If God brought you to it,
He will get you through it.

08 October 2008

We Were Not Ready To Say Goodbye...

"It was tragic enough to lose a loved one without a trace but learning of the tall tales and fallacious accounts that threatened to taint our name, which was the only wealth my husband left us, brought us pain beyond words."

(original article appeared in on January 25, 2006)


How fast time flies! It is exactly one year today since that fateful day of January 25, 2005 when my three very young kids and I were jolted from our sleep at 5:30 a.m. after realizing (or should I say, sensing) that their Dad (James) did not come home.

The night before that, my husband picked up the kids from their tutorial classes because it was starting to rain. It was unusual because he rarely had time to pick them up from school and on those rare occasions that he did, he always brought me and the yaya (nanny) along. Even the kids were impressed when, for the first time, they saw their Dad waiting for them ALONE at the school gate.

Upon reaching home, James slumped on the sofa looking so unusually tired and worn out. When I reminded him of the invitation we got earlier from a friend who owned a bar, he just shrugged it off because we both had a slight fever that night.

At 7:30 p.m. however, another friend who received the same invitation called him up. Since my husband was the type who could not say no to any of his friends - he almost always never did! - he hesitantly agreed to go out with him to their friend's pub. He then asked him if he could bring me along (so he could use me later as an excuse to leave the party early) but the friend informed him that it was a "boys' night out" and he himself would not bring his wife. I was disappointed.

When my husband asked for his jacket, I deliberately handed him a different one to convey my disappointment. Of course I knew which one was his favorite. I gave it to him as a gift some ten years ago. Over the years, he was able to accumulate several coats but he always reached for that jacket every time he needed one. His son (our eldest child) knew exactly where to find it and gave it to his dad. He then kissed me goodbye and said "I love you" but I pretended that I did not hear it. When he feigned a pained look, I glared back at him and wryly warned not to disturb me with calls or text messages during the night.

Before he left, he asked our son to open the gate for him. A few meters away from the house, he called to check on us. He then said "I love you" for the last time...

Two days later, the headlines screamed: "Three Businessmen Missing." One of them was my husband.

Yes, we did a frantic search but to no avail. Fearing that it was a case of kidnapping, I waited for that dreaded ransom demand, but none came. The chance of finding my husband became grim when, two weeks later, his friend was tagged as a druglord on tv, I was advised by well-meaning friends to stop looking for James because of unverified rumors from his being buried alive to his being thrown at sea to be "eaten by sharks."

At that time, I felt as if I was moving through someone else's movie. Everything felt surreal, in slow motion.

In my mind, I was screaming:

"This only happens in the movies! This can't be happening to my family! We live in a good neighborhood, we were God-fearing decent people and we never took or sold drugs, so how come this kind of thing happened to my family?"


For months, our days were measured by: one day after he went missing, one month since he went missing, and so on. I became numb and filtered information bit by bit, instead of all at once. For seven long months, I drank each single night to subdue the pain. There were days when the anguish was too much to bear that I wished for death to take me. I went through periods of disorientation, numbness, denial, acute periods of pain and then a return to numbness.

And all those malicious conjectures about my husband did not help - they just aggravated my pain. I never realized how cruel some people could be in the midst of another person's tragedy. There were even those whom we hardly knew but fanned rumors as if they knew us very well and either spread nasty suppositions as gospel truth or passed them around as alleged intelligence reports. Yes, all of these reached me!

I withdrew from almost everyone - family, friends, colleagues, the world - because every time I spoke to someone, I had to defend my husband's name. I wasn't ready to talk to friends. All I wanted to do was curl up in my bed, hide from the world and have something convince me it would someday be alright again. I longed for my husband to hold me and understand what I was feeling, as he always did. But he was gone. And whenever reality set in, my panic attacks paralyzed me. The haze, the confusion and the pain - it all gripped at my core. The simplest task seemed daunting. Those things that I once did with ease became difficult and challenging.

The most agonizing part though was informing the kids. At that time, my son was just 10 and my two daughters were only 8 and 5. When my husband's photos started appearing in the newspapers and on television, I decided it was time to tell them the truth. But how do you tell children such tragic truth?

It helped that my parents, my sister and her husband were there to lend support. Although my heart was shattered to pieces as I listened how my Dad carefully broke the news to my kids, I tried to put on a brave face for their sake. They listened intently and tears slowly rolled down their little faces as the weight of the tragedy dawned on them. When my son, after wiping his tears, confidently uttered "we will find Dad" I finally broke down. Again, everything felt surreal. This was not happening to us!

