Friday, October 30, 2009

Father of the Bride speech

Venue: Hartwell House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK
Date: October 24th, 2009
Occasion: My daughter's wedding

"Good evening. When my daughter told me I was required to give a speech as the father of the bride, I was a little reluctant at first as I am blind and will not be able to read from normal prepared notes. However, today is a very special occasion – my only daughter is getting married, so it calls for special effort on my part and I will try to do my best to say a few words.

The day when Wern-Yi was born she was a bundle of great joy to us and especially to my late mother. She was the happiest grandma in town. She had always yearned for a girl as she had 5 sons and no daughter. With Wern-Yi's birth she finally could proudly say she had a grand-daughter instead.

Because Wern-Yi was the only grand-daughter then, all the family members doted on her. Whatever she wanted she got. She was very 'manja', meaning she was spoilt. My wife Hong was the disciplinarian at home and on many occasions put her feet down to discipline Wern-Yi but the little girl just knew how to get her own way – through her father – me. This caused many disagreements between my wife and I on how to raise Wern-Yi.

Growing up Wern-Yi was very strong willed and stubborn. She was the one child that gave us the most heartaches and worries. Being a girl, of course, we worry over her safety each time she went out with her friends and coming home late. She would all the time assured us that she knew how to take care of herself and she did.

Wern-Yi may have her faults but she is one precious princess we love dearly. While she had her own spoilt ways, she's also a caring sister and daughter, always looking out for her younger brother. Whenever her mother had her days of rest in bed nursing her headaches, Wern -Yi would be the one to pop her head into the room to ensure mom is resting well and had a glass of water beside the bed. She would also be the one responsible in reminding the brothers of parent's special days, getting mom and dad birthday presents and cards, etc.

I lost my sight nearly 2 years ago. The moment she heard the news, she flew home from UK without hesitation. Her presence was a great comfort to her mom and me. She took charge in ensuring her Mom had her rest, her brothers took turns to take care of me while I was undergoing treatment in the hospital.

It is not unusual to hear Wern-Yi screaming from her room when she was at home in Malaysia. I vividly remember the one time when she did that, we thought the roof had collapsed on her. Both her 2 brothers and I ran to Wern-Yi's room and found her standing on her bed and she was pointing to the bathroom – terrified. Guess what we found in the bathroom! A cockroach. Yes, Wern-Yi is scared of creepy crawlies and insects.

When Wern-Yi got the visa to come to UK for a 2 year stint, little did we realize that she would meet her beau here and now she is going to be settling down in London.

Jeremy first came to Malaysia last year. No doubt I could not see him but I could feel that he is a fine young man, well mannered, soft spoken and a man of few words…just like me. So when you get two men of few words together I guess you hear either little or no conversation!! And that was our first meeting. It was better during the second trip. We got to know each other better and happy to note that he was serious with Wern-Yi. I could not be more happy for my daughter. On this note I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Jeremy to my family. Our friends and relatives back home also wish to extend their congratulations to the happy newly weds.

For the old Chinese custom, when daughters get married they are considered to be outsiders to the birth family. In our case Wern-Yi will always be our beloved daughter, I am not giving her away but rather gained another son. Jeremy, I am happy to have you as my son-in-law.

Jonathan, Hilary, thank you for having Wern-Yi as your daughter-in-law. Wern-Yi has been a loving daughter to both of us and I am sure she will be likewise to both of you too.

To the newly weds, I have these words for them. As you embark on this life journey as a married couple, work the marriage and not allowing the marriage to work itself. Do not take each other for granted, keep your communication channels open at all times, respect and appreciate the love that you have for each other. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, but I would like to add that the music accompaniment (extended family) is equally important to make the tango beautiful. So I wish both of you – `Pak Thau tol low' (in cantonese). Literary means – white hair till old, or simply put happily ever after.

It is always hard to let go of one's child especially my only daughter. I am going to miss her very much. But Wern-Yi need to be set free to start her new life with Jeremy. Jeremy, I hand over my daughter to you for your caring and loving. You will have to deal with her fears of creepy crawlies and all her screams. Good luck.

Last but not least, my sincere appreciation to all who are here today for your presence has definitely made this day a memorable and joyous occasion.

Thank you".

