Last week was one that put my family and I on a short hiatus away from everything.
We received news of the passing of an uncle who has always been around us for family gatherings and did not entirely expect him to be leaving us so soon despite having some health issues. We spent a total about 3 days at the wake with everybody in the family together at the same place. My uncle was the youngest of all his siblings and following Chinese traditions, only those who were of a lower status in the family tree were allowed to pray for him.
As he was the youngest of the generation, my cousins and I along with his only child Jynn did the prayers. All 6 of us stood by Jynn for the past 3 days of the wake, and everytime I sit behind Jynn (the child has to be at the front row) – i wonder how is it like for him. He is a 15 year old boy, with shoulders that were no broader than his mom. He was only beginning to sprout in height, but have only shot over his equally petite framed mother in the recent months. How is it like for him?
Along the wake I think to myself – that nobody is ever prepared for such news. Nobody can ever be prepared enough to go through the passing of a relative. We can always expect it if there were symptoms, but when it comes – it still comes as a shock. I think back to when I was 15 – I was getting ready for PMR. Now that I think of it, 15 was also a life-turning phase for me because of certain personal incidents – but tracing my years back, I still felt like I was old enough to handle many major things. But now, now that I look at those shoulders and observe his frame from behind – I see a fragile young boy who was never built for this. Yet, he stood tough and lifted his head up. He never forgets to flash a smile or two when speaking to people who came to the wake. Friends who have come to pay their last respects give him a tight hug, but he comforts them back in return.
“Its for the best, its for the best”
Does he mean those words? Does he really know the meaning to those words? Why does a 15 year old have to carry the burden of making it alright for everybody when it’s not okay for him. He should have had his own liberty to be mourning in tears – but he decided otherwise. For that I look up to his courage. He may be a naughty kid in school, or a lazy child at home – but those don’t matter right now. What matters now is that a child has lost a lifetime companion who has been there for him since he was born – his own father.
During the last moments of the wake, right before they sealed up the casket – the emcee guided friends and family to a few rituals. I watched those shoulders shake. Tears streamed down his skin but he refrained from wiping them too much because people from the back may know. But I saw the tears all roll down to his collar bones, and on to the collar of his white t-shirt. His eyes shut tight – so tight I could see the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes. He swallows his cries and lets it go back down his throat. I could see him trembling.
At one point, somebody softly calls out to him. He hears it the first time, and quickly wipes of whatever that’s on this face – and waits for the second call. When it came, he turned back with a face so normal only with slightly red eyes and flashed a smile. That was the most heart wrenching smile I’ve seen in a lifetime. That smile is now engraved in my mind – and I have flashbacks of what it felt like to see that smile, just seconds after all that trembling. It froze me inside, and sent me to a deep pool of thoughts. How?
Through all that, I tried to refrain from looking at him because we all know the effects. It turns into a relay of tears and my family is mainly built with females – probably doesn’t help if it starts. The wake went smoothly with dear friends and distant family members travelling to bid their last goodbyes. Thank you for everyone who came, and with misfortune comes a blessing – I was happy everyone in the family were there for each other in times like this.
Rest in peace, Uncle Peter.