My Papa

by Patrick Liew on February 21, 2014

I want to share with you about my Papa (father).

We had a wonderful relationship, memories of which I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Papa worked 364½ days on almost every year.

I don’t remember Papa applying for leave, falling ill, or taking time off from work.

He had to work very hard to support our large family and keep all of us alive.

Papa only stopped work for the family reunion dinner during the eve of Chinese New Year.

That was also the time when Papa would give the same speech every year.

The theme of the message, “Papa worked hard so that our family can be united and be happy together”.

In a traditional Chinese family home, we don’t express our feeling explicitly for each other or hug one another.

However, I knew Papa had a special love for me.

He thought highly of me – more than I did for myself. He wanted me to have everything that he dreamed about but could never have in his life.

Papa and I spent many great moments together.

I remember having many breakfasts with him at a run-down coffee shop. He would sit me down and then disappear into the kitchen.

He would reappear with two bowls of my favourite food. He wanted to give the impression that he had personally cooked them just for me.

I would play along for the fun of it.

Papa was a friendly person and he made friends easily. He was also known to have a great sense of humor.

Within seconds, Papa could befriend anybody. He could make the other person laugh and bond with him.

Papa lived a hard life. He had to struggle to make a living for us.

I never realized it until I went to work with him one day.

Papa was a lorry driver and had to go through great difficulties loading different goods.

He had to drive non-stop except for lunch to as far away a place as Penang and then drive back with new goods.

Along the way, he would be harassed by his bosses, colleagues and customers.

Back then, he was abused by many corrupted policemen who wanted a part of the meager earnings he made per trip.

When he was older, Papa became a taxi-driver. He worked on both day and night shifts so as to put food on the table.

He even learned more than eight languages and dialects on his own.

He did it so that he could win favour from more customers – and he did all that because he wanted us to have a better life.

One evening, I saw Papa parking his car from the window of our HDB flat.

He was walking with a limp and was almost dragging his injured foot across the ground.

That day, Papa had an accident. He did not see a doctor because he did not want to “waste money” on himself.

Since that day, Papa walked with a limp. He lived with the inconvenience while doing his daily chores.

When I was growing up, I swore to myself that one day I would give Papa a good life. I planned to do many special things for him.

I told myself that when I grew up, I would buy him anything that would make him happy. I would do anything to give him a good life

After my studies, I served my National Service. My soldier’s pay could barely support myself.

I could not do much for Papa and I did not have much time to spend with him.

After my stint in the army, I went to work in the private sector. Like my Papa, I worked very hard to climb the career ladder.

I would spend my evenings attending courses to improve myself. The rest of the time were spent doing homework and “catching up with life”.

I spent very little time with Papa.

Deep in my heart, I told myself, someday things would change.

Everything I planned to do for Papa would come true.

“Wait for me Papa,” I told myself.

One day, I went on a business trip to Jakarta. That afternoon, the phone rang.

My mother was crying on the line.

She said, “Your Papa had a heart attack. He passed away suddenly.

“He’s no longer with us. He’s gone forever.”

That afternoon, I went on my knees in the hotel room.

I cried and I cried…for a long time.

I was screaming, “Papa!…Papa!…Papa!…”

My Papa has gone.

I could never have a chance to tell him I love him.

I wanted to hug him but I couldn’t do it anymore.

I could not do anything with him and for him.

I ran out of time.

Why am I sharing this story with you?

There are many things that you always wanted to do. Please do it now.

You believe that there will always be time.

How do you know? Do it now.

You have always wanted to draw closer to your parents. You have wanted to tell them, “I love you”.

Do it now – before it is too late.

Do it before you run out of time.


P/S: My family decided to have a short funeral. We were too shocked to inform everybody.

We placed just a small notice in the obituary column.

However, the funeral was packed with people.

Many told me they knew my Papa for only a short period of time.

Papa somehow had touched their lives.

They felt they must make their way to the funeral and see him for the last time. Many had tears in their eyes.

That evening, I realised once again that Papa was a great and wonderful man.


Thank you for being my father. I will never forget your love.

I miss the times we spent together.

My heart still aches for you.

I will continue to share about you even though it breaks my heart every time I do it.

I hope your story will continue to touch more lives.

I look forward to the day when we will meet again in heaven.

Papa, I love you.


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