I admit there was nothing perfect in my marriage. But if I were to describe my relationship with James, I can readily say that we were the best of friends. He first came into my life 23 years ago when I was only 15 and he was 17. It is this unique friendship that pulled us through all the trials and storms that came our way.

Looking back now (one year later), my kids and I survived because we lived one day at a time. My children proved to be more mature than their age, of which I am so grateful. Their own strength became my pillar. Their Dad would have been proud of them knowing that we raised them well. My children and I silently thanked God for family and friends who relentlessly and fearlessly pursued the truth, defended us from nasty rumors and helped in the search.

It was tragic enough to lose a loved one without a trace but learning of the tall tales and fallacious accounts that threatened to taint our name, which was the only wealth my husband left us, brought us pain beyond words.

I think of other families who lost a loved one and experienced the same treatment. I can only imagine how they survived. For those who have lost a father, a brother, a breadwinner, have they moved on?

As to the perpetrators of injustice, have they found peace? Sometimes I can't help but wonder if they ever imagined such tragic fate befalling them. How would they deal with it? I sincerely pray that they won't have to leave this world the way their victims went as I am sure that they have families of their own too. Would their children be as strong as mine? One day when they face their God, they will also meet those they have judged - whether fairly or unjustly - in this lifetime. How would they fare?

Of this I am sure: THAT FATEFUL NIGHT A YEAR AGO, WE WERE NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE - NOT JAMES, NOT ME, NOT MY KIDS!

There are times when we - my children and I - are tempted to return to denial for a while - just to feel a little better. It's true that pain lessens with time, but we are still ambushed by grief occasionally. Oh how we cried together for the birthdays, anniversaries, the Christmas and New Year celebrations that their Dad missed during the past year.

Now we learned that one doesn't get over grief... you just get through it. Counting every little blessing we have helped us cope. We are most thankful for family and friends who never left us, who stayed and continued to believe in our integrity, who understood and simply held our hand when it was too painful to talk about it. No one in my family had done anything wrong to deserve this injustice.

Whenever the feeling of loss looms over us now, my children and I thank God that we still have each other.

Indeed, our route to complete healing is still long... and it is supposed to start with forgiveness. But, honestly, if you were in our shoes, would you be able to forgive?


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28 POINTS OF VIEW:

Edzz October 16, 2008 at 3:46 PM  

Dear Bing,
Like in the case of my Dad and brother, the question is, who would you forgive when you do not know who the perpetrators are!
But take courage...I seek refuge in God...even as it took me ten long years to finally accept my Dad is gone...a long sad story that meant nightly nightmares wherein my Dad wanted me to join him because he had no one to cook his dinner or lunch...
I ended up in Davao Doc stressed and nervous wrecjked...it took a priest to help me out, talk to me and you are so right, BLOGGING or JOURNALIZING is a great healer to start with!

Tita Edzz

PhilJ October 21, 2008 at 4:56 AM  

When I asked my mum if I could have piano lessons she sent me off to Bible lessons instead. I never did work out the connection but at 11 a mum can be an intimidating creature...so I went. Well, a Bible is lighter than a piano so I should be grateful for that at least.

They were serious lessons as well. None of your Joseph and his lovely coat or the quaint parables of Jesus, this was heavy stuff full of history from an elderly couple that argued and bickered at each other yet were still like teenagers in their love for each other. They were absoutly one. I only ever met one couple like them since.

Anyway, the first five books of the Bible. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' except that is not what it actually says or at least, in its context, its not what it means. The law given to the jews did not emphasise punishment. The emphasis was on compensation for the victim. Steal a sheep, lamb, cow or bull and you were required to replace the same at several times over. If you couldnt then you became a servant of the family....

The underlying principal being that the wrong needed to be undone. The burden of healing was with the criminal. Of course you cannot compensate a death but God can. We can only trust that he will.

I dont believe forgiveness is expected when your heart is still bleeding. A missing sheep, lamb, cow or bull is inconvenient and a cause of hardship but a death is devastation. It kills us as well. When Jesus spoke of forgiveness he spoke to the living, not the dead.

When someone as close as James, Tita's father (or my Amy) dies then part of us dies with them. You cant think anymore, life is gone because that star you happily flew around is gone.

I thought I was coming back to life until last week when the lawyer asked me to give testimony in court. My mind has closed down again and there has been no work.

