I have attended a number of wakes. I know the etiquette, know the loved ones were heartbroken and how tired the mourners were. What I knew was just the tip of the iceberg until I was on the host instead of guest.
After the shock of discovering a black hole where a large part of my world used to be, I had to talk to medical first respondents, police investigators and alert family members. After the morgue, funeral arrangements, obituary release and in dad’s case, the press, everything was a daze.
A friend went to the wake, waited for hours till I arrived. My immediate circle of close friends sat and tried cheering me up with our usual irreverent banter. An uncle found us a lovely autograph book and sat through each day collecting signatures and donations. Friends from childhood, primary school, secondary school, Army, first job, second job, RI, from engineering to the arts to publishing, came to pay respect. My current and previous bosses/colleagues from NUS came. Even a classmate from Beijing, now a Singaporean, showed up. An ex-student’s father came, so his son could talk to me from England by phone. Facebook friends gave their prayers and condolences. A few rushed in from jobs right before we were leaving for the first night, a cousin from JB representing his family. A friend found time to translate my English speech to Mandarin so I could read it for the older generation. An ex-student came and stayed till the cremation was over. Children of the last generation, now Ministers, MPs and directors, send their condolences or came personally. Old friends of mom and dad came on canes, gave a powerful collective bow to dad. Thank dad and mom’s good karma.
My nephew tapped me on the shoulder endlessly, directing me from friend to friend (I missed some who had to sit without my attention for long stretches). My partner Han spoke to those friends I could not attend to, stayed throughout. Old friends asked my mom, “Is he your son?” “Yes,” She said, “We adopted him.”
We collected dad’s ashes yesterday. There were many bones intact, said the undertaker, atypical of his age. Dad was a hardy boy.
In retrospect, my friends kept me afloat through it all. I was like a bird which was shocked and forgot how to fly, friends swooped in like the wind beneath my wings, made me fully realize the importance of communities.
Thank you for all your love, accept my sincere bow and tears of gratitude.