My mother died 8 years ago. To me, she’s one of the strongest women in the world, yet I barely knew her. My memories of her are plenty, but having memories about someone doesn’t guarantee your understanding about that particular person.

I didn’t regret anything, though. Life has given me so much to be thankful for. I’ve been blessed beyond comprehension. Still, something was missing.

January 16th was the first time I saw Robin Lim. To me, she is a legend. I’ve heard so much about her, I read articles about her, I googled and YouTubed her like there’s no tomorrow. There’s something about this woman and I didn’t know what, or why. What I did know, I had tears on my cheek reading her interviews. To my surprise, weeks before I flew to Ubud for my 1-month vacation, my friend told me that she was working on a project with her. THE Robin Lim.

I was so surprised I couldn’t say a word. I wanted to beg her to introduce me to Robin but all I said was, “I really want to meet her. I don’t know why, I just know I do.”

One night, my friend and I went to Jazz Café where Robin’s husband, Will Hemmerle, was performing with his group. My friend introduced me to Robin, but the café was very full of noise. Robin seemed to enjoy Will’s performance so much. Didn’t want to interrupt her, I sat in the corner with my friend, looking around and drinking my beer while my friend was talking with someone else. About an hour later, I met someone who later became no other than my lover (but that’s another story).

It was funny as months later I realized, that night I met two persons who later become the most important parts in my life. Same night, same place. Life can be very funny.

I didn’t meet Robin until weeks later. I was busy hanging out with my new friend, who soon turned to be my travel fling, then finally, my boyfriend. After he left Bali, I was busy pulling myself together because my world was practically crumbling down. I fell in love. But then the other part of myself started speaking, gently, reminding me of the ‘unfinished business’.

I asked my friend would it be possible to meet Robin Lim in person. A very brave act considering my tendency to have this embarrassing reaction called “star-struck”. I had it before and it was beyond embarrassing. Still, it was worth the try.

My friend said that she couldn’t promise me a thing, but she would ask Robin if she could bring a friend the next time they work together. To my surprise, Robin said yes. I tried to pull myself together when my brain went, “HOLY SHIT I’M GOING TO MEET ROBIN LIM. I’M GOING TO SEE THE LEGEND IN  PERSONWHATSHOULDIDOWHATSHOULDISAYOHDAMNIMSODEAD.”

And so I went with my friend. I visited Bumi Sehat for the first time. Robin wasn’t there, but I was so overwhelmed by what I saw there I actually forgot my first plan. The place is just… how should I put it… heaven on earth. I felt like I can stay there forever. Bumi Sehat has this warm ambiance and everyone I met there was so full of smile. Their eyes were shining with love or some kind of mushrooms after-effect. *kidding! :D* That’s gotta be love. I felt so warm, and before I realized it, my eyes were filled with tears.

Then my friend told me that Robin was expecting us at home. My first reaction was, “At home? Seriously? Maybe I should just wait here.” Because, ladies and gents, there’s no way I would let a stranger entering my house. Or my bat cave, that is. My house is my most personal, private space.

15 minutes later, I was sitting at Robin’s kitchen table drinking fresh coconut water. Then Robin came and she hugged my friend with the tightest embrace I’ve ever seen. I was wondering how it felt like when she looked at me and greeted me in Indonesian, just two seconds before she planted a kiss on my cheek. That was the first motherly kiss I’ve ever remembered.

Hours later, I forgot my nervousness and I asked her a lot of questions regarding birth and womanhood. I forgot everything except the woman sitting gracefully in front of me, patiently answering all my questions in details. I don’t remember the exact questions I asked but I remember having tears in my eyes over and over again. It came like a wave. My eyes never stayed dry for more than 10 minutes.

Very soon, it got dark. Robin had to help delivering a baby at the clinic. I watched in silence as she tightly hugged my friend like a mother hugging her long lost child. Maybe I was exaggerating but that’s how I felt. Then came my turn. I said, “Thank you so much for having me here, Ibu.” I wasn’t ready when she pulled me into her arms, and holding me like no one ever did, she said, “I love you. Come here anytime.”

