What My Papa Taught Me – Part 1.

by Patrick Liew on February 23, 2014

On 17 March 1990, my Papa passed away suddenly. He had a heart attack after an enjoyable holiday.

He collapsed while queuing up to stamp his passport at the Singapore Customs. At that point, our family was in shock and deeply saddened.

It took us a long time to recover from the grief.

Looking back today, I feel it was a beautiful way to go. No prolonged illness. No medical bills. No burden to his loved ones or anyone.

Papa left us with a smile on his face and an uplifted spirit from the vacation.

We placed a small advertisement in the obituary column – a routine act by almost every bereaved family. It was hard to believe the response we got at the funeral wake.

The HDB void deck was literally packed with people.

Many rushed to the funeral to see Papa for the last time. Some had tears in their eyes and came with a message from their heart.

There was a man with a swarthy face, probably in the 60s, who came very close to me.

He held my hands and with glistening eyes, he shared these moving words with me, “I’m a retired policeman. I’ve met your dad for only a short period of time.

“Somehow, he made a strong impression on me and brightened up my life. When I saw his photo in the newspaper, I told myself I have to come and see him off.”

There were many others who shared with me how they treasured Papa’s friendship and valued the time they spent together. They came from many corners of the country and different walks of life.

My Papa’s funeral awakened me to an important value.

One good way to measure success is the number of friends who will show up at my funeral – people who will be thankful for my life and will miss me when I am gone.

I do not want to go through what Thomas Hardy called the ‘second death’ in his poem, ‘The To-Be-Forgotten.’

‘They bide as quite forgot;
They are as men who have existed not;
Theirs is a loss past loss of fitful breath;
It is the second death.’

I thought to myself, ‘It is tragic if I die, no one will remember me or worst, want to remember me.’

I can take nothing away with me at the end of my life. However I can leave behind something of value.

The highest value I can leave behind will be my love for people and my contribution to them and the environment they lived in.

If I live for this noble aspiration, I would have lived a good life.


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