Dying To Live.

by Patrick Liew on November 2, 2013

‘One cold and dark stormy night’ – these are words that my English teacher Mrs Khosa once told me not to use to start a story. But my story did begin on one cold and dark stormy night.

It should not be a night to be remembered but neither was it a night that could be easily forgotten. It was a night when one precious life was almost lost.

Imagine with me a young man clinging on to a slippery rope. He knew he was somewhere in the middle of a river even though he could not see the things around him.

It  was pitch darkness and the undercurrent was very strong. He knew if he let go of the ropes, he might be swept to a watery grave.

Another problem was he could not scream for help. It was against the rule and what he stood for as a human.

That young man lived to tell the story.

In fact, after living for 35 years, he was literally dying to tell the story.

That young man was me.

At that point, I was undergoing training to be commissioned as an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces. It was part of my National Service journey.

Together with the other officer cadets in the Alpha company of the 8th SMC 1978/79, we were involved in an amphibious exercise. We need to learn how to operate in the water as well as on land to defend our country.

That night, the heavens was almost pouring everything it had to lend weight to the training. It seemed to be playing its part to shape us to become leaders.

We were already completely soaked and shivering in the rain when the trainers ordered us to go into the water. We were like being
frozen to become Singapore’s version of the Terracotta Warriors.

The instruction was to hold on to a rope and pull ourselves across the river in total darkness. During that seemingly endless pull, I was sure some of us became deeply religious.

The only other way to survive besides pulling for our life was to pray the most ardent prayer you could imagine. We pleaded to the Higher Being to help us get to the other side of the river bank – alive and well.

Midway in the struggling journey, I felt my life jacket being punctured by some unknown object. Air was escaping from it.

I had to kick much harder to keep my head above the murky water. It did not take long before I found myself gasping for air.

As I became weaker and weaker, I could feel the strength of the current growing stronger with every kick. It was like a thousand hands were dragging me out to the watery grave.

I could not scream for help because it did not bode well for an officer-to-be. That would also have exposed my men and even if it was only a peace time exercise, I was playing it for real.

Soon, my mind almost went blank. It was either frozen or deliberately being shut down to block out the fear that was terrorizing my being.

However, survival instincts kept pushing me through the darkness and towards the safety of the shores. At some point, it was like another Force had responded to my prayer and had taken over to pull me on and on to safety.

When my feet finally touched the mushy soils near the river bank, my heart cheered and celebrated for the new lease of life. I have never felt joy like I did on that grateful evening.

That incident lived on in my memory. I have reflected about it and will continue to do so till the end of my life.

The reality is that no matter what background one comes from, every human will come face to face with death. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time.

Many people do not want to think or talk about death. Some believe it will bring about a bad omen.

I humbly beg to differ. I believe if I don’t understand death, I will not understand life.

I must be willing to face death and what happens thereafter to be able to live a better life.

It is strange but truth that we cannot fully appreciate life if we do not realise that death may just be around the corner.

In the same way, if we don’t think we will lose, we will never want to change. If we don’t think we will die, we will never transform ourselves to live a better life.

If we want to live, we need to die to ourselves so that we can live for a mission that is much bigger than ourselves.

However, it is unfortunate that in the process of making a living, we may not remember to live life. There is a greater fear for death than for not serving a worthwhile cause and living a full life.

A life without dreams is mere existence. Not having something to look forward to is worst than death.

We live only when we have a sense of purpose and destiny.

Knowing that there is a deeper meaning in life makes us feel alive. It lends significance to our being and helps us live with passion and fulfillment.

In this regard, I am not afraid of death. I am more afraid that I am not living the way our Creator wants me to live.

I am afraid of not having something that is worth dying for.

If I cannot have something that is worth dying for, it can also means that I have nothing worthwhile to live for. That, to me, is worse than dying.

If we are willing to die for our dreams and freedom, very few obstacles can hold us back.

When we live up to our calling and the world knows we are totally committed to it, we will be able to soar stronger and live on a higher plane.

When I reflect on death, it has a sobering effect on me. I’m mindful  that life can disappear like the turn of a moving current.

Today could very well be the last day of my life.

The thought of facing death jolts me to live life at its best and to give of my best to the world around me.

I do not want to waste any part of my life. I do not want to exist or go through the motion of a typical day.

I want to inject life into living. I want to fully experience everything good and to cherish them.

I want to learn how to live life at its best – moment by moment.

I want to live every moment as if it is the first and the last moment. I want to be mindful of every moment and do everything I can to live it out as the most fulfilling moment.

I do not ever want to take life for granted. If our Creator gives me one more minute to live, I am grateful for it. I want to value my life and treat it with more care.

I want to do what He wants me to do and be fully committed to it. I want to do it with a sense of urgency and be fully committed to it.

If the experience of time is relative, I want to see how I can stretch time by maximizing its enjoyment and fulfillment.

I want to not only live every moment to the fullest but to also enjoy it while it lasts. I want to savor it in every way and and to the greatest intensity.

What’s more, I want to accentuate and sustain the learning experience. I can do so by recording them in my journal and anchoring them in my memory.

It is sad that in the past I have allowed many of these valuable moments to pass me by. I do not want to let another precious moment slip through my life again.

Even if there are challenges, I want to go and grow through them.

Death also has a way of lending poignancy to the highways and byways of our memories.

It reminds us that we have many unfinished businesses with some people and the world around us. We need to close the files before time runs out on us.

Being mindful of the brevity of life, I will manage my life, and not just my time. I want to do well and do good at the same time, all the time.

As long as I live for another day, I endeavour to craft a fairy-tale ending for my life. I will give myself to what truly matters.

Life is not about how long I live but whether the good that I have done will last beyond my lifetime.

Throughout my life, I have gone through many near-death experiences. They have become some of the best ‘teachers’ and transformational experiences in my life.

They taught me to be grateful for life and look after it. They compel me to make changes to the way I have lived my life.

The next time I come face to face with death,  the story of my life would be flashed across my mind. When that happens again, I pray that I will enjoy the mental movie.

I pray that way before my turn to go, I would have done all the necessary preparation. My loved ones would be well taken care of.

When the time comes for me to die, the time for death will then be for death alone. I pray that I will have no regrets to cross over to a better place.

I have carried out the plan of our Creator and lived the way He wanted me to live. I look forward to playing in the heavenly playground.

Death to me is just another door to exit from this life and to gain entry into a much better one. It does not
have any place of fear and anxiety in me.

If I have lived a meaningful and fulfilling life, death is but a cue to start a symphony of love, joy and peace. A celebration that will last forever.

Life and death should be seen from the perspective of eternity. Living for what truly matters begins right now.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at http://liewinspiration.wordpress.com/

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at http://hsrpatrickliew.wordpress.com/

Please visit my website, www.patrickliew.net

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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