Say whaaaaaa–??

I stuttered. “R–really?” was all that came out of my lips. Because, ladies and gents, there’s no way I would say such thing even to my friends. My bat cave is mine and mine only. Let alone to a stranger I just met few hours before.

We were still hugging each other as her answer flew into my ears, “Of course! I don’t want to lose you.”

That night I cried myself to sleep. And I cried again when I woke up the next morning. But those were happy tears. I’ve never felt that way my entire life.

I got a chance to meet her again for the last time before I went back to Jakarta. It was then when I asked her, carefully and nervously, “Can I call you ‘Mom’?” Call me silly but it just felt right. She said “Yes” right away.

I thought of Ibu Robin and Bumi Sehat every day after I got back to my old life in Jakarta. Almost never a day went by without me thinking of Bumi Sehat family. Sometimes, when the feeling is unbearable, I sent her texts. She always replied, no matter how unimportant my texts were.

Today is my last day in Ubud, and my third visit to Bali this year. I always went to the same place, to see the same person. Sometimes I asked her questions. Sometimes we just sat and talked about anything. Sometimes I did nothing but watched her working on schedules, or played with the kids. It doesn’t really matter. Being there is all that I needed.

Last night before I departed we hugged each other, as usual. She planted a kiss on my cheek and as I took my bag I said, a little sadly, but also cheerfully, “Goodbye, Mom! See you soon.”

I stepped outside, and that’s when I realized, it’s so easy to call her ‘mOM’.

I think I’ve found my hOMe.

A Gentle Reminder

Few nights ago I sat in my bed with iPad on my lap, browsing and checking my Facebook while getting ready to sleep.

A friend, Cedrine, posted a Facebook status that caught my attention. It was a quote from Khrisnamurti. The whole thing was in French and I had to use Google Translate to understand its meaning, but it was from Khrisnamurti. And just like that, a word echoed in my mind. Vipassana.

Vipassana is a meditation technique I frequently used when I learned to meditate four years ago. Even though the great teacher passed away long before I know about meditation, I always considered Khrisnamurti as one of my best teachers.

The word echoed till I fell asleep. Vipassana. It’s been a while.

Tonight, I attended a meditation class. As I sat in silence, I started to let everything appear in my heart and mind. Thoughts. Feeling. Emotions. Fear. Hope. Anger. Joy. Sadness. Happiness. Disappointment. Love.

I didn’t make a review. I didn’t observe. I didn’t judge. I simply watched.

2 hours later I enjoyed my dinner, still in silence. It was a little weird, doing Vipassana after quite some time. And I had a tingling sensation in my chest when I looked back at what happened in my life the past few months. It was then that I realized how much I have changed.

I used to believe that suffering and pain make heart grows stronger. We learn the most valuable lessons from sadness and anger. We become wise through disappointment and fear. We learn to face life, we learn to survive and we learn to adapt through changes and suffering.

But I forgot that heart also grows through love. Heart shines beautifully through happiness. I learned from pain but I often forgot to let myself fully basks in love and happiness.

Then another thing came to my mind. The face of someone I love so dearly. The smile on his face. The light in his eyes. The warmth of his arms, the lingering peace from his lips.

That night, I realized how my heart has grown through both pain and love. Not only it survives, not only it becomes stronger, it also shines.

That was what I need. And maybe… maybe that’s what we all need. A gentle reminder, once in while, to get us through both sides of the coin called Life.

On Death and Life

Today, Ade Namnung, a local presenter and comedian, passed away.

I don’t know him personally, but his face is so familiar it didn’t take long for me to recognize him as soon as I typed his name into Google Image search column.

He was 34 years old.

One of my friends, Fajar, was diagnosed with HIV several years ago. He’s about the same age as Namnung, I think. He never spills his real age. I worked with Fajar for a year and we traveled together to Cancun, Mexico, for 2 weeks. As we got closer, I observed his life and couldn’t be more touched. Fajar and I became great friends after the trip.

