Saturday, 14 May 2016

Remembering Barbara Yung (1959-1985)

For Michael/Barbara timeline, read thisClick here to read about my visit to Barbara's grave in Cambridge UK in July 2016. Click this to read about my visit to Barbara's grave in June 2017 (with Rob Radboud).

Barbara Yung. Always young, always beautiful

Today, 31 years ago, Barbara Yung Mei-ling met her death. Many fans of A-ling, as Michael Miu used to call her, speculated on what happened, why she chose to take her own life. I’ve contemplated whether I should write something about this. Eventually I thought that I should; hence this post.

I wrote this post based on two of Rob Radboud’s articles. The first one is the interview between Barbara and Liang Pui Yee 梁佩 on 13 May 1985. Apparently, this was the last interview Barbara gave in her life... The second source is the 8 April 2016 Sohucoverage on Barbara’s death. I read the Sohu coverage with a grain of salt, for it’s a TV show anyway, and it’s bound to have mistakes or exaggeration. Sure the article that was written by Liang Pui Yee also had some flaws, but at least it was more verbatim from the writer’s conversation with Barbara.

I will write down here what I think about Barbara’s case. But first, I’d like to present two facts. One: Barbara was an illegitimate child, hence she did not have a perfect childhood. Two: Barbara was very very young when she died. She just had her 26th birthday exactly the week before she died.

Assuming that Sohu is right, that Barbara had triedto take her life several times in the past, I think Barbara suffered from depression. It is a commonly known fact that childhood experience can cause deep trauma in one’s life and alter a person’s way of perceiving life (I recommend Christiane Northrup’s book Women’sBodies, Women’s Wisdom for this topic, a very excellent book). I think this depression that she couldn’t cope with triggered her decision to turn on the gas, if that was what happened.

Now, before you think that this is a session where I renounce my love to Barbara for turning on the gas, let me assure you: it’s not the case. This is neither the case where I’m blaming other people for her death.

Before I resume, let me ask you: how many people hailing from problematic childhood that you know of that is a wise woman/wise man at the age of 25? In Dr Northrup’s book (I wrote about this book in my other blog in 2009), I found out that so many, oh, so many women (and men) lived until they hit 60s and 70s years of their lives before they realised that they really had to work on their issues. And this book was written in the 21st century. What chance did troubled teenagers and young adults have back then in the 1980s when they had depression or reach low points in their lives?

Knowing this, knowing that Barbara was very young when she died, and that she had a far from perfect childhood, I can sympathise with Barbara. Do I wish that she didn’t turn on the gas, if that was true? Of course I do. Do I blame her? No, I don’t.

I actually think that Michael Miu was correct about Barbara’s incident: she just wanted to give Kent Tong a scare. Barbara left no suicide notes; and suicide victims usually left suicide notes. Unless the “I love you” on the calendar is a suicide note, but I beg to differ. I think Barbara was playing a dangerous game that night. A game that went too far... and still was triggered by her depression.

Sounds scary... definitely too scary for our dear Wong Yung and Song Siu Ching. But admitting the possibility that Barbara suffered from depression is not the same as renouncing our loves to her. It might actually help us to understand her better.

I think Barbara suffered from a lot of self-doubts. She needed help. These days, it’s not a shame to go to a psychologist/psychiatrist to talk about your problems. It’s relatively easy these days to get self-help on the internet (tho internet can definitely back-fire if you visit the wrong sites). Mental health issues have been talked a lot; discussions about one’s feelings are encouraged without said person having a fear of being judged. Some governments have allocated more funds for mental health research and mental health support. But back in those 80s days? Help was much less common.

I think most of us agree that everyone can have low points every now and then. Surely even the Buddha or Mother Theresa had his low points before they overcame those lows. But even if they didn’t have those low points (which I doubt), most of us mortals would.

I had mine recently this Monday when I had to apply for a holiday visa to a developed country. The visa application system was making it difficult for me, such that I had to extend my stay in that city (I flew into the city in the morning to have the interview), so that I could return to the visa office the next day with better documentations. I doubted myself, I felt useless, I felt disabled despite my achievements (and although those achievements are not stellar, I did obtain them through hard work!). Sure the visa people need to improve their attitude in serving their clients; we after all give them money, and we will spend more $$ in that specific country if our visa is granted. But aside from that, I definitely felt so blue that day. I felt like a failure.

