time I arrived my parents were no longer overly enthusiastic about acting out the role of parents, which means they left me pretty much to my own devices. My sister Mae, being the firstborn and the only female, saw me as some kind of cuddly toy when she was in her late teens. while my elder brother Lanny enjoyed playing benevolent big brother whenever he was home from boarding school. 

The younger brother Michael (or Mickey, as everyone called him in his early youth, after a recently introduced Walt Disney character) had arrived on June 15th, 1942, at the height of the Japanese invasion of Malaya. My mother told me she could hear bombing raids from planes flying overhead and the sound of intermittent gunfire during the birth of her third child. Consequently, Mickey turned out to be the most timid sibling, and mirrored our mother's negative mental habits (she was generally inclined towards anxiety and worried a great deal about her health). She was also predisposed to putting her faith in the pharmaceutical prescriptions of allopathic (Western) medicine rather than traditional remedies that had survived thousands of years. By the time she hit 60 my mother was taking prescription drugs for at least 6 different conditions, including heart palpitations, high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes. I remember the alarming array of pills she kept in a basket by her bedside.

Mike, Mae & Me in 2013

What prompted this verbal nod to my siblings was finding a missed call at 5:35am from my niece Rebecca. She had wanted to inform me that my brother Mike had passed away peacefully around 4:45am on 24 May at the Johor Specialist Hospital (the same hospital where our father died on 14 October 2004). I had spoken to Mike on the phone less than a week ago and he had sounded really excited, talking non-stop at maximum velocity. I tried to get him to slow down, breathe deeply, stop talking for a few seconds so that I could give him an energy transfusion down the line. But there was no way he could slow down or be quiet even for a couple of seconds! He asked if I had sent him the tasty porridge and I told him it was from my daughter Belle who had been ordering food for her Uncle Mike when she learnt that it was getting harder for him to drive around and go shopping.

My brother Lanny had decided to hop on a plane and get to Singapore the moment he heard that Mike had been admitted to hospital. He arrived on the night of the 23rd, a few hours before Mike checked out. But he was able to accompany Mae and my elder daughter Moonlake when they went to the hospital to sort out the paperwork and arrange for Mike to be cremated and his ashes taken to Singapore where our parents' ashes are stored in a columbarium. 

Getting an eye test in January 2019
Mike had been hankering to be discharged so he could return to his comfort zone and the quiet routine of an urban hermit. The doctors had diagnosed that his cardiac functions were only at 27% and that he stood a high risk of heart failure at any moment.

According to reports, Mike had shown an extremely hearty appetite for everything he was served. He guzzled with enthusiasm not only the hospital food but even enjoyed the industrial sandwiches Moon had bought at a gas station. I suppose he didn't want to leave on an empty stomach.

My brother Mike was indeed the proverbial Stranger in a Strange Land. His story certainly deserves to be told. But perhaps not today.

11:11pm, 24 May 2023