More challenging times ahead!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My daughter's Wedding

What a feeling!.. A mixture of sadness, happiness, love and the memory of the precious moments that would be forever etched in my mind and treasured forever. Yes, Saturday 24th October  2009, the day my daughter got married. As I walked my daughter slowly down the aisle, I was the happiest father of the moment and feeling proud, my only daughter tying the knot! A slight thinge of sadness though, my daughter the bride, leading and guiding her dad down the isle instead of me doing so. The ceremony started with the Deputy Registrar of Marriages welcoming everyonel in the room to the special occasion of the marriage of Jeremy Smithers and Wern-Yi Yam. We were invited to sit down and she began the proceedings to solemnised the wedding.
Backtracking a few hours, as we entered the main gates to this historical 17th century greystone building, my dear wife, Hong described to me in minute details about the beauty of the place. Large vast of green grasslands, trees standing majestically, leaves of brown, gold and red magnifying the colour contrast on this special autmn day. Another first perhaps, my daughter, the bride drivng us to her own wedding from London to Hartwell House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. We had no idea about the wedding location and it was indeed a lovely surprise to arrive at Hartwell House, located 20 miles (30km) north of London.
As the Deputy Registrar continued her speech, all were listening to her and particularly myself, not missing out a single word and giving my outmost attention to the ceremony ongoings, so much so that I said , "Yep! that's me" instead of `I am' when the registrar mentioned in her speech if the father of the bride would be giving away the bride to her husband to be then. The ceremony proceeded with the traditional, customary taking of vows, exchanging of wedding rings and recital of poems. The final highlight of the ceremony was the signing of the weddng register book and it was a special moment for the newlyweds as it was witnessed by close friends and relatives of both families.
The cocktail reception following the ceremony was one that I truly enjoyed. The sun was out and a slight autmn cool breeze blowing whilst all the wedding guests were out in the garden mingling around, drinking champagne and lots of of photo sessions. A perfect day for the newlyweds! Both sides of the family got to know one another much better during the reception. Everyone was smartly dressed especially the men of the bride and groom' s family.  They were wearing the morning tail coat suits with the orange cravat.  When the newly weds joined the reception for the photoshoots with the family and guests, all were excited and I could hear cameras clicking away. 
Then came the annoucement - dinner would be served.
The master of ceremony whispered in my ears that she would be announcing the father of the bride would be giving his speech. I quickly took a sip of the white wine to wet my throat. What a wonderful experience to be able to speak about my daughter, sharing my thoughts and feelings. It was another public speaking in the dark. No doubt I could not see the happy faces in the dinning room but I could sense the warmth and frendly environment. Next, was the speech by the groom, the best man and breaking the English tradition, the father of the groom also delivered a speech. Great dinner, great speeches, great company; those were the ingredients that made the dinner event so memorable and enjoyable. Finally, coffee, tea and the wedding cakes were served in the drawing room where again, all guests mingled among one another, some sat down, some stood around the fireplace with the firewood blazing away, providing the warmth in the cold autumn evening. A night that was to be remembered by all.
Wow! I am a father-in-law! It was just like only yesterday Wern-Yi was a cheeky little girl, a bit of a spoiled brat, probaby my doing, and now she's the wife of Jeremy Smithers.  I missed not being able to see her in her beautiful wedding dress and the moments when she officially became Mrs Smithers. Nevertheless, I am still the happiest father, can't see but can feel and hear the beautiful ceremony.  What a memorable day!!!
More challenging times ahead!          

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Can't See, Can Tee!"