After checking in at a random inn nearby the visa office, the next day saw me still tired, but had enough sleep and enough documents to get through the second visa interview. I still have to wait for three weeks for the visa and passport, but I got over my blue feeling. But the point was, that was not the first time I felt blue and useless. There were other times I felt low. I certainly had a break down last February when some financial issues came up. But I was lucky: I have outlets. I can talk to my friends and my dear partner. I can open my tarot cards. I have trained myself to meditate. I have trained myself to embrace my emotions and let go.

But that’s the gist, isn’t it? I have trained myself. Successfully or not, I have constantly reminded myself. And again, I’m 42 years old now. I’m not 26 years old.

The point: everyone has their low points. And we have our own coping strategies when we have low points. To me, the best way is to turn inwards (“soul searching” as they call it these days), cos I find browsing the net etc. just won’t give me those peaceful moments, the clarity and the stillness that I need. But I can say that as a 42 years old woman. I couldn’t really say that when I was at Barbara’s age of 25-26.

Heck, I remember clearly that I was a train wreck when I was at her age! Back then, I had been in love with a guy for seven years... and it was an on-again, off-again relationship. He wasn’t the best for me, but I stubbornly refused to see that. I remember a few nights ago when I was thinking about Barbara, I recalled who I was when I was 25-26 years old. I remember clearly that I was clinging on to this guy, immature as I was or even more, thinking that he was my world. I remember that I couldn’t take his flamboyant attitude anymore and started my motorbike, speeding on the street. I almost hit a girl. Then I stopped and cried.

I don’t remember how, but eventually I realised that he wasn’t the best for me, and I deserved better (we’re good friends now, to my relief, but I embrace the fact that he’s not for me). But my relationships afterwards weren’t that smooth either. Turned out, I really had to do the soul-searching thing, and unravelled the biggest source of my train-wreck festival: my parents’ divorce. And another thing that I’d rather not disclose here. But the thing is, I had at least two issues I had to face before my relationship with myself was improving. I didn’t even realise that I had those issues back then when I was 25 years old. I’m not giving excuses here, but when you come from a broken family, you tend to project your cynicism to love, and thus ergo, you couldn’t find your true love. Until one day you say: enough is enough. My parents can be divorced, but it doesn’t mean I don’t deserve happiness. It doesn’t mean that I cannot love myself.

And only by loving ourselves, by giving us time to grieve for our past lost, by believing that we deserve happiness, etc., then someone we love will come to us.  

I think, I hope I have passed that stage of soul searching. But I didn’t arrive there easily. I only arrived there about six years ago when I was 35-36 years old. That was ten years after the age of Barbara’s death. Even now, I still have homeworks. I still have my self-doubts. But I’m aware that I have those homeworks, and I can take my time to solve them.

But then again, I could do that, and many of us could do that, because I have had help. Barbara, sadly, did not have that help.

So do I wonder why Barbara thought of committing suicide “just” because of love?


Do I feel sorry that she thought about it, and actually did turn on the gas?

Yes. But many people, especially hailing from problematic backgrounds, also feel that way. Many of us need help. Some of us are lucky that we have access to the help we need. Some, like Barbara, are not that lucky...

About Barbara and Michael

... and Kent Tong... and Jaime Chik...

After examining stories and conversations on the web, I arrive at this conclusion:

I don’t blame Barbara. I don’t blame Kent Tong. I don’t think they were meant for each other, at least not at that stage, with their emotional baggage. Both of them had to do their own soul searching first before they could have made it together, if Barbara survived the gas incident that day 31 years ago. And again, many couples in this age bracket (20-30 years old) have this homework, so it’s not a surprise.

Do I blame Liang Pui Yee for showing Barbara the photo of Kent Tong, Sandra Ng, Michael Miu and Jaime Chik? No. I wish he didn’t show her that... but the reality is, Barbara did need help, and she didn’t have the help she needed...

I certainly don’t blame Michael Miu for caring for Barbara, but then “left” her alone for the last few months of her life. I think Michael and Barbara were genuinely close since the time they shot LOCH 1982, and their friendship and closeness went on until they shot Chor Lau Heung 1984 together. That’s about three years of closeness. But since Barbara was with Kent Tong and Michael had a girlfriend (I think Jaime at that time, though Michael also once dated the late Anita Mui), I think Barbara and Michael doused their potential romance. Why do I think so? Here’s the snippet from Barbara’s last interview with Liang Pui Yee:

Barbara looked at the cup in front of her, said slowly: "It's difficult to talk about it, I tell you, we are good just like before, but too many things happened on me with gossip. Sometimes they say I steal this girl's boyfriend, sometimes they say I steal that girl's boyfriend. I don't know how to deal with it, maybe because I look outgoing and cause all the misunderstanding."

I asked: "You mean Jaime Chik?"

