The real script of life is written via the meaningful time spent with friends and loved ones while they are still alive.
IT is difficult to combine a time of festivity with a time of sadness. But life is such that we have absolutely no control over how and when things happen.
This Chinese New Year period, which officially ended on Thursday with Chap Goh Meh, flew by in the blink of an eye.
The angpow packets I packed ahead remain undistributed. The delicious goodies remain in their containers. And there are still many CNY greetings on my phone that remain unanswered.
On the first day of Chinese New Year, Feb 19, my 97-year-old mother-in-law passed away. I had written about this grand old dame in this column two weeks ago (“Tribute to a grand old lady”, Sunday Starters, Feb 21).
Late Wednesday night, her beloved husband, my 96-year-old father-in-law, passed on. It was just half an hour before the last day of Chinese New Year.
I can imagine this couple running into each other’s arms, reunited in a most wonderful place, having been separated physically only for two weeks here on this earth.
My father-in-law, like his wife, was also a teacher who left a strong legacy as an English language teacher in several Chinese schools. He also left his impact on different spheres of his life, especially as the patriarch of a large family.
He was the one who walked down the aisle with his youngest daughter in June 1985 to hand her over to me to love and to cherish.
Though he was the typical man from his generation who was not so openly expressive, he had his own unique way of communicating. He wrote three books, and dutifully penned countless letters to the family up to his final days.
I am always amazed at how he remained so alert until his very final days. He was extremely up to date about current affairs and understood geopolitics better than most of us.
The two funerals so close to each other were poignant affairs, especially for family members, but at the same time they were also cause for celebration. They had lived long and well and surely the heavens rejoiced to welcome them home.
As I write this, I am reminded of different circumstances that surround funerals I have attended.
There are heartbreaking ones, like when a friend in the prime of his life collapsed suddenly. Or when a young man working hard for his masters degree passed away the day after the thesis was submitted.
There are funerals where the room is filled to capacity, as well as those where I can count the number of people present on my fingers. And often at funerals, those who attend will say to the fellow attendees they know, “we have to stop meeting up only on such occasions”.
For much more important than being present at a person’s funeral is to be present with him during his life. Costly wreaths and powerful eulogies can never replace meaningful time spent with friends and loved ones.
We can be moved by eulogies presented at funerals, but unless we have been a part of the journey, they are just words, soon forgotten after the event.
Many a story shared over a cuppa may not be retold at funerals, but they are the stories that truly matter. And they remain a part of you, because you helped to write that script for a life well lived.
Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is reminded that to everything there is a season. A time to be born, a time to die; a time to laugh, a time to cry. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home News Opinion 8 Mar 2015