Living For The Moment
Coping with the death of a spouse can be devastating; but Ling Ling King does it with inspiring grace and amazing strength.
There is probably a lot to be learnt from Ling Ling King’s attitude in life: carpe diem, seize the day. “I live for the moment,” the widow of businessman Archie King says—even if living the moment means going through what she defines as, “the indescribable pain of emptiness.” Two years ago, her husband of 17 years was abruptly taken away from her in a helicopter crash. Since that rainy afternoon of 5 July 2015, the young widow struggled with the loss of her soulmate, the love of her life, her constant companion and closest friend, her travelling buddy, her partner in a fit and healthy lifestyle—her everything.
“I have never stopped crying. I’d wake up from sleep and I’d cry. In the shower I’d cry,” she says. “But after I cry, I’d feel better.” To cope, she draws from her inner strength in facing each day at a time. Ling Ling is a small, dainty woman whose dress size is double-zero. For her to exhibit steely strength does not seem to be a match. But such is the case, incongruous as it may be.
After the accident, well-meaning cousins gave her a relaxant to help her sleep. The side effect, however, was waking up groggy. “After a week I told myself, this is not me. This is not my life. I have been avoiding this. Popping a pill is just not my style,” Ling Ling says. But then again, she knew that sleep was vital to her well-being, so she grabbed Archie’s rosary and clutched it to sleep instead.
“Right now, what works is travel,” she reveals. After the 40th day of Archie’s death, Ling Ling flew to the United States with a friend. “And I have not stopped travelling since then.”
The long haul was fine, but on a small plane en route to Idaho, the flight was choppy and she felt the onset of a panic attack. After all, she was still traumatised over that tragic helicopter ride with Archie. “But then I said to myself,
‘What will happen if you scream in panic? You will just create a lot of commotion. Relax! Just think, if you die now you will be with Archie!’” she relates.
She also bought a house in Queenstown, a quaint resort town in New Zealand’s South Island she calls her “place of solace,” and has been spending a lot of time there.
Just before this interview, for instance, she was in Queenstown for three weeks, and another three months last year. “I love it there!” Ling Ling says. “I do everything by myself; I have no household help to do the chores, not even a chauffeur to drive me around. And I love it!”
Ling Ling knows very well the reason why travel alleviates the sadness. “Because it takes me out of this house,” she admits.
A giant mango tree, with fruit-laden branches shading a good part of the huge lawn, lords it over the lush vegetation surrounding the place that Ling Ling calls home. She has been living here with Archie and his two children, Atticus and Angie, since they got married in 1998; and then, just by the two of them when the boys graduated from college and were given their own condo units by their father.
They did not have children of their own; the two boys, it seemed, were enough to complete them as a family. The children have always been close to Ling Ling, growing up knowing her as their Mum. This afternoon, Atticus drops by to ask Mum for dark chocolate for his wife, who is currently in labour. Ling Ling pauses the interview to attend to Atticus’ request.
She gives the same love and attention to Angie (formerly Ian, before he transitioned). “He opened up to Archie and I long ago but said that he would not come out while his father was alive. When Archie died, Angie first went to me to say that he really wanted to do it already. I told him to go ahead, and that I embrace and support his life-changing decision,” Ling Ling says.
She has chosen to stay in this house even after Archie’s death. “We have been together for such a long time here that I am still so attached to our home. I have so many happy memories with Archie here, memories I would like to keep forever. You cannot put a price on attachment,” she explains.
And yet, this attachment is also the cause of her greatest pain today. When Archie was alive, he would be the first person Ling Ling would look for to share her day with. Today, she still feels that need to talk to him about how her day went, what thoughts are going through her mind, anything under the sun.
“I still feel his presence in this house because we have been together here for such a long time."
Photography by Sara Black | Creative Direction by Anton San Diego | Styling by Monique Madsen
Read our full story on Ling Ling King in the latest edition of Philippine Tatler. Grab a copy from any leading newsstand or bookstore or download it on your digital device via Magzter, Zinio, or Pressreader.