My hope for a family Chinese New Year reunion was dashed in 2020. I had to wait for more than 2 years to celebrate it again with my father.
You see, my father is a full-time missionary based in Chiang Mai. He was able to come back home at least once every 2 months and he made every effort to do so during the Chinese New Year period. Unfortunately, his homecoming was halted when COVID hit the region, resulting in the closure of borders. I have not seen him in person for more than 2 years - until he came home just a few days ago.
That left me to wonder… have we taken our ability to spend time with our loved ones for granted? Do we really know that every moment together is so precious?
For the past two years, my family reunion had always been a letdown. When others get together to celebrate, I can only watch with sadness thinking about my father. I tried to convince myself that I am “okay” with his absence but it is so difficult to do so.
I recognise that I am not the only one in this predicament. Many families, too, have been separated (and probably still are) due to the exasperating challenges that the pandemic brought. Many Malaysians were stuck in Singapore and could not celebrate Chinese New Year with their extended family. Similarly, many Singaporeans were also stuck in a foreign country with heavy hearts as they tried ways and means to find alternative passage to come back home to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Like many of these people, during this period of time when I was unable to physically celebrate Chinese New Year with my father, something awakened in me. I realised how much I missed my father. Many times we take for granted family gatherings during Chinese New Years, complaining about superficial conversations with distant relatives or about how much angbaos we received from our relatives.
But have we ever taken the initiative to go beyond all these - to engage in deeper conversations with one another?
I am thankful that the Singapore government has relaxed its travel regulations so slightly that my father could come back just in time to usher in the Chinese New Year with us as a family. Imagine if that was not possible, I would not be able to celebrate Chinese New Year with my father and would not know how much longer we have to be separated.
I am truly thankful.
This article was written by Mishael Lee, an intern at PPS.