One Year Later

It’s been one year.

One year since you left us. And here I am, in our living room, writing in the silence of the morning. All is quiet. Save for the gentle whir of the fan overhead, I am all alone. Mummy is in South Korea, Wei is out with his bass guitar and Yun’er is asleep. Kor and Joanne, I reckon, are asleep as well, in their new home.

I know you were listening as Kor talked about you during his wedding. You were smiling down at Mummy as she sang of Jesus as well. Tell me, Papa, what is it like up there with Jesus? Do you enjoy long talks with Him as the both of you stroll down the cobbled pathways of paradise? I remember that you said you wanted to read all the books you’d collected over the years once you retired. You possessed most of the finest literature crafted by men on earth. Classics, poetry, plays and philosophy. I don’t think I even finished one of them. Yet I’m certain all you choose to do now is to sit with Jesus and listen to Him.

When I went to visit you today, I saw a girl’s niche on the same wall. Her photo, shaped into a heart, showed her as young and beautiful. She was not on the wall one year ago, and I realised that she was the same age as me when she passed away. Ironically, she departed from this world on your birthday. I later found out that she, too, died from cancer. As I looked at her youthful face, I felt a fleeting moment of sadness for a girl taken away so young. But that feeling quickly passed, for I was reminded that she, too, is now cradled in the bosom of Jesus. And where she is right now, there is no more pain.

A pale rose was slipped into the nook in front of your niche. As I stroked its plastic pink petals, I absently wondered who placed it there. Perhaps it was Mummy, or the columbarium caretakers, or one of my uncles and aunts. It didn’t matter. I looked at your face in the photo, unsure of how old you were then, and I realised that it didn’t matter as well. You were always my father. Even when I thought I hated you, even when I felt I would never live up to your expectations of me, even when every effort of mine to make you proud ended in bitter disappointment, even when I thought you were a hard man who would never understand his children.

It didn’t matter in spite of all the even whens. Because I recall my childhood when you would lift me up and laugh that big, booming laughter of yours. I like to think that I have the same kind of laugh as well. I loved your smile when you laughed, because I loved what I saw being reflected in your eyes. Even as I grew up.. you still remained as that tall, towering figure to me. We were almost the same height, but I always felt small before you. I would look at you and wanting to be the man you were when I was a child. But when I went to a neighbourhood school and topped the level in English, or when I went on to poly and got gold medals in karate, I never saw that look in your eyes again. I decided then that I would never become the man you were.

But you would always be that tall, impossibly strong, intense father of mine. Even when you lost so much weight from your sickness, I never lost that sense of awe of you. I think the phrase ‘larger than life’ fits you rather well.

You will always be my father, Papa.

And so I find myself loving so many of the things that you did when you were younger, even though my abilities seem to pale in comparison to yours. I love to write, as you did. I love to draw, as you did. I love reading, as you did. All that ever since I was child. I still do. Now, I am even starting to love photography, as you did. Apart from our features.. I often imagine myself the child most similar to you.

Today, as I was quietly speaking with you, a old lady walked past the room. I looked up upon hearing her footsteps, and we acknowledged each other. She had on a navy blue fisherman’s hat, tortoiseshell shades perched neatly upon it. Her clothes were simple if not functional, and she had on a pair of sensible-looking shoes. She smiled slightly; I returned it, nodding. As she trotted off to a niche in the other room, I smiled to myself, because I noticed that there was no grief or anguish in her eyes. Perhaps, only perhaps, the slight tug of sadness that one experiences as we miss someone we love.

In that nondescript, chance meeting, the old lady and I were not unlike; I imagine that some sort of unspoken understanding existed between us for those short moments. If there began a conversation between us, I suppose this would what we would say to each other:

Yes, we are not here to grieve, nor to mourn. We who live, who continue, only come here to remember.

And I went there not to weep, for the weeping was done. Nor to lament, for there remains nothing to lament. I went there.. to remember.

And I remember you, Papa.

It is one year later, more than two hours after I began writing this. Here I am, in the living room, writing in the silence of the morning.

I am all alone, save for thoughts about you and You, and I dream of Heaven.

* * * *

If you’re still reading this, thank you for finishing the entire entry and allowing me to share.
Perhaps if you’d read my previous entry, you’d now know what I was talking about.

A year ago, I wrote about the days leading to and from my father’s passing. These entries remain significant, because I have emerged from them only more than blessed. Only good has come from it. Also, it was when I first met Coach Maddy personally and truly I thank God for placing such a blessing of a mentor in my life. If you read them, you’ll understand why:

1: i am my father’s son
2: a death in the family
3: eulogy to papa

Tonight, I am your friend on Multiply whom you might not have met or spoken to before. I am your classmate who gives you his opinion on your design work. I am your frisbee opponent who limps off the field after fifteen minutes.

I am your fellow Bedok-dweller and Manchester United fan whom you ask to see my sprained ankle. I am your fellow film-buff friend who bought you the t-shirt you wore today as a Christmas present.

I am your brother who shows off his ping-pong-ball-sized ankle swell to you when you come home. I am your brother, who asks you what kind of sandwich you would like for breakfast tomorrow before your prelims.

I am your colleague who tells you that I might be on MC for a few days. I am a stranger who limps into the coffeeshop to buy coffee. I am your regular customer whom you automatically make kopi-peng-siu-dai for, and ask why I am hobbling.

I am your team-mate in the office who asks you about photography. I am your CG-mate who listens enrapt as you share. I am everyone I have just described, and a prodigal son no more.

For most of all, tonight, I am my father’s son.

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  1. I felt like crying, as I read your entry, in the silence of the night, silence of my soul, and the silence of my room, save for the whril of the fan next to me, as I type.

    I realised as well, that it’s been a yr, and that the yr went by really quickly. I realised too, that I have read all those entries, you wrote last yr. Has it really been a yr? It seems like only yesterday, that I saw him lying there on the hospital bed, and the fear and tears in me amounted as he held my hand, and told me to take care of myself, and Wei, actually.

    I remember the panic I felt when I heard he was abt to leave. I remember regretting not waking up earlier that day, just to go down and be with your family and aunty June especially. For she was such a nice auntie to me.

    I remember the first day i met your dad, and though I knew nothing abt him, I remember feeling the same way you wrote abt him, larger than life. I felt this intense strength, I felt this sturdy might or weight, like a confidence, so strong I couldn’t understand it.

    i remember cleary the first few questions he asked me.
    I remember the night he and auntie took wei and I out to ECP to eat, for it was one of the rare family dinners, outside of yr home.

    I remember the support and concern he showed me, when I was really down. I remember how he used to tell everyone, I sang so well, and insisted I sing in front of your relatives. He was , to me, a kind man. A man who wrote well.

    We spoke abt school, abt my lecturer, abt things that I was interested in.
    Then later as the yr went on, and the next yr came and he grew more ill, we stopped talking abt things. But instead, I helped him whenever everyone wasn’t at home, and it saddened me to see him struggle just to walk.

    I felt dutiful, to help him. He was like a father figure to me, in the absence of my own father at that time.

    And Im really honoured, till today, that I had a chance to know your dad.

    I remember when I visited him in hospital those few days, he’d always ask me if I had my dinner, when really he was the one, sick, who needed comfort and care.

    Zhong, I too, believe yr dad was a great man, imperfect, like any of us, but lived the best he could.

    And I feel he wants you to noe, he is so proud of you today; not whether you turned out to be like him or not, but because you are your father’s son.

    And till today, your eulogy will always be remembered.

    Be comforted to noe, He is certainly with Jesus, and having really good conversations, in the best place anyone could be.

    Love, mel

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