Worst Fears Realised
Mei Yi, the former deputy director of philanthropy and marketing at the Asian Civilisations Museum, knew something was amiss the moment she didn’t hear from him.
“I hadn’t received a text from Chi-man so even before news broke of the plane, I sort of guessed that something had gone horribly wrong, because in all the years that Chi-man and I had been together, we would always communicate and he never once left me wondering where he was or what he was up to,” explains the 46-year-old.
Hours later, her worst fears were confirmed: Her husband and daughter were gone. They were among the 162 passengers and crew on board the plane en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it crashed into the Java Sea.
The flight was just over 40 minutes into its journey when contact was lost.
Picking Up The Pieces
“He and Zoe were seated in the front row of the Airbus A320-200. I thought the chances of retrieving their bodies would be highly likely because their seats, 1A and 1C, would be sheltered from the currents in the water. But then I heard that the cockpit had separated from the main fuselage and my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach,” Mei Yi recalls.
While Chi-man’s body was recovered a month after the accident, Zoe’s body was never found.
Three years later, Mei Yi still feels the pangs of grief caused by the sudden loss of her loved ones, but is slowly picking up the pieces for the sake of her surviving son, Luca, now aged nine.
“From the day of the crash, I was determined to make a life for Luca and myself. I’ve been dealt with lemons but I’m determined to make mojitos out of these lemons by setting a vision for what’s ahead and working very, very hard to achieve that positivity,” she says.
“There were days when I was just crying in bed. Time has helped, as has my psychiatrist, whom I started seeing about three weeks after the accident.”
“Now the pain comes and goes but I’ve learnt to deal with these grieving episodes, each time a little better, each time a little faster,” she says, adding that Luca, too, sees a counsellor.
The Battle For Closure
Despite the progress the family has made, there are hurdles that have impeded their recovery process.
“No amount of compensation will bring Chi-man and Zoe back: It really just is about getting on and moving on with our lives,” Mei Yi shares.
Legal proceedings are currently ongoing between the parties on the matter of compensation.
While the dark cloud hanging over them persists, Mei Yi is proud of how far she’s come since the early days of the tragedy.
“If he were here and he could speak he would probably be congratulating me. In all our years of marriage – and I don’t know if married couples are like that – we often spoke about who was going to die first but in a joking manner,” she reveals.
“I would say ‘Of course I’m going to die first, I’m not going to after you and have to clean up the mess’ and he would say ‘No, no Mei, I am going to go first and I’ll tell you why, because you will just pick up the pieces and move on, I would have no idea what to do’,” says Mei-Yi.
“I know as a matter of fact, that Chi-man would have been incredibly proud of Luca and I, and how far we’ve come.”