2014 started sadly, not badly, as my family didn’t expect Christmas 2013 and new year 2014 to be my father’s final Christmas and New Year with us. Apart from missing Dad, I’m in a way relieved for him. He passed away in his own bed at home, calling on the Lord with his last breath, and did not have to suffer illness, as such.
I feel relief for him because he was half blind and being a person who loved to read books, he couldn’t exactly enjoy this one passion, as his sight worsened. He has a book collection spanning over 50 years, which he shared with us when we were old enough, and skilled enough to read adult stuff. Going through his bookshelf and book cupboards, I discovered a side of my father, I never thought about. Reviewing him through his books, he had a deep interest in history, geography, religion and literature. Dad was a very quiet man, more like a full vessel. He never boasted or exhibited his wide knowledge of the world around him, but listened a lot.
Although, he never had the chance to go to university, having been a youth during the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, He was still a quietly learned person. Actually, Dad knew about human rights, long before I was born. He had seen enough suffering as a survivor of the “Thai-Burma Death Railway” and experienced starvation, poverty and war, coming away with one leg less. He was disabled from his late teens, after the stint as forced labour on the Death Railway. That put a stop to his early adventurous life of boyhood activities. He said he’d jumped a 6 foot fence once, when a man with a big stick in hand was chasing him and his friends out of the owner’s rambutan orchard, when he was still a care-free lad. They had so many adventures in those days before TV and computers took centre-stage.
Through all that, Dad, never succumbed to hopelessness. He seemed to accept his situation as normal. He even smiled with amusement, re-calling how he forgot he had one leg when he tried to stand up for the first time, in the hospital. Of course, he fell down! Yet, he lived as normal a life as any father. Cycling to work on his bicycle using an artificial limb. He must have lost his balance in the course of over-coming his disability numerous times, but often didn’t mention it, except to Mum. He worked as a civil servant in local government, which he considered himself lucky to be, especially after the war, when secure jobs were scarce, and remained there till he retired in 1979.
When I was about 12 years old, I remember seeing him climb up two flights of steep stairs to his office in the old Railway Building, which is now a Heritage site. He held on tight to the bannister and slowly but steadily made his way up the stairs, without anyone’s help. His independence was very important to him.
Dad was my hero, although I wouldn’t see myself as his favorite child. I was and still am, the flower outside the garden fence, where my family is concerned. This quiet man has gone to his quiet rest, and is no doubt, at eternal peace. He’s lived a good, full life, and run the race to the end, with little self-pity. May be he simply saw the challenges he faced as a challenge to survive.
It’s almost one year, Dad, since you left, and I will drink a toast to you to celebrate the wonder of your life. Thank you for the worlds you have opened up to me, showing me the limitless possibilities in life, and a hope that never dies. I am proud you were my Dad. God bless you.
For John Adrian Loh, December 30th 1924 – January 9th 2014.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015!