Remembering a dear Englishman

Last week, I received news from my former boss in the UK that our former English colleague had passed away.  It came as a shock, especially since he had been posting happy pictures on Facebook about his travels.  We had all un-jobbed about the same time, each enjoying our free time to pursue our dreams, travel, spend time with family and friends, and experience new things.

I remember him as a jolly Englishman.  We shared a lot of laughs together even though our work was serious and sometimes challenging and frustrating.  He had this deadpan way of delivering jokes which made them ultra funny.  And I found his dry English humour very endearing.

There was one Christmas when he mailed a gift from the UK.  Seeing a rather big box filled me with great anticipation.  When I opened it, there was a lot of packing and a small bag of cookies addressed to me and another colleague in the Singapore office.  We didn’t quite know what to think!  First, why such a big box for such a small bag of cookies?  Second, why not 2 bags of cookies for the 2 of us?  After all, we sat on two different floors of the office — not that easy to have coffee/tea breaks together.  Dividing the bag would probably mean only 4 cookies each.  And to go through all that trouble of packing and mailing just to send us cookies!  How about including some tea to go with the cookies?  Isn’t that — having tea — more an English tradition?  The 3 of us had a good laugh.

We used to chat more regularly, much less after we un-jobbed. We exchanged some emails at the beginning and then our travels and busy lives took over.  He would sometimes Like my Facebook posts and I would do the same for him.  Now I wish I had made a bigger effort to stay in touch.  I was told that he felt unwell and went to see a doctor who told him he had a tumour in his bile duct and he only had weeks left.  Three weeks later, he was gone.  The ending was peaceful and painless, I was told, which I found comforting.  A few of us decided to send flowers and a card to his funeral.  That was as much as we could do, given the distance.

At our age, we are getting news about deaths more often.  Relatives have passed on and now friends who were around my age.  And famous singers and actors that we grew up watching have passed away — Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Prince, Roger Moore, etc.  I don’t know if my end is near but once people in my mom’s generation start dying, my generation will be next.  I have set up my retirement plans with different maturity deadlines, the last one ending at age 75.  I remember the financial consultant asking me what I would do after 75 and suggesting a plan maturing at 80 instead.  I told him, half seriously, that when I got to 75, I would let him know what I plan to do!  I wasn’t even sure I would be able to live till 75, let alone 80!  My dear English friend was only in his early 60s.  Hell, my dad was not even 50 yet when he had a stroke and died — I was only 14 then.

Yup, life is fragile.  Not everyone gets to live till 98-99 like my maternal grandparents.  In reality, I don’t think I want to live THAT long.  When the quality of life is no longer there, it is time to go.  Right now, I still have the responsibility of taking care of my mom who hasn’t been in the best of health.  When she goes, I wouldn’t have any more responsibilities except towards myself.  I think we 3 sisters may just end up living together under the same roof and take care of each other until our time is up.  I don’t know which is worse — the first to go, or the last.

All I know is, we should make good use of the time we have now to do the things we want to do, when we still have the energy, health and means to do them.  Decide what is important to you and make the time to do it.  At the end of my life, I do not want to have too many regrets.  Sure, I do regret not continuing with my ballet when I was a little girl (it got too difficult and boring) and making the wrong choice for a life partner (blinded by love I think).  But from this point on, I want to have a meaningful life and focus on happy, healthy and responsible living.  To my dear English friend, may you rest in peace.  In loving memory of Ian……….

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