It was a quarter past eight in the evening, Sydney time (or 4:15pm in Thailand), on the 23rd of March when her sister sent the SMS. One year, pretty much to the minute that I had waved farewell to her on a dock in Koh Phangan. Our story can be found here. Since that tearful farewell, I had been in contact with her almost every day, leading up to my return to Thailand in October 2008. I met her at Phuket airport where she had diligently waited for me for half a day. We spent the better part of two weeks together, taking in the sights of Phuket, Phi Phi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ratchaburi and the Isaan before I flew to Europe for work and then another two weeks (as fate would have it as I finished my assignment early) on my way back visiting Bangkok, Surat Thani and Koh Samui.
I spent every last second holding her in Phuket airport, delaying my entry to the departure lounge to the very last moment. Taking one last look into those beautiful almond eyes, knowing full well that I would likely never see her again. I studied her, photographed her with my mind’s eye, trying to burn an image of her into my brain – one to keep until the day I died. An image that even now, as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard; slowly but surely fades from memory.
I called her the minute I got home, to let her know I was safe and well and to hear her sweet voice.
“I miss you too mutch already baby, come back quick quick”, she would say to me. Every phone call ended with the same sentence.
“Chan luk khun muk muk, ma leow leow”. (I love you a lot, come quick quick).
She kept me informed of the goings on in her home town, an hour or two west of Ratchaburi, somewhere out on the Burmese border.
I was told the same story every day, “Father go work, mum and daughter take goats – go mountain, I not have power too mutch, I stay home cooking food.”
My life in Sydney slowed to a crawl. My redundancy creeping ever closer, the days seemed to drag by. “Just ride out the days and you’re paid out and can be on the first flight back” I would tell myself. “Six months and counting”.
“Baby, when you come” she would ask.
“Only 100 days” I would say. “Pom ma leow leow” (I come quick quick).
“You say 100 days every day. Ma leow leow – I can wait you” she replied.
From time to time, she would be in and out of hospital, getting various treatments for the cancer that was wreaking havoc with her body.
“Are you okay baby? What is going on?” I would ask.
“Me okay baby. I told you, I strong girl, I can wait you.” She said.
It was just another Friday; I was out having dinner with a friend before heading home for the night. When I got home, I booted up Skype to give her a call.
“Hello baby” she answered with a weak voice.
“What’s happened baby? Are you okay?”
“Me okay baby. I go hospital Latchabuli, I lose power. Doctor give me medicine and oxygen. I strong girl”
We chatted for a while until she said, “Baby, I want to talk to you long time but I no have power. You call tomollow okay”
“Okay baby, you sleep now and get strong” I reassured her.
“Okay baby, talk you tomollow”
Saturday came and went and come early evening Sydney time, I called her.
Hello baby, how are you?”
“Not good” she replied.
‘”What’s wrong baby?”
“I lose power today and heart stop. I not have long for live, you can come see me?”
“Okay baby. I talk with my boss on Monday and get some time off okay?”
“For sure baby, I love you and I wait you. Want to see you before I dead for sure.”
“I talk with boss on Monday baby and book the next flight okay?”
“Okay baby, ma leow leow. You have birthday tomollow?”
“Yes baby, I have birthday party tomorrow”
“Okay, you have good time and I speak with you Monday okay”
“Okay baby – Pom luk khun muk muk”
“Chan luk khun muk muk”
At 2pm on Sunday the 22nd, I was showered and dressed, ready for the birthday party my mate had spent the last two months organising.
“Just be ready at 2:30 out the front of your place” he had instructed me.
At 2:25, I got the SMS. “Naby happy birthday I want u have anything good luk to u. Luv u baby”
On the evening of the 22nd I was out at my birthday party – a harbour cruise party on Sydney harbour. 100 friends and family on a boat full of alcohol and loud music. I never heard the phone ring in my pocket. The next morning I woke and saw the message “Call message bank 101 – 4 missed calls”.
Checking the missed calls I could hear her voice weakly having a conversation with the answering service on two occasions – unaware it was not a real person. There were two more messages from her daughter, consisting of the only English she knew “Mic-an, hello. Mic-an”. Checking the time, I decided I could not call. 7 AM in Sydney made it 3 AM in Thailand. Better to wait till after work when I knew she would be awake. So I rushed home from work, loaded up Skype and dialled. The phone was answered by her daughter. Her lack of English and my lack of Thai saw the phone passed from person to person – each with their own attempt to communicate with me – all in vain. Eventually the phone was hung up. I shot off a text message “baby – you call or text me when you can”. That was at 5:30 PM.
At 8:15 the SMS came from her sister. “U CALL ME OKAY”
I immediately jumped on Skype and punched in the digits.
“Allo” came the response.
“Hello, pom mic-an” I replied.
“Mic-an. Yek die already” she said. Gutted, I didn’t know what to say. I offered what basic condolences I could before hanging up.
In my previous submission, I stated that I knew our fate from the moment she told me she had cancer. I predicted the great time together in October, I predicted the phone calls as she got weaker and ended up in hospital, I even predicted that the final call would indeed go unanswered – I just never envisioned that it would be me who did not answer…
For you Sumaman…
Pom luk khun roy percent for sure teerak. Rest in peace…
It's heartbreaking that your love was taken from you at such a young age. You really were a rock for her when she needed you and when she passed it was with the knowledge that someone she cared for cared similarly about her.