"Good shot!" I heard my fellow flight members shouted excitedly the moment I hit the ball with my metal wood driver during the tee off at Hole 1.  Yes, the first blind golf event in Malaysia was officially launched on Thursday, 15th October 2009.  A total of 32 golfers (16 blind, 16 sighted) from Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia participated in the afternoon's inaugral launch of the 9 hole golf game. The sound of my titanium driver clubface striking the golf ball echoed the 'sweetest music' to my ears.  A moment that I shall cherish for a long time to come.  A sport that I thought I will never ever play again after losing my sight in January 2008.
The customary pre-tee off flight members photography session at Hole 1 would certainly be  treasured by the four of us.  The same will go for the rest of the participants at their respective tee off holes,  simultaneously teeing off in the shotgun tee off format.  At Hole 1, the four of us standing tall and proud, perhaps too, putting up the broadest smiles, the widest grin, ever, whilst the cameras were clicking away.  Kim Mok - Captain of the Hong Kong Blind golf team, Ron Anderson - West Australian blind golfer/blind golf coach, Charles Chan - President of Happy Valley Lions Club, Hong Kong and humble me, the blind golfer, Malaysia, made up the members of flight no. 1 teeing off at Hole 1.  3 blind and 1 sighted playing a round of golf together.  Nothing could beat this, I dare say!  As for the other 8 flights playing, each flight had 2 blind and 2 sighted players.  All the blind golfers had a personal volunteer/coach to guide.  
The blind golf event started off with a special morning golf clinic session at the golf driving range. Golf ethiquettes, safety, correct techniques in swinging and hitting the golf balls, putting skills were patiently coached by the Hong Kong golf coach to all.  Ron was at hand to offer a few tips as well.  After the 'talk and talk' coaching and instructions, all the blind golfers and their respective assigned volunteer/coaches had the free practise at the golf driving range.  Full focus and full concentration were the order of the next few hours at the golf driving range.
The Putting competition held  was of intense rivalry among the sighted and the blind.  Each individual golfer was allowed 3 putting tries to hole the ball from a distance of 4 metres. For the sighted, they were blindfolded and thus, all were tested on the same level playing field, so to speak.  Needless to say, you could guess who the winners would turned out to be. 
The 'ambrose' format of play was adopted for the afternoon game. This format of play was to ensure all enjoyed the game as each flight would be playing as a team with the best ball played as the the final ball position for all to play their next shots. This would also speed up the game and leaving no excuse for others to say that blind golfers are slow and holding back the game for others following behind.
To make the friendly golf game more interesting for all, novelty prizes were given for the Longest Drive in the 3 categories, sighted, blind B1 and low vision B2/B3, Nearest to the Pin for the same 3 categories and finally the Best Mixed Team championship.  Every participant had a fair chance in the competition.  All completed the 9 hole game within the targetted time frame of 3 hours and from their voices and excitement, I knew all were exhausted but extremely happy as the topic of conversation heard over the next hours or so were on their golf experiences, the misses in putting, the one good shot of their game, etc.  Again, everyone had an enjoyable evening at the events function room with lots of delicious food, buffet serving style.  The highlight of the day, of course, was the giving away of prizes to the winners. I would say, all were winners, irrespective of whether one did or did not win any medal but one had taken the bold challenge to take the big step forward in experiencing golfing.  Kudos! to our Malaysian first timer golfers.
This golf game has certainly achieved the objective set.  It has created public awareness that the blind could play and enjoy the game, that the blind could play alongside sighted golfer friends, walk shoulder to shoulder and interact together.  More importantly, help to boost, enhance and empower the independence and confidence for the blind community.       
Certainly, a day to be remembered by all, particularly to the Malaysian blind friends.. Dreams turning into reality, many things in life is possible as long as we keep up the positive outlook and the positive vibes in us.  How about another round of golf, sighted and blind friends??
More challenging times ahead!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reaching Out.......

I am so happy to share. I have achieved my objective for my has reached out to others across the ocean - motivating and inspiring others experiencing with similar sight loss, particularly adult blindness. Yes, I certainly can say that today is a bordeless world, perhaps, one world one community in the making!!
Randy, my new blogger VIP friend, despite having lost her sight, is another inspirational role model to many others. I am pleasantly surprised and happy  she started blogging and I know I can learn a thing or two from her.
I did not realise that blind and visually impaired readers had difficulty in posting comments in my blog, when encountering the security checks, for example, 'word verification' requirng retyping of word shown to prevent spam, etc. Sighted assistance is needed and from my own experience, it's frustrating not to be able to tackle this supposedly simple task without sighted assistance. Since I was introduced to the WebVisum tool, allowing automatic capture  of word verification, thus, resolving this security check issue, I had assumed that others would have access to WebVisum or other similar tools. How wrong I was! I must apologise for assuming this. So, I must relook into my blog settings to make it more assessible for others, especially fellow blind and visually impaired friends to post opinions, thoughts and other comments.
Please check out .  I liked it! Keep up the good work!
More challenging times ahead!  .
Email from Randy below reproduced with consent granted ..
Subject: Your blog - I love it!