Can I forgive? I know in my heart that he would not have planned to kill. The demon that posessed him was not of his making. Even so I still cannot bring myself to forgive. Maybe one day.

Perhaps we need to compromise. Perhaps forgivness will be possible when we finally 'come back to life'. And what would James, Tita's dad or Amy want for us? How would God view our treatment of his gift if we did not 'honour the giver by using his gift' of life?

Forgiveness is possible but only if you are alive. Come to life first and deal with that when you are ready. Go watch a sunset or ten. Different show every day folks! And even if there is one flower in your garden then its doing its best just for you.

Yea I know I dont talk about God much and I cant say what his plan is but I trust its for the best.

UmmeAaiman December 15, 2008 at 6:03 AM  

It must have been so painful. The hurt in your words brought tears in my eyes. I'm extremely sorry for your loss.

searchingwithin February 8, 2009 at 8:49 PM  

This must have been hard for you to write, but then I am also sure that the writing helps.

Best wishes, and my heart is with you.

Joseph March 19, 2009 at 10:56 PM  

When you commented on a post I made, I immediately clicked on your link to find out who you are and I was in shock when I read this. This is actually the second (or third) time that I read your story and I still feel the sadness in me whenever I do. But it's so nice to see you well and journeying on.

Now that I think about it, me and my girlfriend are still in a stage where we're both preparing to enter marriage. We're a long long way from what you've achieved and experienced. Today, when I read your post, I had the sudden urge to finally just ask her to marry me so that no time would be wasted and we would spend each day together. But I'm still not in the position to do so (financially speaking). I only hope that God would give us enough time to spend our lives together.

God bless you and your family. :)

PinkLady June 6, 2009 at 12:29 PM  

JOSEPH, your comment deeply moved me. I went back to this page to reconstruct it (due to HTML errors and broken links)and when I started re-writing and editing the post, I felt like I was re-living the entire experience again. Until now, I still don't know how I was able to survive this tragic loss. At that time, it was FAITH that kept me alive. When I could not stand the pain anymore, I just praised God. I left everything in HIS hands.

Blessings to you!

PinkLady June 6, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

TITA EDZZ and PHIL, you were so helpful in my painful journey. I can't thank you enough for the special friendship you have both given me.

I have come a long way. I can't stop praising God for pulling me out of such darkness. My heart has learned to forgive... a gift I have given to those who caused pain to my family. In the process, I gifted myself with healing.

A grateful heart and a forgiving soul... those are the lessons I have learned from this pain.

PHIL, forgive him. What he did to Amy was terrible. Don't allow him to kill your spirit as well.

TITA EDZZ, forgiveness is indeed difficult especially when you do not know whom to forgive. I guess it all starts with acceptance. Eventually, the perpetrators will have to answer for their crimes one way or the other. There is such a thing as DIVINE JUSTICE.

God bless you both!

PinkLady June 6, 2009 at 12:41 PM  

UMME and SEARCHINGWITHIN, thank you for the kind words. :) Blessings to both of you!

wanderblogger June 25, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

I am teary-eyed while reading your post. It's so easy to say "I understand what you're going through" or "I understand how you feel to loose a love one" when I haven't lost one. But I can sense that you're a strong woman with beautiful kids. God Bless!

PinkLady September 15, 2009 at 11:04 PM  

WANDERBLOGGER, thank you for taking the time to read our story. rest assured that my kids and i have already moved on. yes, i count these kids as my greatest blessing. :)

fiveloaf June 10, 2010 at 10:54 PM  

it is tragic to hear of this but time will heal.. sad to say- i am not a firm believer of forgiveness and emulating god cos firstly, we are not god. we are but humans and as humans, we can only do so much. secondly, there are situations in life that warrants you not to. but by understanding that it is gods job and duty to forgive and not ours, we will gradually learn to offer certain individuals up to him instead of struggling to forgive when our human limitations hinder us. do not have the notion that we all can be like god cos if we all can, there will be too many gods around and no sinful mortals to forgive. so let god be god and we as humans be humans. that is what we are born to be and let us live the only way we are made to be.. humans.

musingbymoonlight.com July 20, 2010 at 4:07 AM  

Holding you and your children in prayer.

