Forever a shining star

The morning rays shone through the thin white curtain behind me. I peeped out the window – clear blue skies. Looked at my watch and it’s only 7am. I have 3 more hours before work starts.

I rolled around in bed, and tears trickled down my face as I recalled the night before. I just got back from dinner and received a message from a friend saying that someone we both know has passed away. I was shocked. I thought he got the wrong person. But the spelling of the name is right coz there’s only one person we know whose name is spelled in such a unique manner.

I got the message in Facebook, but read it via email. I couldn’t log on to Facebook to reply him. I panicked. I didn’t have his mobile number with me. Furiously tried to log on and finally managed to tweet him. I also managed to connect to MSN and saw my ex-colleague online and ask what happened. Yes, the news is true.

I was in utter shock. I scrambled to find out more from people back home. Internet was damn slow. I started going through my Whatsapp list. Technology to the rescue! The chronology of events started flowing before me like a bad storyline.

She was my first client when I joined the industry as a young fresh grad. On the first day on the job, I gave her a call to discuss about work. After that, she told my colleague that the ‘new girl’ was extremely polite on the phone. I laughed. Over time, our relationship became closer and it went from client-agency to friends. We would consult each other openly whenever there was an issue to be solved and she would patiently explain things that I didn’t understand. She was a very decisive client and always knew what she wanted. A yes is a yes, a no is definitely a no. It was such a bliss working with her. She was a very efficient and coordinated person – everything is kept tightly in place.

After 1.5yrs working with her, she was transferred to another department but we still got to work together during certain projects. My last project with her was before I left to start traveling. It was Dec 2010. Little would I know that that would be our last farewell. I sent her a Chinese New Year card together with some Rooibos tea after my return from South Africa. She happily thanked me and that was our last conversation. She was always a jovial person, injecting life into all our meetings. Her contagious laugh and smiles never fail to make my day. All of us definitely enjoyed working with her and having her around. I’ve always had this thought that if I ever go back to my old job, I would love to work with her again for sure.

So, when I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know she was sick to begin with. The doctors found a cyst in her uterus and thought it was benign and arranged for a surgery. However, during her final checkup before the surgery, they found out that it was malignant. It was cancer. They removed her whole womb and thought the cancer would go away. But the cancer cells quickly spread to her internal organs. It was so fast that she couldn’t do too much chemo. She had a minor stroke last week and passed away peacefully on Monday evening, 6th June 2011. She was only diagnosed in Feb this year. Everything happened so fast. She was 35.

That night, the more I spoke to my ex-colleagues, the more emotional I became as flashbacks kept on coming. But we know that she is now in a better place. She wouldn’t want us to be sad as she is a person of happiness. I’m really glad that she has lived her life to the full through the years I’ve known her.

The largest Tibetan praying wheel which contains the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra

I said a little prayer for her before I went to sleep, but didn’t sleep well. Woke up early, hiked up the temple, prayed for her and spun the Tibetan praying wheel 3 times. I also asked my Mom to do a dana (offering of alms) for her at the Buddhist centre back home.

Evidently, the news came as a wake-up call for a lot of us. We talked about how we need to appreciate people and everything around us, live life better and get our priorities right. Everyone told me that they’re glad I’m doing what I want to – travel. I said yes, I will make the most of my time during this journey. As for the girls, we agreed that we need to ensure we get our yearly check-ups done. I wonder if things would’ve been better if she found out earlier.

Dedicated by the Anand brothers


Rest in peace, Iryne. You will be dearly missed and I will always cherish our days together, battling it out and fire-fighting with deadlines.


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