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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rest in peace, Ah Teong

The second day of the The White Flower shoot went on smoothly. I managed to wrap things up half past midnight. I will write about that later.

I came home just now and received a MSN message from my dad that Uncle Martin, the husband of my dad's sister (I called him 'Ah Teong', which was from the Teochew dialect), had just passed away this morning from cancer.

To lose a family member is saddening, there is this depressing realization that things will never be the same again when I were to visit my aunt's house again (I've posted a video of my family visiting them on Chinese New Year 2006).

All my life, I've encountered numerous deaths of closed ones. Relatives, family friends and even a classmate from high school. Some sudden, some were prolonged affairs, all of them reminding me the impermanence of life. When I hear news of one's passing, I would usually try to dig through all memories I have of the departed, just so I could remember, and sort through the emotions I had towards them when they were alive.

Uncle Martin, I still find it a little strange to call him thus on this blog post, since, as I've mentioned before, I usually called him 'Ah Teong' was a soft-spoken man who smiled a lot, he and my aunt lived closest to my house (in Malaysia), so I saw them and their family quite often compared to other relatives. He was very active in church and I remembered how impressed I was when he was referred to as an 'elder'.

There were many other things I remember about, like attending the wedding ceremonies of two of his three children, my cousins, in 2007 and 2008 (all three of them married in two years, I've posted a video of cousin Wee Suan's tea ceremony during her wedding back then). They were wonderful ceremonies, not because of their lavishness, but because the joyousness of these events were contagious, even for a guy like me who seldom enjoyed wedding dinners.

I remember him and my aunt, along with my cousin Wee Suan and her husband Timothy, coming to KLIA to send me off to Tokyo last April, when I first made my move here. I've seen him and my aunt a few times since then as I've went back a few times to Malaysia in the past year. I always liked visiting his house and it would always be crowded because both my cousin sisters would be there with their husbands (the third one, my cousin Hong Hui, lives in Australia). And my uncle, for the sake of not leaving cousin Hong Hui out, would contact Hong Hui via MSN so he could communicate with the rest of us via webcam, and so the family gatherings would feel more complete... even though amusingly, cousin Hong Hui seemed as if he were trapped in a computer screen.

And so as I try to find my memories of my uncle, I realize that almost all of them were happy ones. One of the last times I saw him was in February, he placed a new electronic photo frame next to him, showing photos of cousin Hong Hui's newborn daughter, his first grandchild.

Three years ago when my family and I had first heard that uncle Martin was diagnosed with cancer, we had prepared for the worst. Doctors weren't optimistic, they said he didn't have long to live. I remember some said that only a few months were left. I remember seeing him at his house then and worrying that I would never see him again. He was pale and had lost a lot of weight. Then miraculously, he got better, the colours returning to his cheeks, and he ended living longer than the doctors have predicted, with a lot of laughter, with a lot of family warmth.

All of a sudden I remember Cousin Hong Hui's wedding dinner. The most vivid image in my mind was of him and my aunt, dancing on the dance floor, laughing happily and waving to me when I approached them with a camcorder. Then they continued dancing, and dancing, the night belonging as much to them as it was to the newlyweds.

There is sadness, definitely. But instead of grieving for his loss, I felt more like celebrating his life. A very dear family member I was always fond of. I know I'll miss him.

Rest in peace, Ah Teong.