(Family Photos taken in 2015)
(Family Photos taken in 2015)
To my family:
My parents and my sis – the mountains upon which I stand, the oaks on which I lean;
My wife – the dawn that ends the darkest winters;
And my daughter – the first flower bud that blooms to greet the break of spring.
My dearly departed Pa – for whom I so wish we had memory glue to save him from the mists within his mind;
And my Ma – who with her sheer strength, devotion and love, could only have come from origins magical and divine.
Eulogy for my Pa
On behalf of my family, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to come from near and far to say goodbye to my father.
Thank you for words of support and especially thank you for your prayers. It really means a lot to us.
We’re here today to bid farewell to Eric Kho, my papa.
Actually, in many ways, we started losing him 9 years ago, when my daughter Alexis was still inside my wife Jereen’s tummy.
That was when he had his first two strokes, which happened close together.
Dementia also set in and took away much of who he was by taking away most of his memories.
It was one of the toughest periods for my family.
Then about three months later, Alexis, his only grandchild, was born . On December 14, right in between my parents wedding anniversary, and my own . To me, she was and is for my Pa and family, the hope for a new beginning and the end of a dark winter. And thats why her Chinese name is RuiQing. It means the first flowerbud of spring.
Because the kongkong she knew by then was no longer all of who he used to be, one of my life’s biggest regrets was that the two of them never got to really meet and that she never got to know and play with grandpa as the person he really was. I’m very sure they would have gotten along so so well. But such is life, and she will just have to rely on me to tell her about her Kongkong.
And this is what I would say to my daughter:
Up until when I was about your age, to me, your kongkong was a scary man.
I was the typical naughty little boy, and he was the typical traditional dad. His friend Mr Tan was my worst enemy : yup Mr R.O Tan. Full name Mr Rotan (cane).
One time I remember, your kong kong proudly brought me to my first day of kindergarten, together with my kongkong, his father. Three proud generations of Kho men standing in the classroom together.
And thats when I said “ No! I want to go home!” And cried n threw a tantrum and refused to join the class.
Once we got home, Mr Rotan was there to greet me.
Papa always told me caning me hurt him more than it hurt me. But at that time I thought it was a load of rubbish.
So I of course got smarter. One day I had the bright idea of collecting all the rotans and feather dusters in the house and hiding them.
The next time I got in trouble, I thought I was sooo clever.
Until he went to the toilet and pulled out the water hose.
Your Kongkong was my hero. He was usually the tallest biggest man in the supermarket and easy to find. He was strong, from his days representing his school in boxing and hockey, would never back away from bullies. He was ready to fight anyone who dared to mess with his family.
He had the best sense of direction, and could find shortcuts to escape traffic jams anywhere, way before Waze or Google Maps were invented.
And he had the strongest bladder. Every year for CNY we would make 8-10 hour long drives to his hometown Kuala Terengganu and he would only need to go to the toilet once.
He could get along with anybody. He was a salesman for Rothmans, and would drive all over Malaysia to sell cigarettes to shopkeepers and even Orang Asli (the indigenous people of Malaysia) in the jungles.
And he had a photographic memory. He could draw a map from memory with every junction and traffic light and landmark from any small town that he drove through in his Rothmans days, from Lumut to Karak to Kemaman and beyond. It is sadly ironic that one of his greatest strengths was taken away from him in the latter part of his life. Everyone in the family complains that I take too many photos. But the reason I do that is because I’m afraid of forgetting so much of life like he did. It’s my way of freezing as many memories as possible
Your Kong kong was a loving man. In fact, he loved me too much. As I grew older and the rotaning stopped, he started spoiling me all the time. Prolly to make for it. He didn’t spoil me in terms of possessions. I could count on my hand the number of toys that he and my mum had bought me in my childhood. But in terms of his deeds. He would always purposely go out to buy my favourite foods for breakfast or lunch. Without fail he would always cut out newspaper clippings for me. Papa loved plants and spent much of his time gardening and tending to his beautiful flowers. But when I once told him I wanted a fish pond, he dug up his beloved garden and lay down cement to build one for me. I will never ever forget that gift.
Your Kong kong was a very simple man. He hardly ever bought things for himself, other than cigarettes which he eventually managed to quit. He always shared a cup of teh kau (strong milk tea) with my mum, and always tried to avoid paying for car parking. He wore the same few cotton shirts in the daytime and the same few sarongs at night. The suit you see him in today was his only one and the same one he wore to my wedding. And did I mention he hardly ever bought me toys? That is why Alexis, your bedroom is filled with toys today.
Your Kong kong was my best friend. We used to go for walks every night with our dog, after dinner where I could tell him anything and everything and where he would tell me all the stories of his youth or fill me with his favourite quotes that have shaped me to this day, like “Don’t trouble Trouble unless Trouble troubles you”, or “Never be arrogant. The people you pass on your way up in life, are the same people you’ll meet on your way down”. When I grew older our walks graduated to teh kau sessions and then when I left home to study and work it became telephone chats every weekend with him and my mum.
Finally, I would tell my daughter that anyone can easily become a father. But it takes a special kind of man to be a papa. One who was always there for you. Like my papa.
Before we say goodbye to him I want to say that in spite of his illness and suffering, my father was a very blessed man. With a loving family, like my sis who equally adored him like I did. But his greatest blessing in life, is by far, his wife.
My mother has been the main breadwinner, the main caretaker nurse and doctor, everything to my dad, the rock, not just for him but my whole family.
To me she is the definition of love and marriage, being there for my dad for worse for poorer and in sickness, not only just continuing to be there after his strokes but loving him and fighting for him even more fiercely than ever after it struck.
If there are a silver linings to this cloud today its that Pa has finally found peace from his suffering, but also that maybe from now on my mum can finally start to take care of herself and to allow herself to be taken care of by us.
I also want to say a special thank you to Diayana, our amazing helper, who’s taken far better care of my dad than I ever could in a million lifetimes, giving him daily massages, singing to him and taking him for walks. Even when we hired professional nurses to help take care of him, he would yell “you get lost!” to them, and only calm down when Diayana came running. You have really been a second daughter to him and my mum. Thank you for taking care of him, easing his suffering in his final years and hours, and loving him like your own father.
On Wednesday this week, one day before Papa passed away, Diayana was keeping him company in the afternoon as usual, when suddenly she saw two white figures standing in front of my dad. An old man and an old lady.
Later, she texted my sis to tell her about it, and on a hunch my sis sent her a picture. Diayana fell to the floor when she saw the photograph, because the old lady in it was wearing almost exactly the same clothes. The picture my sis sent was a photo of my grandparents, my dad’s papa and mama.
When she first saw the white figures, Diayana ran to my dad to keep him with us. She held his hands and started singing their favourite song. She sang…dont worry…dont worry. my dad smiled at her, and sang “be happy”
I’m really sad that my sis and I weren’t able to make it back in time from Singapore to say goodbye, for me to take him for one last walk, to have one last teh kau with him, or even just have one final hug. But I’d like to think that those were his last words for all of us. Don’t worry be happy
I want him to know that we love him we miss him dearly and that i know we will be a family again one day, upstairs together with my grandparents, who have taken him back home to God.
Until then goodbye my beloved papa.
Thank you and God bless.