“I lost the love of my life on New Year’s Day”

Ranae* saw her hopes and dreams for the future come crashing down when she least expected it.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Ranae* saw her hopes and dreams for the future come crashing down when she least expected it.

Text Ranessa Jacyntha Theyakaraja Photo 123RF.com
Text Ranessa Jacyntha Theyakaraja Photo 123RF.com

“It was 4am at a friend’s house when I walked out of the dark party room and onto the balcony for some air. ‘Whoa! Where did you come from?’ a voice exclaimed from the back. My thick, waist-length curly hair was all over the place from dancing but there Raymond* was, looking completely Zen.

“He beckoned me to sit with him and talk. He told me he had just moved home after a five-year stint overseas, and was taking time off to explore South-east Asia. We talked the rest of the night and went our separate ways in the morning.

“Raymond and I bumped into each other on and off over the next six months, although we never stopped to chat. And then, we found ourselves at another gathering where he walked straight up to me and we talked for hours – about our thirst for adventure, the world, his travels, and how we were both interested in taking up diving.

“When he said: ‘It was time for me to come home after five years of working overseas. I missed my girls’, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang. ‘I wanted to be closer to my mother and my sister. I love my girls,’ he continued.

“Being an early bloomer, the only boys and men I’d come across were bad news. Three years prior to meeting Raymond, I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship. To come across someone so openly affectionate towards his family was a breath of fresh air.

“When the night came to an end, he tapped me gently and said: ‘There’s something about you. I hope you know that and I don’t want to see you change. Not for anyone.’

 “The next day, Raymond and I began having daily conversations. These always started with a morning text and ended with a goodnight text, with pictures of what we were currently doing and what we’d seen filling the gap in between.

“I’d make him laugh as much as I could and he’d always use his ‘marry me’ one-liner after a good laugh. We’d often plan to meet but never could make it due to work.

“A month passed before Raymond rang me. ‘Do you remember talking about getting our diving license? Aren’t you tired of waiting for everyone to do it?’ said his soft voice on the other line.

“‘Let’s do this! Let’s go,’ he coaxed. Within the hour, he had made bookings for our island trip, which was to happen in a month’s time. We talked about it almost every other day, counting down the days until we’d be able to let loose and enjoy the sun and sea.

“But one day before the trip, I realised work was piling up for both of us. We agreed that the timing wasn’t right and decided to cancel the trip. We were so busy that it would be three weeks before we communicated again. I kept missing his calls and when I could finally return them, he would miss mine.

“Raymond was still on my mind, but I understood that time just didn’t allow us to meet. I told myself to forget about the possibility of a romance with him.

“In early December 2014, my friends and I organised an event at a club. I decided to take a break from the loud music and indoor smoke. Turning around, I spotted Raymond from afar. Without breaking eye contact, we walked up to each other and hugged hard. He even lifted both his hands to hold my face but stopped himself. I was flustered by this.
“Later that night, I looked for him but he was nowhere to be found. I waited outside for an hour before deciding to leave. I was in a cab when I got a call from Raymond. ‘I came tonight for you. I’ve never known someone like you,’ he said.

“From that night on, ‘we’ became a reality. He would travel from wherever his projects were based to spend time with me, even if it was just for a little while.

“We’d sit and talk about how we could fit into each other’s lives realistically. I met his mother and he met my family. For the first time, my family approved of my boyfriend. We even planned a trip on New Year’s Day.

“On New Year’s Eve, I decided to spend some time with my family, as Raymond and I were going away the next day. At 11pm, I got a call from him and invited him over. He arrived minutes before the clock struck midnight – just in time to give me a New Year’s kiss.

“We were like teenagers that night, running around town laughing, hugging and kissing, excited for what the future would bring. We knew we shared the same values and beliefs and that these were strong enough for us to have a solid relationship. In the wee hours of the morning, he held me in his arms and said: ‘I’m going to miss you tonight.’

“The next day, I packed my bags, ready for a romantic yet adventurous trip. It was 2pm and I was on my way to meet Raymond when he called. He had just returned home after his run and was getting ready. ‘I’m coming to you,’ he said over the phone.

“We were scheduled to leave at 4pm, so I hung around at our meeting point and waited for him to arrive. Time passed, and I wondered if he had got caught in traffic. Another hour passed and by this time, I was nervous and also getting mad at him – was he cancelling on us?

“I called him a couple of times but no one picked up. Finally, his sister answered. She sounded frantic and could only say, ‘My brother died!’

“I laughed, because I thought it was a stupid brother-and-sister joke – she hung up on me. I tried calling back but there was no answer.

“Then, I received a call from our mutual friend. Raymond was getting his bags out to pack when he suffered a heart attack and passed away immediately. Our friend had to repeat this twice before I finally believed him.

“I broke down in tears. It felt as if my heart had fallen to the bottom of my stomach, yet I was completely numb. Raymond was never coming to meet me.

 “I spent New Year’s Day with Raymond on his deathbed. The feeling I had when I looked into his casket to say goodbye was unexplainable. It was painful, because this was the last time I would be seeing him and yet, he didn’t look back at me – he wasn’t smiling at me. He always did and he’d always plant a kiss on my forehead.

“I have had my heart broken many times and had to deal with difdicult issues very early on in life, but this was different: He was the man of my dreams and still is.

“Before me lay an adventurous man who collected books when he travelled; a man who’d tell me that I could sleep through anything. He was patient, held strong beliefs and values, and loved the women in his life unconditionally – the one true love that could fit into any landscape I’d imagined. He was the air to my fire.

“I didn’t unpack my bags for the longest time and for a while, I would lose myself in work, sometimes not even going home, in addition to overworking my body through vigorous exercise twice a day.

“To the outside world, I appeared to be coping, but it was all an illusion, because I knew that was what people wanted to see. In private, I was a mess and things seemed to be getting worse.

“It’s been a year and I still think about him every single day and what could have been. I haven’t dated because I can’t go out with someone without comparing him to Raymond. He has raised the bar for me.

“I’m terrified to move on, because I’m afraid I might slowly forget what his voice sounds like and his smile. It still hurts and I still tear up when I think of him, but his passing has made me appreciate the time I have with the people around me. All I can say is God took him away too soon, because the world was never meant for angels.” 

*Names have been changed. Do you have a real-life drama to share or a true story that would inspire other readers? E-mail us at magsimplyher@sph.com.sg and we’ll get in touch with you.

How to cope with sudden loss
1 Talk to your close family and friends, especially those you feel can understand.
2 Don’t listen to those who say you “should be doing better than you are”.
3 Tell yourself that you are normal for feeling the way you do.
4 Find ways to continue your bond with the person. It may be engaging in things that they used to do. For example, cooking or carrying out an activity the deceased would have appreciated.

1 Don’t go back to work too soon. Give yourself ample grieving time.
2 Confide in someone close to you. Sharing can ease the emotional burden you are feeling.
3 Try counselling. Sometimes, it feels better to talk to someone outside of your circle, and it can be helpful to retell your story over and over again. This can help you make sense of how you are feeling and normalise your feelings.
4 Not everyone likes to talk. This is fine, so long as you’re not pushing things away so that they build up to a point where you feel you’re going to explode. It can help to have an outlet, such as talking to a good friend or seeking professional help.

Source: The British Psychological Society