How a Brush with Death Anchored their Marriage

Julian Tan and his wife, Eunice, were on a high after attending the Marriage Encounter (ME) Weekend in March 2011. The retreat offers tools and concepts to enhance intimate communication between couples and recharge their marriage. Then came a bolt from the blue that nearly tore them apart. Ahead of World Marriage Day on Feb 12, Julian and Eunice, who have been married for 13 years, recount their harrowing experience and reflect on how it has made them treasure each other even more.

Julian and Eunice with their children – Gabriel, Emily (front row), Dominic and Joshua (back row).

Eunice: Our lives turned topsy-turvy on Friday the 13th in May 2011.
I’d barely slept the night before due to excruciating abdominal pains, and thought I had severe food poisoning. I was told later that Julian and Joshua, our firstborn, found me lying on the floor between our bed and the bathroom. I lost consciousness each time Julian and my father tried getting me to stand up. Eventually, they had to call for an ambulance.

The doctors discovered that I was pregnant and suspected an ectopic pregnancy, as they could find nothing in my womb. I had to be operated on immediately as I was bleeding profusely internally. It turned out I was suffering from a rare case of ovarian ectopic pregnancy, where the zygote was implanted in my right ovary instead of in the fallopian tube. The surgeon told us later he was “shocked to see the right ovary spraying blood”.

Julian: I was shocked when Eunice lost consciousness every time I tried to lift her upright. Her eyes rolled back, her face was as white as a sheet and her lips were almost black. I actually slapped her a few times to wake her up as I was afraid I would lose her forever.

At the hospital, the doctor asked for my consent to remove her fallopian tubes and ovaries if need be. He also asked if I was prepared not to have any more children. Saving her life was all that mattered to me. We were told she would most certainly have died if we had gone to the hospital any later.

During the operation, I prayed frantically for Jesus to guide the hands of the surgeons and keep Eunice safe and alive. I called my mother and sent messages to friends to ask for prayers. I was in tears. I thought about our marriage as well. I was grateful we had attended the ME Weekend. We had been spending quality time together after the weekend and communicating more deeply with each other. I would have been devastated if she didn’t pull through just as we were rekindling the fire in our relationship.

Eunice: When I woke up from the two-hour surgery, it felt like I had been resurrected from the dead. I knew I was being given a second chance. The previous year had been a rough one for Julian and me. We were drifting apart as we were busy building our careers and caring for our two children, then aged four and two. We hardly slept in the same bed and had little time for ourselves.

The near-death experience was a wake-up call to seize the day and to live out our marriage vows with more conviction.

Our relationship had always been stable, albeit rather bland. We hardly argued, but neither did we share our innermost thoughts and feelings.

I took this close brush with death as God’s way of telling me to change my ways or risk losing all the people I love.

Julian: After what happened, I told myself I had to treasure Eunice more as she could be taken from me anytime. Through this incident, I truly experienced the love of God. He pulled us through the most difficult moments and, more importantly, gave our marriage a new lease of life.

We started to share our feelings more openly. The dialogue tool, which we picked up from ME, was especially helpful.

We used to sweep things under the carpet and avoid confrontation. Now, we set aside a time to discuss matters without being interrupted. For instance, we managed to sort out some disagreement concerning our extended family recently.

We now make time for each other, such as scheduling date nights. We even managed to go for a short getaway to mark our 10th wedding anniversary in November 2013. We also joined the ME ministry to serve as a couple. Our relationship has never been stronger.

Eunice: The conviction to live my life more passionately and meaningfully helped in many ways to improve our marriage. I have learnt to put Julian first before the children and to take more care in my interactions with him. For example, I will give him more space to share his thoughts and feelings without interrupting. Sometimes, I pick him up from work when it rains.

Even when we assumed heavier responsibilities at work – Julian travels almost every week while I used to clock about 16 hours a day at work – we felt fulfilled and connected with each other. We sometimes conduct our regular dialogue via e-mail and Skype.

Julian: Even though Eunice’s chances of conceiving were slim after part of her ovaries were removed, we were blessed with two more wonderful boys. We now have a really lively home, with Joshua, nine, Emily, seven, Gabriel, four, and Dominic who turned one last December.

