Death doesn’t visit often, but this time he sneaked up on us on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
It was a surprise visit that was due but came too soon.
He brought along the briefcase of emotions that he usually carries – grief, regret, anger, disappointment.
He thrives on it, the smell of heartbreak and the silence of sorrow his currency. He wreaks havoc on the families he visits. He leaves a trail of heavy clouds wherever he goes.
When Death left with my uncle, he didn’t close the door.
He opened the door to honest conversations about dying; a taboo subject that my family had avoided. Suddenly, we were telling each other how we’d like to be laid to rest.
After he departed, Death revealed hidden parts of my uncle I never knew existed, not until a stranger shared a beautiful eulogy that brought me closer to him. I did not share many words with Ah Ku but I now finally understood why he was such a quiet, reserved figure.
Death reminded us to be kinder to each other. Suddenly, my aunt was texting everyone in the family, making sure we know she loves us.
Death forced us to think about our mortality, and the countdown till his return for our aging parents and grandparents.
He laid our priorities on a table we couldn’t avoid, demanding us to be more present with friends, family, and ourselves.
Death is never good news but he made sure my uncle’s passing was not in vain.
He taught through grief and was the sobering pill we needed when we got drunk in this mad world of material life.
Beneath his hooded cloak, Death is a sliver of kindness dressed in the most wretched form possible.
Death is waiting to return.
He always does, especially when we’ve forgotten the lessons he’d taught us. He commands attention when we’ve taken him for granted and allowed the selfishness of life to consume us.
We will see each other again, Death and I, but I hope not for a very, very, very long time to come.
Dedicated to my late Ah Ku, Uncle Lawrence Chua Chong Peng (1953-2017). He was a man who bravely lived in the face of cancer and won battles that afforded him time to welcome his grandson home from the first day of school.