Barbara answered: "'s long time ago, she did misunderstand me because she thought I would be with Michael Miu...well, it's impossible for me to do that."

"If she told me directly not to get close with Michael, I would feel better...But she just complained behind my back, I feel very uncomfortable."

Since I found Chor Lau Heung 1984 again last September, I never once doubt that Michael cared (and still cares) for Barbara. The way he held her close to him etc., it’s the way someone protected a person he cared the most, if not “a lot”. Now, after reading Liang Pui Yee’s article, particularly the bolded sentences (my own emphasise), I think there was indeed romance budding between Michael and Barbara. The old photos between Michael and Barbara showed that she truly cared for him too (see this MV too for some of their photos. Don't worry: all decent and all loving...). She also considered him a special person. Their potential romance was only impossible because they both had partners at that time. Due to their circumstances, they did not pursue the potential romance further.

I suspect that after CLH 1984, Michael and Barbara got very busy with their schedules (and perhaps their own love lives), hence they didn’t really get in touch before Barbara’s death. I suspect that Michael was aware of his closeness to Babs, hence he somewhat distanced himself out of respect of their partners. Kent Tong once said that Michael was a perfect man... and I think Kent might be well aware that Michael purposely let go of the slight possibility with Barbara out of respect to, among others, Kent.

But despite all that, Barbara was still a special person for Michael. I once saw a photo of Michael in Barbara’s funeral. He. Was. Devastated.  He cared for her, A LOT. He still does. I think he will always care for her, though the feeling might have changed to platonic decades ago.

I also don’t blame Michael’s then-girlfriend Jaime Chik (now his wife of 25++ years). If the source is true (it was Barbara’s words reported by Liang), I don’t blame Jaime Chik for once talking about Barbara’s closeness with Michael Miu behind Barbara’s back. Jaime was about in her early twenties back then when Michael and Barbara started to know each other. Every girl needs to talk to someone, and especially at that age. If she did vent out her frustration to her friends back then, I can understand that. I’m sure she was sorry when she heard of the news that Barbara had passed away. I’m sure she and Michael talked about Barbara a lot, before they got married and also afterwards. Jaime has been a wonderful wife for Michael these past decades, a wonderful mother. She helps Michael smile again after Barbara’s death. And for that, I thank her.  

(read this post for my latest reconstruction of the connection between Michael and Barbara from 1982-1985) 

So... what now?

It’s so easy to label depressed people as “not strong”, particularly when that person is depressed because of love. Right, as if by doing so help them to cope better. Only sending them to the church/mosque/temple/etc. might not help either. It might help; the soothing atmosphere of those holy places might help soothing the souls. But the real help is when said people sit down with themselves and unravel their own past traumas and overcome these traumas, firmly believing that they, like all people, deserve love and happiness.

That support system was not widely available in Barbara’s time. Of course she had to take control of her own happiness too; in the end, she was the one who had to do her own homework. But she needed help to face those issues... and it seemed she had none of those.

So I guess what I want to say is: we have low points in our lives. We have those bad days and bad months... perhaps bad years...

But life is more than that... and each and every one of us does deserve happiness and love.
If you’re feeling low, seek help. Talk to someone; preferably a friend than a stranger on the internet. I believe help is there for you to access, you just have to ask for it first before the Universe gives it to you.

And keep believing in your dreams. Always. No matter how hard it is. No matter how many lows you have recently.

To quote the amazing Christiane Northrup from her last page of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom:

Commit to living your dreams – one day at a time. This is the process that is required to create vibrant health in our families, our communities, and our planet. May you go forth now, to take a nap, to embrace a child, to feel the sun on your face, or to eat a good meal slowly, knowing deep within you that the next step for healing and living joyfully is already there, waiting for you to listen to it, waiting to be born into the world – through you, dear woman.

And what about Michael and Barbara?

I love them. Always. I love their series, their friendship, their whatever-type-of-love between them.

I respect Michael and Jaime Chik. A nearly 30 years of marriage deserves respect, and I gladly give them that.

I enjoy writing posts for this blog, for it brings good childhood memories to my generation. And hopefully, it will be useful for younger generations who happen to stumble upon MB series and realise what the fuss is about, why us oldies love to talk about them again and again.

And hopefully next year, when I revisit this post, I have grown more to embrace who I am as a woman, a human, a being.

May we all are full of love and light that is our essence.

Rest in peace, Barbara. Thank you for all the happiness and sweet memories you’ve given us. May you are always with the Light.

All is well. 

1 comment:

Evie Ye said...

Tx for the article... she is my fave until now...