Saturday, July 4

How I Proposed To My Wife

She kept silent. With one hand, she held my hand while the other held back her emotions. It was long awkward silence. I started to wonder whether she was going to turn me down...
On 7 May 2015, I proposed to my girlfriend, Michelle "Noelle" Ng. This is the story of how it happened & how I came to the decision. It's full of ups & downs, mystery, romance & drama: a story worth telling.

I'm sure that when you look at the date, you'll remember that it was during the power outage at my school. You see, I was at the lowest point in my career. At that time, I had just written a viral blog post &, after the ensuing media frenzy, I was deeply disturbed at the possible consequences. Having worked so hard & given so much for so many years in the jungle, I was distraught at the thought that it could be dismantled & discredited in an instant by the powers that be. It was so bad that I had sleepless nights & emotional breakdowns.

She dropped everything & risked herself in an unknown, unfamiliar & uncomfortable situation just to be with her man when he is most troubled. She kept whispering reassuring words into my confused mind & she became my centre when I was totally messed up. Without a complaint, she suffered with me during the weeks without water & electricity. That touched me deeply & convinced me that she was perfect.

Since we got together a year ago, she continues to impress me without trying:
- She's confident, modest, thrifty, elegant, independent, ambitious & smart.
- She has an active & healthy lifestyle. We exercise & play sports together.
- She loves the elderly & children.
- She's sexually appealing to me.
- She shares my vision about the work that I do. Usually, when people find out where I work, they'll ask about transferring even before they ask me what I've done. She didn't. She genuinely found my work fascinating & believes in its value wholeheartedly.
- She partakes in my vision. She gave a talk at my school & taught a class of near illiterate students. She used to consistently take part in missionary trips to rural Sarawak. She wants to run an early childhood education centre in the future.
- She listens to me even though she's stubborn.
- She's not afraid of telling me when I've done something wrong.
- She's willing to sacrifice/suffer for me.
- Overall, she a great woman & the best part is I can live with her imperfections.

Therefore, I started making preparations for a possible proposal. I had no idea what to do. I knew that I needed a ring & I needed to create something special out of the depressing blackout situation. So, I purchased a ring through a friend who lived in KL & was able to actually collect it in her presence without her even noticing it.

When I was buying the pot-pourri & candles in Sibu for the proposal, I somehow convinced her that it was for a programme with the students. At that point, I still had no idea how I wanted to propose to her. I just intuitively knew that I needed those items which could only be sourced in Sibu, the nearest city which was impossible to get to during a weekday.

On Sunday, 3 May, inspiration hit me as we were walking back from bathing at the river on a moonlit night. I finally knew exactly what to do. The next day, I roped in some colleagues to help with the proposal & I entrusted them with one of the most important events of my life. Boy, did they deliver. Thanks, Zak, Joe & Mail!

On the night of Thursday, 7 May, I pestered Noelle to dress up for a 'date' after dinner. Earlier, I borrowed a DSLR from a colleague & I told her that I wanted to take a picture with her under the stars. She was reluctant because she felt tired & it was a cloudy night. I did my hair & put on a shirt & trousers. She saw me putting so much effort into it that she followed suit thinking nothing of it. She put on some make up & a lovely white dress.

I held her hand & took her out for a walk under the stars. The entire landscape was dark during the blackout which allowed the stars to be even more luminous. They filled up the sky so brilliantly like millions of diamonds cast into the wind. We could see constellations, the milky way & even an aurora. In the jungle, the skies are crystal clear. So clear that it looks surreal. Also, God was good. That night, he gave us clear skies even though, earlier, big clouds threatened to rain. Enveloped in the darkness of the night & caressed by a gentle breeze, we stood with her head on my shoulders at the ridge of a hill & took in God's wonderful canvas in the sky. Humbled by His magnificent creation.

After we had our fill of stargazing, I led her to the pavilion at the school field. That was where I planned to propose to her. Earlier, my colleagues had prepared the site for our arrival. It was supposed to be magical. However, I was horrified when I saw, from a distance, that my colleagues were still at work when we got there. They were struggling with the wind which kept blowing out the candles. I led Noelle elsewhere but she went on ahead to see what they were doing. She strolled ahead of me thinking that some students were playing with candles. Little did she know that it was all meant for her.

When she got near the pavilion, she playfully teased my colleagues by asking what they were doing there playing with candles. With heads bowed, they didn't answer her. They quickly lit all the candles & scurried away. Noelle joyfully climbed up the candle-lit steps of the podium & examined the centrepiece. Innocently, she asked me why the pot-pourri & candles looked so familiar.

I climbed up the steps after her & said that it was all for her. She still had no idea what was going on. Her eyes widened in surprise as I got down on my knee, picked up a turquoise box from the centrepiece & exposed the ring within. I reached out to hold her hand as she lifted up her other hand, in surprised realisation, to cover her gasping mouth. I looked deep into her wide surprised eyes, smiled as un-nervously as I could, gently called her full name & asked if she would marry me.

She kept silent. With one hand, she held my hand while the other held back her emotions. It was long awkward silence. I started to wonder whether she was going to turn me down. With the sparkle of tears in her eyes & a lump in her throat, she nodded. Trying desperately not to let her emotions get the best of her, she managed a YES & nodded some more!

Still on my knees, I took the ring out & gently slid it into her left ring finger. It was a perfect fit! I stood up & gazed at this beautiful woman. She was glowing magnificently in the candle light. I held her head to my chest as she sobbed with a big bright smile on her face. In my heart, I thanked God for her & I couldn't wait to begin a new journey with her.

That night, the universe witnessed our promise to each other & there was rejoicing in an otherwise forlorn situation. I am thankful. She is an amazing woman & I'm really blessed to have her.

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