May 4, 2015

To Our Kong Kong

This is a form of catharsis for me.

(Song: My adaptation of Lana del Rey's "Old Money")

My grandfather, Wong Peng Mun, aged 92, passed away peacefully in our hometown Ipoh on Thursday, 23 April 2015. Being a very close-knit family, we feel his departure greatly.

My grandfather, or Kong Kong as we called him, was a quiet but smiley man. I used to think he was secretly a ninja / kungfu master. He fled to escape capture during the Japanese Occupation (what a life of adventure! little me thought then). When younger, he was a state footballer, with the moniker "老鼠子" ("little mouse") due to his slight stature - but he was a striker! (My brother was very impressed with this fact.) The confirmation of his ninja-hood came when he caught a buzzing fly with his chopsticks!


We spent much of our childhood at our grandparents' place with 2 brothers, Ralph and Nick, while our parents worked. Our routine consisted of lunch while watching the noon stock market news (probably the beginning of my fascination with finance?), followed by doing homework or tuition with my aunt, and finally, playtime!

Kong Kong was a major source of playtime fun. Our favourite game was "Monster", which started with us poking him while he pretended to be asleep on his deck chair. He'd ignore us or get up and chase us as our grandmother (PoPo) tried to stem the chaos that was 5 toddlers screaming and running around and under tables in glee.

In the evening, we played in the garden while he tended to his flowers and fishes and conversed with another elderly resident Uncle Lingam. We also took walks on the mini-hill opposite the house, where the North-South federal highway runs now.

***

When Lee Kuan Yew passed away aged 1 year younger than Kong Kong, I had a sinking feeling that the dreaded call would come.

Kong Kong was admitted with lung infection on 17 April. My mom and her siblings, my dad and sister were there to care for him. Being overseas, I was thankful that Kong Kong was well-taken care of, although I could not be with him.

Throughout his hospitalisation, I'm humbled to see our family recipient to God's grace. (Disclosure: I've spent years as an agnostic before returning to Christ, and so still am in the process of relearning what it means to be a Christian.) Our childhood friend Joash, who works in the hospital, helped make Kong Kong's care smoother. The outpouring of care from relatives and friends was also a source of relief later on.

In that same week, I was to fly to Tokyo to run a conference on 23 April. At the airport on 22 April, I was denied check-in because my passport lacked a chip qualifying Malaysians for visa-exempt status, despite being issued after the chip's implementation. Absolutely horrified, I rushed back to the office to sort out documents and hopefully beg the Japanese Embassy for an emergency visa.

Upon arriving at the office, the HR Head told me that the Embassy couldn't grant the visa. Thankfully, 95% of the prep work was complete, the office was very accommodating, and my line manager who took the Tokyo flight kindly stepped in for me.

All the same, I was very unhappy, having worked hard for the conference. Besides that, I like to meet speakers and sponsors to thank them for participating. Dad reassured me, saying perhaps there was a reason why I couldn't make it to Tokyo.

On 23 April, I was anxious for audience numbers. We started with 50+ - half of what we needed. Considering the expected post-lunch drop-off rate (approx. 40%), things didn't look promising.

I Whatsapp-ed my parents, who urged me to pray and prayed with me. Throughout the day, I prayed as I worked remotely. 3 hours later, we had 119 through the door - more than double the initial crowd! At the end, we had 153 in total, with a healthy 50+ staying for cocktails. Praise God for the miracle indeed.

When the conference had ended in Tokyo at 5:30pm JST, my sister told us that Kong Kong had gone home to be with Jesus.

***

In retrospect, God was gracious in His timing and placing me in a firm that does care for its employees' welfare. I was able to make plans immediately to return in time to say goodbye to Kong Kong - it would've been difficult were I in Tokyo.

Although we miss Kong Kong very much, we rejoice in his long life and the knowledge that he is in God's hands and that we'll see him again:
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

2 comments:

  1. The passing of an era - they don't make them like that any more. Where did their spirit and qualities come from? Not any university I can name. You are blessed to have been touched by him and in turn your touch will guide others. God Bless.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Pn. Siva. I'm grateful though to have had so many years of my life with Kong Kong.

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