Hi there and friendly greetings,
I am so happy to have found your email listed on your blog. I have read every post and I can't begin to say how much I relate. I lost my eyesight on April 24, 2008 at the age of 29. Like you, I was incredibly depressed, and so missed my computer. We have a place similar to your MAB, called Saavi, Southern Arizona Association for  the Visually Impaired. I waited months before contacting them, as I just couldn't accept my fate. This time last year, my dear friend bought me a white cane. She knew once I actually had it in my hands, that I would make the call, and I did. I was put on a waiting list to learn Jaws, but I just couldn't wait. So in December, I bought an apple computer, because they all come standard with a screen reader, called Voiceover. I taught myself how to use it, and just started a blog last month. The reason I am emailing you and not commenting on your blog, is because I cannot get passed the word verifications in blogger. So I can't post on your blog, which makes me very sad. There are other security settings that a lot of us use, like the comment moderation setting, which sends comments to your email for approval. Users must have a google account or blogger account to comment, so it cuts way down on spam. With your IT expertise, you're probably aware of this, but I wanted to maybe suggest it, as I'm sure other blind people would love to comment, and might not be able to get past the word verification. I hope you don't find me rude in suggesting this. I have just been so sad that I can't comment and share my experiences in relation to yours. I was especially happy that you're playing golf again. I used to play billiards, and I miss it so.
Anyway, thank you for writing, and I do hope you keep it up. I am a follower, and look forward to reading in the future. Oh, and I am going to look into guide dogs for people in Malaysia. I am in training for a guide dog, and when I read that you might not have that option, I was deeply saddened. I'm going to see what I can find. You might be able to travel to a school and bring the dog home, but I'm not sure. I will let you know what I find.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Golfing in the dark..

A day to remember. Yes, my first visit to a golf course since the loss of my sight in January 2008!.  Another barrier crossed, another critical step taken in moving forward. This memorable outing will further boost and enhance my confidence in getting myself back into socialising, networking and back into circulation, so to speak!  
My dear wife, Hong, had to tag along as my caddie/coach, whilst too, guiding me along  as I walked and played  the 5 out of the 9 holes that I had planned for before the first teei off. The sun and the heat were starting to affect both of us. It must have been the lack of exercises of late that could possibily explained why we felt exhausted after walking the 5 holes,  Poor Hong had to lug the half set of golf clubs as I played the 5 holes,          
Stepping on and standing on the 1st hole Tee box was so much different from standing in the driving range Tee box. At the golf course, I could sense the wide open space around me unlike the driving range where I experienced the phobia feeling of being hit by UFOs (unidentified flying objects), as I could hear golfers hitting the balls nearby. In this case, balls all over the driving range. 
A brief Q & A, to get my bearings, mental mapping image layout of the hole, distance and the obstacles from the Tee box to the greens. Holding a firm golf grip on the driver and a couple of practice swings, I was then ready to 'officially' drive the first ball into the world of darkness.  The excitement and inexperience of playing blind golf resulted in me topping the ball and pulling it to the left and the ball rolled onto the rough patch!  It was frustrating and I stood on the Tee box for some moments to reflect why and how it happened, disgusted with myself for a poor start. Hong, did not managed to follow and keep track on the ball as it rolled into the rough hedge.. So, 'officially', I had a lost ball to start off.  What a start to my first ever blind golf game!  Much to my delight, the next several shots, I learned to relax, enjoy the game and I could feel my game slowly creeping back over the next few holes, notwithstanding some inevitable 'airshots'. Chipping and Putting were other challenges which I had to tackle and much more practice needed. Putting into the hole proved to be quite a challenge as I had to know and gauge the putting distance and the hole position, also taking into consideration the varying gradient on the greens. In order for me to putt into the hole after having made the decision to putt the ball into the hole, Hong had to move the pin within the hole to create some noise, enabling me to focus the hearing to locate the hole position.                
It was a good start in relearning and regaining the confidence in the game of golf, despite that it will be blind golf for me from now onwards.  Well, I shall have to walk several more rounds at the golf course before next week's first blind golf event to be played at the Bukit Jalil Golf course which I am participating together with some Hong Kong blind friends. 
More challenging times ahead!