J. Rhino Setyanto July 23, 2010 at 2:50 AM  

I feel sorry for your lost. I've been there before, so i know exactly how you felt that time. But noted this: Everything happen for a reason. Just keep that in mind that this is God's will.

rhythmofmysoul July 28, 2010 at 4:57 AM  

You are a very inspiring woman, Bing. Its an irreparable loss, but I'm sure your James is still alive in your heart. He is not too faraway. I really admire how you embrace life... Just keep moving forward.. I'm happy you got wonderful friends and family who support you, and of course, for your wonderful kids. I hope and pray that God's blessings will always be with you!!

Sherry Blue Sky August 25, 2010 at 8:18 AM  

So very true, that you dont get over it , you get through it. How very sad for you and your children - and for James, and all that all of you have lost together. I applaud you for keeping on keeping on, for getting up every morning and caring for your children. In their eyes, you can still find James' light shining! Take care.

Christine October 8, 2010 at 1:34 AM  

I am so saddened to hear of the tragedy you have endured. It speaks to your beautiful inner light that your 2010 post carries such joy.

Bing (PinkLady) October 16, 2010 at 12:27 PM  

fiveloaf, you are right. i have offered them all to him. as soon as i did that, the load lightened up and i was able to move forward. there are things beyond our control and it would be useless to try to take control over them. what is within our reach is our own reaction to everything that happens around us- it is our choice to either accept and move on or stay miserable and vindictive for a very long time.

thank you for your enlightening comment.

Bing (PinkLady) October 16, 2010 at 12:31 PM  

jamie, thank you so much. prayers helped me get through the darkest moment in my life.

GOD BLESS!

Bing (PinkLady) October 16, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

j. rhino, i have long accepted that it was God's will. i have come to terms with it. thank you for your nice thought.

Bing (PinkLady) October 16, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

rhythm of my soul, james will always be in our hearts. we had good memories and we've kept them alive. i don't want my children to forget their dad. thank you for your nice comment.

Bing (PinkLady) October 16, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

sherry, there was a time when i no longer wanted to wake up. thank God i was able to overcome that. now i thank God everyday for all the blessings i have, especially my 3 wonderful children.

thank you for your very supportive words.

Bing (PinkLady) October 16, 2010 at 12:38 PM  

christine, that is such a sweet comment. thank you so much.

bodhirose December 8, 2010 at 12:28 AM  

Bing, it's been several years now since your husband has been gone and I'm sure the pain is still stinging you and your children. I am deeply sorry for your tragic loss and send you healing energy of love to soothe you all.

I think yours is an especially sad story because it is so unusual and rare an occurrence. Most of us do not lose our loved ones to the way you have, so the isolation and heavy grief is even more magnified--I imagine.

It sounds like you have made good progress in your healing--I agree, writing can be very cathartic and therapeutic.

Blessings to you and your children.

Gayle ~

Cora December 9, 2010 at 2:17 AM  

Dearest Bing,

You are such a strong and courageous woman... I hope you know that. A tragedy such as yours is unimaginable, yet it's people like you who overcome these very difficult obstacles that give people like me hope that the world can become a better place. I hope you continue to get all the support you need from your family.

And to leave you a quote from my favorite author that helped me cope with the passing away of my grandfather:
"We exist as long as somebody remembers us." — Carlos Ruiz Zafón

annell January 18, 2011 at 9:47 PM  

Your loss is very hard to read. My heart goes out to you. We each must find our way, when it comes to loss,
some are harder than others. It is one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Perhaps it takes a lifetime, but you are building on your love.

Amity January 30, 2011 at 12:37 PM  

Hi Pink Lady,

I was teary-eyed reading about James' lost...putting myself into your shoes, I guess, I could never be as strong as you are!

You have valiantly weathered the storm because you have committed everything to the Lord, however painful it is...

I just wonder why such morbid things happen to good people and the perpetrators remain scot-free? Are we really living in a good world or evil is just anywhere that being in a good neighborhood is never an assurance for us to be safe?

I salute you Bing, keep on, for your kids' sake, they are now your anchor, the ones you can hold onto...your solid rock!

P.S. I find your blog nicely made, and you've got a new follower in me now...Have a happy Sunday Bing! God bless you and your three wonderful kids!

Amity January 30, 2011 at 12:40 PM  

Sorry i was supposed to say 'your lost' not James'...

Nadira Cotticollan May 11, 2011 at 12:07 AM  

You are one strong lady Pink Lady.He must be proud of you, wherever he is. And your kids are going to be proud of you too when they grow up and recall how you stood up straight against the storm and sheltered them . Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure you would be strengthening the morale of all your readers.

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