A tribute to an extraordinary lady

A few weeks ago, I learnt of Sandra d’Auriol’s sudden passing.

I thought to myself, I only just got her email updates about her latest charity activities in the Philippines!…..How…What…Why… did it happen…………!?!?!?

A few rounds of self EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)’s after, I accepted this shocking news. Two emails from her family and internet search results confirmed the facts:

On 22nd January 2014, after waking up from a 13-hour cosmetic surgery with a celebrity plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, she overpowered the nurses and security guards and ran up the roof top of the 15-storey building where the clinic was, despite the attempts of her husband and team of psychologists who tried to convince her to come back to her senses, she remained in her own world for 3 1/2 hours and eventually plunged to her death.

What happened is believed to be due to the side effects of anesthesia, or what is called “post-anesthetic psychosis”.  (And apparently about 2% of the population may have this drug reaction…)

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Last exhibition poster from Sandra

Sandra is known as a talented jewellery designer and a philanthropist. All the proceeds from her jewellery business have been donated to various charities supporting children and women’s welfare and environmental concerns.

She was one of my very first clients, and a very supportive one, introduced to me through common friends.

To most people, Sandra had everything – inner and outer beauty, a loving husband, children, and she worked for what she enjoyed doing and not because she had to. Most women would dream to have her life. It would be all too easy to categorize her as just a “socialite” who had everything, and that all she had to do or was left to do was to “look good”…

But this is absolutely not the case for the Sandra that I knew.

If hardships and challenges make someone evolve, then for someone like her to be this genuinely caring, this humble, and this gracious seem all the more extraordinary. She had the kind of self assurance and substance of someone who is truly connected to their life’s purpose.

When she first came to see me as a client in early 2009, I was just starting out on my own in a window-less 90 sqf office, in an un-glamourous commercial building, furnished with mostly second-hand furniture. After my detox and nutrition presentation to her, she readily embarked on the early version of my Superfood Detox program, with a small set of products at the time. In our interactions, she never in any way left me feeling “small” for being a one-woman-band at the time. In fact, she invited me to give a presentation and tasting to her friends at her residence shortly after her consultation with me. And she was especially appreciative of the raw chocolates I was just introducing to the Hong Kong health food market and recommended me to her friends. I would never forget how supportive and understanding she was as a client.  She made me feel she related to me as an equal and beyond all my limitations as a small start-up entrepreneur.

After leaving the fashion industry (in which I had worked for over 10 years) and starting new in the health industry, I saw that cynicism and the tendency to judge a book by its cover (appearance, address, accent etc) is not only limited to certain industry settings.  It’s just human nature. And it made my interactions with Sandra all the more refreshing.

My father who had cancer was in his last days when Sandra did her detox with me. I was dealing with that and was not in my best state.  She shared with me about her grief of losing her son a few years prior from an accident (a subject she had also publicly talked about with the intention to inspire others). Her deep love (and grief) as a mother was touching. This is a person of deep compassion and inner strength, I thought to myself. We connected from the heart from our shared humanity.

I noticed that natural serenity and genuine compassion about her with other people too (and this was further confirmed at her memorial when I discovered we had more common friends from all different circles than I realized, and they all had similar experiences of her).

Remembering all these has made it hard for me not to see her death from a facelift like a big cosmic joke – someone who was so comfortable in her own skin and could accept and relate to people from all walks of life still needed plastic surgery in order to “age gracefully”…. perhaps because that was what was expected of her in her “socialite” circle…? It reminds me of how we are often our own harshest critic, and it’s all too easy to use a different (and much harsher) set of standards when it comes to judging ourselves compared to judging others.

Perhaps for someone who had such a gentle and giving nature, who had seen the worst poverty and sufferings growing up in India, and had lived a privileged life all her life, would have even a harder time keeping a balance between loving herself and loving others…?

In the bigger scheme of things, the immense perfection of the time-less and space-less “tapestry” of life (as my friend Anita Moorjani would have put it, after gaining insight from her near death experience), nothing is ever a “mistake” or a “tragedy”.  I would like to believe Sandra’s dramatic death serves as a reminder to us all the humanity and vulnerability that we share. It has awaken many of us to the risks of anesthesia, drug reaction and medical procedures (essential and non-essential) in general.

For the purpose of the highest good, perhaps it would take someone like her to shake us out of our collective complacency. Perhaps it would take “tragedy” of such dramatic intensity for us to take a moment out from our “busy lives” to take note, and evolve.

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A corner at the memorial party

From that perspective, I am sure the liberated spirit of Sandra is smiling lovingly now, knowing that her life and the manner of death had served a most beautiful and profound purpose. I would like to think the expanded “Sandra consciousness” would not have chosen any other way to exit her physical form, as it must have been the agreement she had before being born to this life.

I was at her memorial a few days ago.  On that coldest day of winter, I was warmly surrounded by people who packed the St. John’s Cathedral who had come to pay their final respect to her, filling up even all the standing space, from politicians to beneficiaries of the charities she had supported.  All guests were requested to dress in bright colors and to form a symbolic colorful bouquet (in place of flowers) to celebrate her life (as she would not have agreed to the waste). Her “After Party” was a vibrant event showcasing her photography (how she had seen the world through her camera), with lively music and conversations. Tears and laughter were shared in equal measure, a fitting metaphor of “life”, with darkness and light like two sides of the same coin.

Sandra, thank you for shining your light. Thank you for bringing so many people together and the love you had manifested. Your presence will persist in the hearts of many. I consider it my great honour to have crossed paths with you in this life time.

I bow to your true essence.  And I am sure we will meet again (and party with healthy chocolates!) on “the other side”!

<Headshot photo credit: Hong Kong Tatler via You Tube>

(Proceed to next post with text of a proposed speech Sandra did two years ago distributed to all party guests. The message of self love being a heart-based loving giving woman is all the more poignant…)

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