Goodbye, Ah Gong

It’s not been a good two months for the two of us.

We came back from Prague because Jo lost her Dad. And last week, I lost my Grand Dad.

Up till today, I did not really have a chance to think about what all this actually meant nor a chance to properly grief. It was easy to keep busy with the funeral arrangements since Ah Gong passed away Last Sunday. At the same time, I guess, all of us had to put on a brave front in front of my Grand Ma. Ah Gong and Ah Ma had been married for more than 60 years, and they had been almost inseparable since. I cannot even imagine how this must have been for her.

The funeral is finally over, and now that I have some time alone, it is slowly beginning to sink in that Ah Gong is gone. I know this because I caught myself repeatedly singing the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Never Say Goodbye”. I know it’s not an appropriate song, but it has an appropriate chorus, damnit…

Earlier this year, Ah Gong was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had been a heavy smoker for most of his adult life. But he kicked the habit overnight (literally) when he went for a religious retreat 20 years ago (Pretty Bad Ass, huh?). Due to his age and the advance stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed, most forms of treatments were ruled out. It came to a point where the best the doctors could do was to manage his pain and for us to pray for a miracle.

The thing about cancer is that it is slow. The sickness ate at him, and the medication made him drowsy and irritable at times. Caring for him was not always easy, but at least we all had the opportunity to say our goodbyes in our own ways.

To be honest, there was a lot to be thankful for. He lived to a relatively ripe old age. He managed to see all his children and grandchildren grow up (I got to have him around for 30 awesome years). I was even fortunate enough for him to watch me get married.

Deep inside, I know that it is probably better this way too. At the very least, he’s not in pain anymore. And the way he had lived his life, I am sure that he is in a much better place.

But all this does little to numb the pain that he’s not here anymore. He was always there to listen to us when nobody will. He’ll shield us from rampaging parents and even pretended to spank us by shielding our buttocks with his thighs and hitting that instead. At 82, he’ll lug loads of durians home from the other end of the island just so he could share them with us.

Ah Gong loved all of us unconditionally. As life brought on more obligations, distractions and responsibilities, the frequency of my visits to Ah Gong’s place dropped drastically. Yet, he never demanded for my company. Instead, he’ll just be there waiting whenever we visited. Once in a while, he will try to entice me over with promises of durians and coffee.Even towards the end when he must have been in pain, he’ll still smile and grab our hands strongly when we went around.

So I guess this is farewell. A goodbyes to all the conversations yet to have, and all the durians yet to be eaten.

Goodbye Ah Gong…


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