I admire Fajar. Everything about him. His love towards his wife and 3 adorable kids. His persistence. His bravery. Never before I met someone like him. He could have given up, but he decided to fight. And he’s not ashamed of his situation. He’s always open, honest and never holds back.

I’ve learned so much from Fajar. But there’s one thing that keeps bugging me. The fact that he could leave this world anytime, at such young age. He could fall into sleep and never wake up again. Still, with the knowledge of what might happen to him, he refuses to give up. He decides to keep on living. To keep on fighting. And I adore him even more for that.

The death of people at young ages always remind me of Fajar. Today, I am once again reminded. But every time I remember him, another awareness raises to the surface. It could have been him. But it also could have been me. It could have been you. It could have been one of us who go to sleep and never wake up again. Because the truth is, we never know.

Fajar was diagnosed with HIV. Namnung was diagnosed with stroke. But what difference does it make if death can happen anytime, to anyone?

Today, I had a brief chat with Fajar whose daughter, Immi, is celebrating her birthday. I promised the little girl I will come to their place and play with her. And I will. A promise is a promise. But the most important promise is the one I make to myself: that I will appreciate life more, constantly and continuously, and I will see my beloved friend again, whose hard works and fights have taught me that life is too precious to be wasted.

Death and Life. In that order. Because many times, death brings us closer to life than we’ve ever known.

Fajar and I – Cancun, 2010.

My List of “Thank Yous”

So a friend posted this link on Twitter on New Year’s Eve. It’s one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, honest writings I’ve ever read. Thank you so much, Yulie, for sharing this wonderful piece. 

And here’s my list of “thank yous” to me:

  • Thank you for always being true, for not trying to be someone else to impress people.
  • Thank you for always trying your best in everything.
  • Thank you for taking care of yourself in the best ways possible.
  • Thank you for not being afraid to admit your mistakes and to apologize when you know it’s the right thing to do.
  • Thank you for being honest to yourself and acknowledging your feelings.
  • Thank you for not being ashamed of your past, to let tears rolling down your face even when people see it as a sign of weakness.
  • Thank you for having the guts to pursue your dreams, and having the courage to surrender it all.
  • Thank you for trying new things and jumping into adventures.
  • Thank you for cutting some slack when you choose not to do something you want because you know it’s best not to.
  • Thank you for growing and being better instead of bitter.
  • Thank you for appreciating simple things and smiling with them.
  • Thank you for forgiving yourself. Thank you for forgiving life.
  • Thank you for loving yourself.

I love you.

Pesan Untukmu

Aku melihatmu dan terkesiap oleh apa yang kudapati.

Kamu sangat kesakitan.

Lebih dari yang kukira.

Maafkan aku karena telah menyebabkan luka sedalam itu untukmu. Maafkan aku karena bukannya merawatmu, aku justru sibuk menyalahkan orang lain. Menyalahkan dia yang menyakitimu.

Maafkan aku karena lupa memberi perhatian justru di saat kamu paling membutuhkannya. Maafkan aku karena bukannya menjagamu, aku malah menyebabkan luka-luka baru yang tidak pantas kau tanggung.

Maafkan aku karena membiarkanmu membenci dan jadi pahit. Maafkan aku karena tidak ada bagimu saat kau membutuhkannya, padahal tak pernah sedetik pun kita berpisah. Barangkali cuma kamu yang tahu sakitnya diabaikan oleh orang yang tak pernah jauh darimu.

Aku akan menunggu. Sampai kamu sembuh. Sampai kamu siap berdiri lagi. Dan aku akan ada di sini untukmu. Ingatkan aku bila aku lupa. Sadarkan aku jika aku lengah.

Dan ajari aku, lewat caramu yang beraneka, lewat tontonan yang dipersembahkan Hidup setiap hari, untuk mencintai. Agar aku bisa membaginya denganmu, dan bersama, kita akan mencinta.

Aku. Di sini. Untukmu.

Dirimu Sendiri.