Pause When You Need It
By How Kah Hwee
Winning speech for BVTMC Chapter Meeting on Thursday, 04 February 2021
Pathways Manual, L1P2(B)- Evaluation and Feedback
Good evening fellow toastmasters.
(Deep breaths, Long pause)
Pauses are impactful in a speech, in a piece of music, and particularly, pauses are impactful in our lives. Let me
recount the day my life came to a pause.
My grandmother came over to my place after a two weeks stay in the hospital. I sensed something was not right
as she lay on the bed. Her facial expressions and sounds she had been making due to physical pain suddenly
stopped. My relatives who came over for a visit did not notice it. I’m not sure if she was breathing or quietly
gasping for air. I did not dare to think of the worst or ask if grandmother is still alive. The thought that she was
dying is absurd. I was in denial for a good few minutes. That few minutes which could have been crucial to save
her life, perhaps. When I finally broke the suspicion, we pushed her shoulders up to let her breathe better but her
head hanged forward and saliva dripped. She was unconscious.
With trembling hands, I dialed 995, while the three other adults were scrambling not knowing what to do. They
don’t even know the ambulance hotline! I started pumping my grandmother’s fragile body and I heard ribs break,
twice. As I pumped, I looked at my grandmother’s eyes, it was half opened and looking at me, the spirit in her
eyes looked weak, I was not sure if she was still there. I kept saying in my head, please don’t go, please. I
wanted to pump her back to life. I felt so scared, so helpless and so desperate.
The paramedics tore open her dress, the body was bare. My beloved grandmother reduced to this bundle of
flesh lying on the floor, with this CPR machine violently trying to revive her. I have so much anger on how all this
went, so much hurt to recall the helplessness, lack of dignity and this trauma is still living in me right now. My life
came to a pause from there as the grieve was overwhelming, my health suffered too as I get panic attacks and
breathing difficulties since then.
I had a strong urge to heal and I want to make sense of this internal suffering. I turned to a book called the art of
living by thich naht hahn a buddhist monk. I spent a few whole days reflecting on his philosophical teachings like
impermanence. I learnt that a cloud turn into raindrops. And raindrops nourishes a plant. Eventually the plant
bears fruit. While the cloud now disappeared, somehow it has transformed into fruit. With this analogy I learnt
that my grandmother has transformed into something else. The thought that she still lives in me through her
teachings and memories really comforted me and is liberating.
Some days I spent a few hours on facilitated group art therapy. One session I drew the emotion guilt on paper.
While drawing I began an internal dialogue. Eventually I realised i felt guilty as I didn’t want my grandmother to
go through the pain of resuscitation. And my heart aches for her because she really meant a lot to me. Emotions
have many layers, so when I investigate deeper through art therapy, I know I suffer because of love. By
transitioning from guilt to love within 20 minutes of doodling, the effects of art therapy can be liberating at times.
Other times, I listen to my guided meditation app called insight timer or do breathing exercises while looking at
nature. Sometimes I journal, sometimes I go for a walk. I don’t have to share something so personal today. But I
chose to because I believe the more times I share, the more I will shed away the weight of this trauma. For the past 10 months, I have been enlightened and liberated many times. Yet, I am not going to end this speech on an
inspiring note, a feel-good, successful triumph over my grief. Because that is not a reflection of all of our realities.
Like me, most of us suffer in some ways, either physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. I still have not let
go, still cry when I think about the incident, and still have breathing problems until today. As you can see, a major
breakthrough can be life-changing but also short lived.
The key is consistency. I am convinced that taking meaningful breaks for our well-being can be rejuvenating and
even liberating. I encourage you to find a life long practice if you do not have one. It could be yoga, praying to
god, meditation and so on. What these practices would feel like is this endless source of strength and joy you
could tap from. All in all, take pauses to allow the joy of living, before our lives stop forever.