And now, only when she was so close to death, did she dare to take those matches out to strike them.
How quickly they burned. How soon they were gone. Just as she would be soon.
And where had all the people in her life been? Husband, son, daughter? Why had no one told her to use her matches?
She was angry at first–until she realised how she had made it impossible for anyone to have told her that. She was the one dispensing over-the-counter medicine and advice anyway. She had never listened to her husband. Nor Wolf. Nor Lee Ling. No one could have told her anything. Her anger turned against herself and she felt the pain of all those wasted years It was not all the exciting things she could have done, not the things she been doing these past weeks that she regretted not having done earlier.
But the chances to have done good, to have loved without holding something back, to have been kind to others, to have lived unafraid, to just dare–to give chances, to take them. To have been the best example of a life lived fully to her own children.
She could not even come up with someone to blame. Who had made her this way? She had never been really poor till lately. Despite her hypochondria, she had never been really sick till now. She had never known real misfortune until now. Her mother had been far more reasonable than she was, as was her father. Her husband had never refused her anything. But she had asked little of him. And her children had always been obedient. Maybe not Wolf–but even so–nothing they could not laugh at now.
Give me a chance, she pleaded. Give me a chance. But no one heard her.
They did not keep matches in the house, but had many lighters, thanks to Wolf. She flicked one on and off and looked at the liquefied gas through the transparent casing. So much left to do, to put things right with all the people who mattered to her, but not enough time to get it all done. She shuddered.
She turned. It was Lee Ling. She walked up to her mother and knelt beside her, the two of them as if in prayer to the saint on the wall with the lit match in her hand.
The old woman turned to her daughter and put her arms around her.
“Promise me,” the old woman said.
“Promise me you will never forget to live.”
Taken from Polite Fiction by Colin Cheong