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A letter to my late father – Ong Jiin Joo

A letter to my late father

Dear Papa,

I guess none of us got to say good bye to you in person, and even though we knew you were really sick last month, we didn’t muster the courage to bring up any matters about after life, knowing that you wouldn’t want to discuss it when time was not on your side. We hope the buddhist ceremony we chose was fitting, and we have accorded you all the rites that you have practised with us all our lives when we honour grandpa, grandma, great grandpa, great grandma, and great great grandma year after year.

Pa,

We were the kind of Chinese family who neglect to verbalise our love and care for each other, isn’t it Pa? Still, I have never been able to pay for a meal when you were at the table. It gave us an overwhelming sense of security, and I’m going to regret all my life for not being able to afford your funeral. Please forgive the salesman, who had the audacity to say that we should have done pre-planning, everyday at your wake, to everyone who came to pay their last respects to you.

Pa,

You spent the last days of your life helping people, like you did all your life. Throughout my childhood, our living room was visited by various uncles aunties who came for advise, came to learn, came for help. Your good friend ML finally told us, that in his life, the only person he owed RM1,000 was to you, and this was during the time when you barely earned RM220 from the bank monthly, and had 10 younger brothers and sisters to help support.

If running a company is hard, running a non-profit society is even harder, especially when it’s all about opposing opinions of people. Who am I to say that you shouldn’t have bothered, and just retire to spend the days with your family, when we were not around you?

For this I have failed Pa. I tried very hard to find ways to excuse myself from work, and find ways to commute to PJ carrying the excuse of meeting customers in the day so that I can find some limited way of spending time with you and Mama. My business is still not yet self-organising in a way that allows me to pull myself out of the day-to-day, despite all the naysayers on how flexible entrepreneurs are. It has a big goal, the kind of audacious goal that you inspired me to attempt, as you got my back, all the time, all my life.

Mama also didn’t have the courage to demand us to spend more time with you. When she finally raised her wishes on WhatsApp, I dropped everything to come home, if only but for 1 week. I’m glad I did. You were in pain, but you wanted me to have old town’s kuey teow tng together. I only wished that I had cleaned up the toilet a bit earlier for you. It’s clean now.

Pa,

Mama wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep. We all in the family had our own uneasiness and uncertainty we have to deal with. You left us with a clear trail in worldly matters like what to do with your assets, but you left very little hints about how we should deal with our relationship with you.

All you have taught us, you did it by example. You provided, you mentored, you demanded that the family get together, you spoke your mind, you stood for what was right, you make amends, and most important of all, you demonstrated to all of us that family comes first. Your quest to reach out to distant relatives in China and to write our family biography into Kuala Kangsar history left a permanent impression on me.

Nevertheless, you also gave Mama an overwhelming amount of scolding, which I think no one can forgive you, regardless of whether they are justified. Your temper, even in your weakest days, were your only way of expressing emotion. Still, we all love you as you were. All of us knew better than to try to change you.

Pa,

Yenn was very sensible about your passing. Over the past week, we have explained to her how we should be saying good bye under these circumstances. She prayed for you. Although Jenn and Harn might not have as good a recollection of you when they grow up, Yenn will, and we will help her preserve her memory of you. When she’s a bit older, I plan to use Coco the cartoon to explain to her what remembrance means.

We will remember you Papa, for all you have done for us.

Love you always.

Boy.

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