Whenever I read news reports of natural disasters or accidents, I often tend to gloss over the death toll figures without thinking too much about it. However, recent events have got me probing deeper into the meaning of life and whether I am living for what truly matters. Every person that has died is someone’s lover, parent, sibling, co-worker or friend. His or her departure has brought grief to loved ones.
In March, the death of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, had the entire nation in mourning. I was moved by the news coverage I read about him. He was a great leader who brought Singapore from rags to riches. There is no doubt that he deserved the respect and recognition that he has earned from leaders around the globe, and fellow Singaporeans. Reading about his life how Singapore was transformed into one of the richest nations in the world, made me so proud to call myself a Singaporean. I am hoping to visit his memorial at the National Museum of Singapore when I fly there in July.
When April came, I learnt of the sudden death of my friend, Karen McQuigg. We were not extremely close but she was someone whom I respected greatly and learnt much from during our encounters. I was happy to have known her as a friend in Melbourne as she impacted me in many ways she didn’t know. Her sudden departure was a shock to me as I had just spoken with her on Facebook a couple of days before she passed on.
Then came the month of May. I heard about the death of a former primary school classmate of mine from St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School through an ex-classmate and after reading the news report Nurse run over by bus was ‘gentle and kind’. I have not had contact with her since I graduated from SACPS and our interactions in class were minimal. However, I was shocked to hear that someone I actually met in my formative years had passed on at such a young age.
Just this morning, when I logged into Facebook, I was overcome by a wave of sadness upon learning that a former schoolmate, Terrence Sebastian Loo, had lost his life in the recent earthquake in Sabah during a field trip to Mt Kinabalu with six of his pupils and a tour guide from Singapore. His photo appeared in The Straits Times article Sabah quake: Bodies of 5 Tanjong Katong Primary pupils, 1 teacher being flown back. I remember seeing him around in school when we were kids but only got to know him a bit better on a few outings about 3 years ago through former classmates from Ngee Ann Primary School, when I was back in Singapore for the holidays. Even though I haven’t had any contact with him since 3 years ago, I recall that he was a good natured and fun chap. I certainly had some fun times with the group during our cycling expeditions at East Coast Park and dining at restaurants with them.
I can’t believe that there was one death in each of the 3 consecutive months – April, May and June. Each of the deaths was someone that was a friend or someone that I knew in my younger days. It has left me feeling somewhat disturbed and downcast. I have been enjoying each day of my life in the States and making plans for the future. However, the recent spate of events have forced me to confront the fragility and brevity of life. It is in these times when I find myself questioning and asking God the “Why?” questions, the hard questions. Why does someone so young have to leave this world so early? He was in his prime. He had so much potential and a whole future ahead of him. And of course, I don’t have any answers except that God is in control even when it doesn’t seem like it, and and when life in itself just doesn’t make any sense.
I have spent much time in reflection. Each day of our lives is a gift. It is important to live each day as if it were our last. We can make plans but it is important to hold them loosely. Don’t stay stuck somewhere where you are miserable nor be afraid to make changes. And, don’t be afraid to let your authentic self emerge, just because we are afraid of what others will think and say about us. Treasure the people around you, your family and friends, as they are the ones God has placed in your path for a reason. Learn to let go. Don’t rehash the past. Most important of all, live for Christ simply because we have only one life and only what’s done for Him has eternal value.