She tells herself to go on for her daughter

SINGAPORE - She had a bad feeling that something was wrong.

Her husband, a stickler for punctuality, was taking an unusually long time getting home from work that Sunday.

Filled with foreboding, she took her own car and re-traced the route he usually took home. And she saw the mangled wreck that was his BMW, wrapped around a tree.

Shell-shocked, she simply watched as rescuers extricated his body.

She was 27. Their daughter, Megan, was a mere six months old that February in 2003.

"I was lost," says the freelance nutritionist frankly.

She had met Peter, a doctor, in December 1998. They married in December 2000, and it was supposed to be a happily-ever-after union.

Both in the healthcare line, they worked in the same building, lunched together, before knocking off together.

And then everything came to a sudden halt.

"You don't think it could happen to you," she says. "And when it does, you keep asking 'why'. Why did life have to take a turn like that? I was like an automaton. Just mechanical. Go to statuary boards, to the insurance companies, doing what I had to do to settle his affairs, then returning, exhausted, to Megan and crying myself to sleep."

She almost let despair overtake her, she admits. "I didn't want to wake up in the mornings. Then one day, I saw Megan looking up at me. At that moment I told myself I had to go on... It wasn't fair to her. I couldn't afford to wallow in self pity."

The months after were hard.

She returned to work after about a month. "It gave me a sense of purpose."

She became a single mother and provider, and had to learn basic skills like writing a check and online banking.

"I learnt to manage finances, I learnt to do things like changing light bulbs. When the car breaks down, there's no one else but you to solve it."

The first year was about surviving one day at a time. The second was harder.

"Reality set in that he was never going to come home," she says simply.

Then there were the heartbreaking milestones: For instance, she was determined that Megan would have a first birthday party.

"The people who came, our good friends, were happily married, with their children," she says with a touch of wistfulness.

Then there were parent-teacher meetings - which she attended alone.

Madam Quek's vivacious personality comes though at this point: "But every hard thing I had to go through, everything I did for Megan or completed successfully, however painful, however much I had to struggle alone, I felt I'd achieved something."

Among the people who helped her along her journey, were the volunteers from Wicare. And she says she still counts Wicare members among her closest friends.

Volunteers came and visited her not long after the accident. Widows themselves, it was easy to talk to them and let out her anguish.

"They were so empathetic. They understood the grief and they didn't judge."

Her story and experiences eventually made it to a book the organisation produced in 2008, Strength To Live, to help widows overcome their challenges with practical advice on how to handle tough situations.

Since then Madam Quek has found new love.

She remarried in 2006 and has since had three more children. She speaks with refreshing candour but admits that even 10 years on, tears can still come with the recollections.

Megan too, still asks questions about her late father, often with tears in her eyes. "I encourage her to talk about it, let her talk it out."

For herself, Madam Quek found peace creating a journal. And today, she helps other widows with her experiences too.

She says quietly: "The pain of losing a loved one never quite goes away. But I hope I can help someone else with my own experiences."


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