MH370: Missing mum, living life

MH370: Missing mum, living life
A smile lost: Grace Nathan during the interview and in a photograph with her mother during a family holiday in 2012.

In most family photos taken before last year, Grace Subathirai Nathan could be seen flashing her signature wide grin - a ray of sunshine that brightened up any space or room.

But ever since that fateful day when her mother boarded MH370, that radiant spark has diminished.

Coming face-to-face with Grace at an interview here days before the first anniversary of the plane's disappearance, it was hard to believe that this 27-year-old had once been that bubbly gal with a high-wattage smile.

She could barely smile as greetings were exchanged. Sadness was etched on her face; it was as though a dark cloud had extinguished that ray of sunshine.

"I am carrying around the burden of not knowing what has happened to my mother and, frankly, a part of me has died because of this.

"I was recently talking to someone, and that person said I came across as cold, unemotional and kind of dead. That's because I am just sad in general," she opened up.

The change started exactly one year ago, when her mother Anne Daisy failed to land in Beijing after taking off from KLIA via the Malaysia Airlines flight.

Anne, 56, an executive with a learning and development firm, had planned to visit her husband, Department of Civil Aviation official V.P.R. Nathan, 58, who has been posted to the Chinese capital.

Grace, now a corporate and human rights lawyer, had been studying for her Master of Laws in Britain when the air disaster made global headlines.

"It was devastating. I had to deal with this alone for the most part because I was abroad and did not have my family with me.

"I had to compartmentalise and deal with the stuff I had to do at the time, like my final exams," she recalled.

She did not return home until around Christmas.

"Then, I realised I actually had not dealt or coped with anything related to the incident," she said.

Grace had last seen her mother when Anne sent her off to the airport in September 2013.

She holds dear all memories of her mum, especially the little things ­- her smile and laughter, even her presence, which was "just a phone call away".

"She was my go-to person for everything, my counsellor, my pillar of strength."

Anne, who loved cooking, arts and crafts, cut back on her hobbies to devote her time to raising Grace and her sister, Azelia Shalini, 22.

Azelia left to study medicine in Britain after Grace's return.

"Mum did everything for us. She gave up her social life and hobbies, and worked long hours. She always tried to give us the best," Grace added.

Anne's absence had been sorely felt at family events, like when Grace was called to the Bar in November - something her mum had eagerly awaited.

"It was a dream my mum had wanted me to fulfil, so I vowed not to put my life on hold because of the uncertainty surrounding the missing flight.

"Carrying on is a must because we cannot stop living. It is true that we live with hope that she will come back someday.

"Why should my life be on hold? I want her to come back one day and see that I have moved on, doing what I am supposed to be doing and achieving great things, and she would be proud to see that I have not stopped chasing my dreams," she said.

The young woman managed to cope with the pain through her faith, something ingrained in her by her mother.

"If there was anything that my mum had taught me that was stuck in my mind, it was the importance of holding on to your faith, by just depending on God and hoping for the best," she said.

Asked about her father, Grace politely requested for privacy for her dad.

Even so, after one year, Grace admitted that every day since March 8 had been as painful as the first day.

"Just the fact that it has been one year does not change anything - not the pain, the sorrow or the agony," she said.

Today, Grace, one of the leaders of the Voice 370 group of next of kin, joins others, including her father, in hosting a remembrance for their loved ones.

The event, scheduled from 3.30pm to 6.30pm at The Square, Publika, Kuala Lumpur, is open to the public and features performances by local artistes, as well as a banner for attendees to sign.

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