Instead of planning for the life they were going to have together as a family of three, Suanne sadly lost her husband just months before their baby was to be born.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
Suanne and Daniel met in 2003 – she was 16 and he was 20. They say that the young love with the most abandon, and in many ways, this was true. Suanne dedicated herself to Daniel, taking care of him in every way she could. When Daniel got into a bike accident, Suanne would spend half her daily pocket money – then $4 – buying him lunch daily. When Daniel enlisted into the army and spent six weeks in Aceh for tsunami relief, he was all Suanne – who was worried sick – could think about.
Despite scoring well for her N’ levels, Suanne lied to her mother, saying that she wouldn’t be able to take the O’ levels. Instead, she wanted to start work to look after Daniel. “He was involved in illegal activities that I hated, but I loved him despite some of the hurtful things he did,” Suanne said.
In the January of 2011, Daniel proposed to Suanne in Hokkaido because she has always wanted to see snow. In retrospect, Susanne recalls the proposal as not the most romantic – he pulled out a ring after a stroll one night and said, “Marry hor”, as he pointed to the box with the ring. But for Suanne then, it was enough.
On 1 April 2011, Suanne found that she was pregnant. She was delighted! “It's a magical feeling having to know I am expecting and carrying a little one in me,” she said. Daniel too had always wanted to start a family of his own, being the only child raised by a single mother. When the young couple told their parents, it was thought that they were pulling an April Fool’s joke. Once convinced, a simple ROM banquet was quickly planned, and the happy couple took their pre-bridal shots. They then eagerly awaited the keys to their BTO flat which they would get early the next year.
That Fateful Night
It was only a month to their wedding day when the worst happened.
Suanne recalls that Daniel told her that he was going to Avalon for a party. "Something told me not to let him go, so we had an argument," she said. Pinning Suanne's feelings on her pregnancy mood swings, Daniel chose not to listen to her.
At 2.00a.m., Suanne received a call from Daniel's friends who told her that he had gotten into a fight. She quickly got into her car to pick him up and found Daniel in a sorry state. His drunkenness only angered Suanne further. "Even though his friends pushed him into my car, he refused to listen, so I left.”
At 4.45a.m., another call came in. The news was even darker – Suanne got into her car yet again, but this time headed to the hospital’s A&E. Instinct told her there was no good news coming. The nurse who saw her very quickly told her that registration was unnecessary and told her to wait instead. Soon, a group of surgeons walked towards her. The four words that came next would haunt Suanne for years to come — “We tried our best,” said a surgeon. Suanne stood there, shaking as time stopped.
It was time to identify the body. Daniel's corpse was limp and cold – the life had long gone from his body. His tongue and lips were pale white and his jaw was dislocated from the impact of the airbag. His forehead was swollen from internal bleeding and Suanne was told that paramedics found no sign of life at the scene.
“The four words that came next would haunt Suanne for years to
come — “We tried our best,” said a surgeon.”
That night, Suanne didn't sleep a wink. "But I couldn’t afford to grieve as his mother was too devastated to arrange the funeral," she said. According to Taoists, if a family member of the younger generation passes on, the funeral must take place quickly. Suanne and her family had only two days to do everything; one day was needed to clean the body, the other was all they had to say goodbye.
The next morning, Suanne felt like she was in a daze. The alarm clock rang at 6.30a.m. She turned to touch the other side of the bed only to find it cold, colder than usual. Out of habit, Suanne checked her phone to see if he had messaged. "Once, I called him, hoping he could wake me up from some horrible dream. But as the voicemail played, I reminded myself that he was gone," she said.
Suanne was tasked with finding a good photo of Daniel for the funeral. When she couldn't find one, she realised she would have to go to the bridal shop to use his groom shots.
Later, she would claim his body from the Singapore General Hospital, "but the shifu said we couldn’t send him off lest he remained too attached to this world.
On 5 May 2011, Suanne went to the Kong Meng San monastery to collect Daniel's remains. "We were ushered into a room where they brought his bones out. Each of us had to take a piece and place it inside the urn, before dropping a coin inside. We placed the urn in a temple at Simon Road. For 49 days, I went down to pray and give offerings. Being pregnant, my family advised me not to, but I said it was the least I could do as a wife.”
Suanne couldn’t sleep. Her due date was fast approaching but the longer she lived without Daniel, the harder reality hit her. “I felt fearful and in pain knowing that I would be bringing my baby, Danson, into this world without a father. I was afraid not having a biological father would lead Danson to feel inferior and insecure or that people might mock him for it. After Daniel departed, I could only think negatively more than positively."
Like anyone who has experienced real loss, Suanne cried. Inevitably the tears would fall, but what she couldn’t stand was to see her mother cry. “It got to a point where I’d walk to the car every time I needed to mourn,” she said.
It all culminated such that Suanne broke down during her labour. Flooded with hormones, stress, heartbreak and pain, the world was an overwhelming place and Suanne no longer had the strength to push. An emergency C-section was performed, and Danson was born.
Suanne’s psychiatrist upped her antidepressant dosage and that only made her worse – she became too light-headed to function. Days passed in a daze and it was several weeks when she realised that “paying someone to listen to me talk wasn’t going to work so I stopped medication and looked towards Buddhism.”
Suanne’s task was to come to terms with the guilt she carried about not being able to give Danson her best. Her family, however, showed her “the most unwavering support”, and “their love made me realise that I shouldn’t neglect the people who are alive while missing the deceased.”
Suanne and Danson Today
Suanne pulled herself out of those dark days with all the grace imaginable. Today, she has created a life for herself with a new partner, a then-colleague when they first met at a company gathering in 2014; serendipitously, also named Daniel. They are now expecting a baby.
Daniel absolutely adores Suanne and would gush about how proud he is of her at the slightest opportunity. “Holy moly, she's one hell of a woman! I would have passed out and given up if I was put in her position," was Daniel’s reaction when he first was told about Suanne. “Attraction was a gradual thing and seeing her for who she is and what she stood for in life drew me closer.”
Daniel says, “to really describe what I saw in the love of my life, I will quote Khalil Gibran: Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Instead of planning for the life they were going to have together as a family of three, Suanne sadly lost her husband just months before their baby was to be born.