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Sunrise Sunset

Sunrise, Sunset



Sunrise in the Serengeti

Many years ago, far too many for me to want to remember, I was a freshie at Raffles Hall. Those were the days when “orientation” games were “optional”. I did not regret participating, though some of the games were really rough. It toughened me and certainly taught me EQ very quickly. I was a survivor then and I am a survivor still!


In any case, my seniors found out very quickly I could sing. One night, someone requested a song from “Fiddler on the Roof”. The song was “Sunrise Sunset”. I went on to sing this for the inter-hostel talent-time and won the second prize. That song somehow became my signature, and every now and then, someone would shout out to me, “Hey Sunrise. Can sing the song again?”


In the movie, the song was sung at a wedding, at the cusp of the holocaust. It was a bitter sweet moment for the couple and for the parents as they reminisced. It was a song about parents wanting to impart wisdom to the children, the passing of childhood, hope for the future – yes – it is an “emo” song. Now that my son is going to get married, this song and the lyrics are occupying my mind.


More than the wedding, this song reminds me of the glory of a wondrous sunrise, and the beauty of a splendid sunset.


We all love the sunrises of our lives – the birth of a child, the start of a new dream, our wedding day. We anticipate the moment, and we cherish these wonderful events. We look forward to the days after, nursing hopes and dreams. And so we should.


We often neglect to appreciate sunsets though. The chorus of the song goes:-


Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears


Between sunrise and sunset, we bask in the glories of success. Between sunrise and sunset, we toil in patient hope. Between sunrise and sunset we weep in desperation. The highs, the lows and the plateaus, we have journeyed through them all. If hopes and dreams are the ingredients for the wonderment of sunrise, then the journey through mountains, valleys and plains surely are the spices of the poignant sunset.


Too often we fail to appreciate sunsets. I was not there to see the sunset of my uncle. When I cleared the ancestral home before handing over to the new owners, I found stacks of letters I wrote to him when I was away. You cannot imagine how I felt then – I felt so loved. Yet I missed being there in the last years of his life. I missed witnessing how like the best aged wine, his journey had made him who he was, the love he showed in his quiet way, his fierce protection over his family, including his sister’s daughter, his sisters’ children.


I was not there for my mother’s sunset. Hers was a life of insecurity, of sacrifice and of love. I was not there enough to fully appreciate how that translated in the last years of her life. She died suddenly after a car accident.


My mother-in-law is now in her eighties. She’s a dream mother-in-law, always cheerful and encouraging. These days, she’s frail. Mentally alert still, and always enjoying food, one day she told my daughter, “Sarah, when you get a good job, buy crabs for your ma-ma with your first pay, ok?” My daughter said to me later, “Ma-ma is so cute.” Indeed she is. She is getting difficult now, probably frustrated by her lack of mobility. She can be trying and cranky. Thankfully, the joviality and warmth which characterize her life is still very evident and much appreciated by her grandchildren. They will sit next to her, talk into her ear since she is hard of hearing, laughing at her off-tangent responses because she misheard, stroking her wrinkled hands or allowing her to stroke their hair as they keep her company.


Yes, old people can indeed wear our patience. They can be exasperating and oh so unreasonable. If we can take some time to look beyond the difficulties, there is still much beauty, so many stories and so many lessons to learn. You can weave many a tale using the lines on the face and the hands. What you need is time and patience to appreciate the beauty of the sun getting ready to set, of a life that has journeyed part way with you.


Some years ago, I worked in an insurance agency. There I was exposed to the stark reality of death. One day, my boss decided that instead of just bringing some relief to widows and heirs, we should bring some Christmas cheer to old folks in homes and critically ill patients in hospices. We would be caroling and bringing some gifts. I still remember that one of the songs we chose was “ Yi Jian Li Wu” or  “A Gift”.


The chorus went


Sheng ming you xian, shi guang ye hui zhou, ru guo ni bu zhen xi, ji hui nan liu…..

li wu shui ran hao, ru guo ni bu yao, ni zhe me neng gou de dao, zhe me neng de dao.

This means life is fleeting, time waits for no one. If we do not appreciate opportunities as they come, they may be lost forever. No matter how wonderful a gift is, it is only as good as it is accepted and valued.


As we sang those lines, there was commotion from a room. The nurses were in a frenzy, there were shouts, then silence. A blanket covered a still face and tears streamed down my face.



Sunset Serengeti

As we come to terms with an aging population, do we even try to make sunsets as beautiful as they can be? When we talk about increasing our young by importing foreigners, we are concerned about the economic viability of our country. These foreigners will probably miss the sunsets of their loved ones back home, just like me with my uncle and my mother. Here inSingapore, the struggles of life, the insufficiency of affordable elderly care will cloud the sky and mar the sunsets of our own elderly or sick. What are we doing with regards making it easier for the younger ones to look after their aging elders, their chronically ill family members? We are human beings before we are citizens, we need help.


How many photo moments have we lost, when we got there too late, and the sun had already set? The same is true of life. After sunset is darkness. We need to make a concerted effort, as individuals and as a country, to try to be there.


Cheer up! It’s not all gloom and doom. There is still the moon and the stars – the memories that we have, that lingering on can still encourage us and move us. Still, try not to miss sunsets, for they are beautiful.


As for me, I am going to enjoy a glorious sunrise…my son is getting married!!


First published by Publichouse.


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  1. December 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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