It is a challenge squeezing out couple time while juggling a large family and a busy career. Often, we just want to hit the sack after a long day and we sometimes lapse into our old ways and forget to make the decision to love. Thankfully, being rooted in the ME community of like-minded couples motivates us to always think of each other’s needs. The road ahead is long, but we know we have God and each other to take the journey with.

For more information on Marriage Encounter, go to

Stop, in the name of Love!

World Marriage Day is an observance sponsored by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) movement on the second Sunday of February each year around the world. This year it will be celebrated on Feb 12.

World Marriage Day honours the husband and wife as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society. It salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily married life.

WWME Singapore has been marking World Marriage Day since 2011 with a Flash Mob Freeze in Orchard Road. It is heartwarming to see more and more married couples participating each year, many with their children and parents in tow. They delight onlookers, many of whom would applaud them for this public show of love captured in a five-minute static pose.

Once again, WWME Singapore invites all readers who are married to join in this celebration of marriage. This year, the organisers are looking out for ‘The Longest Married Couple’, ‘The Most Newly Wedded Couple’, ‘The Largest Extended Family Turnout’ and ‘The Most Creative Pose’.

Yes, even for bragging rights, do register and stand tall amongst the over 300 people expected at this year’s five-minute freeze.

Date: Sunday, 12 February
Freeze Time: 5 pm (please arrive 10 minutes before freeze)
Place: Ion Orchard Foyer (Outdoors), 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801

To participate, kindly register at this link:

Jason Evert in Singapore

Jason Evert presented a series of talks to parents, young adults and youth on 14 January, enlightening audiences with his down-to-earth and practical perspectives on love, relationships, marriage and sex, seen through the eyes of the Catholic faith.

Almost 7,000 people turned up on Jan 14 to attend talks on love and chastity by Jason Evert, a renowned American author and motivational speaker.

Organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF), the one-day event comprised four sessions – two similar talks at the Church of Divine Mercy for parents and one each for young adults and youth at Max Pavilion.

The first talk of the day saw Jason speaking to parents about educating their children on sexuality.

Parents’ role
During the session, he explained how many young people have misunderstandings about sexual intimacy, as they cannot yet comprehend the meaning and purpose of love and sex.

He stressed that the responsibility of sex education lay with parents even though their first instinct would be to leave it to schools. He explained that parents are the most influential factor that shapes their children’s sexual behaviour. He advised parents to create a home filled with praise and affirmation and lead by example in how they live out their own faith.

He encouraged parents to listen more to what their children had to say in order to build better relationships with them. However, he also pointed out that acting more like a friend than a parent could undermine the enforcement of boundaries in this crucial area. “Kids have enough buddies, but they only have one set of parents,” said Jason.

Young Adults
In the afternoon, Jason then spoke to young adults about ‘Finding Love that Lasts’.

The event began with a welcome address by ACF Chairperson, Dr John Hui, followed by a performance by Corrinne May, who shared her thoughts about love through music and personal anecdotes.

With his engaging and entertaining style, Jason shared comical narratives to illustrate the complexities relationships faced against the cynical landscape of modern society. Jason explained how fast-moving, intense relationships threatened the value of chastity.

Highlighting the importance of the virtue, he said, “Chastity frees you from the selfish attitude of using someone else and frees you to love authentically.”

In order to find lifelong love, he advised young people to draw a line and define the expectations of relationships and marriage differently. “Boyfriends do not get husband privileges,” he explained.

Youth talk
Preceding the talk for the youth was a Mass celebrated by Archbishop William Goh and concelebrated by seven priests. In his homily, Archbishop Goh lamented the precarious beliefs of a complicated world and expressed the need for “more Jason Everts in our midst who can connect with our young people”. He also stressed the need to seek and uphold real truth rather than blindly accepting “truth by popularity”.

The youth talk, ‘Love Matters’, saw Jason at his signature best, offering tips in between hilarious insights and examples to help youths navigate the choppy waters of love without sacrificing their morality.

Between love and lust
“Love can’t wait to give, lust can’t wait to get,” Jason defined. Addressing the girls in the crowd, he warned against diving into relationships and settling for men who do not value their dignity. “Sex is sexist, girls always pay the price.” In parting, Jason left the audience with a final thought, “It’s not about following the rules so you don’t go to hell, it’s about wanting heaven for the person that you love.”

For full reports of the talks, as well as Jason’s 10 tips on how parents can influence their children in the area of chastity, visit

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