Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wake-up Call

I knew that the late Andrew Voon had many, many friends. Yet I was fairly surprised to see the size of the crowd at his funeral this morning at the All Saints Cathedral, Karamunsing. A fair number of his friends were from faraway places; they came all the way to pay their last respect to this great man.

It's been ages ago since the last time I set foot in a Catholic church, let alone an Anglican church. But the ambience of a church—the huge cross on the altar, the sound of the organ, the rows upon rows of pews—they are generally all the same. I also noticed some modern improvements in terms of air-conditioning and projectors used to project biblical verses or prayers on the wall.

Teo, Jack and Diong amongst others helped to push the casket through the aisle leading to the altar. Jeffrey, Andrew's only son, read a passage from the Bible, followed by the delivery of the eulogy by Andrew's sister. I thought that was well-organised—until the time when the minister started his sermon. After reading a few verses from the Bible, he noted that Andrew died so suddenly and then wondered what would he have said if he could speak.

Addressing the audience, he asked, "What if the dead could speak; what would he say?"

And while everyone in the audience was still recovering from the suddenness of his question, the minister answered himself impressively.

"If Andrew could speak now," he said, "there would be 3 things he would say..."

And then he went on to speculate how Andrew would tell his friends and loved ones about looking after their health; but ultimately to believe in God and Jesus so that their souls would "live forever".

I kinda stirred a bit in my seat when the minister started talking about soul. After all, I don't believe in any religion. Then I thought of Andrew and what I know about his character. Although I'm also speculating, I did not agree with the minister at all.

As a matter of fact, I, too, was thinking about the suddenness of Andrew's death. All of us have the tendency to take things for granted. We may forget or neglect certain things in life until it's too late.

Then it occurred to me that although I couldn't remember the exact day, it must have been almost 3 weeks ago since the last time I reminded Mia that I love her. Andrew's death, though a big blow to all of us, is a wake-up call to me. Sometimes we tend to lose track of time and then forget to say or do the important things in life.

At the first opportunity I had on Sunday morning, I reminded Mia that I love her still; and I'm so glad that she said "yes" to me 19 years ago.

If Andrew had only 3 things he could say, I'm sure one of them would be to tell his wife and children how much he loves them.

But I admit that I'm also speculating, just like the minister.


Sarah said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. It must have been a terrible shock. As you say, it kind of puts everything into perspective thinking about death, about what's really important in life. Death is a fact of life and yet most of the time we carry on as if it will never happen.

A funeral should not be an opportunity to promote religious views... that would have made me uncomfortable too.

Cornelius said...


He spoke fondly of his children quite a lot. He spoke of his son; he proudly showed off some colourful shoe laces he bought for his daughters "so that they had more choices of laces for their shoes".

Just a few days before his death, we exchanged text messages to each other. He said that his son has been in Australia for 3 years, but he's still worried for him. He said his girl will also be studying in Australia next year.

If indeed Andrew could speak, he would surely speak of his love for his family; not preach about his religion. But that's just what I think... I may be wrong, of course.

Khadeeja Shah said...

I have to admit that I don't handle deaths well. Especially when you see the person fine one day and lifeless the next.

Too much questions like how, and why, but definitely a wake up call

Cornelius said...

Yes, KD, there is that feeling of unreal somehow. Andrew wasn't just "fine", he was was an example of "life" itself.

He was at the KK Jazz Festival on Friday night with his friends. And earlier that day, emails were still flying around about our plans for dinner tomorrow evening in KL as a build up to the KL Marathon (quite a number of us will be running the KL Marathon). The next morning it all ended. Made no sense whatsoever!

Anonymous said...

I must say his girls are taking it well as they were cheerful and laughing during the tennis drills in school today or are they in denial?

Cornelius said...

Oh is that so, Anonymous friend? I'm so glad to know that; and I'm sure Andrew would also be glad to know that too. Dunno about denial. They didn't do too well at the funeral though. Seeing them cry just killed me big time. Knowing Andrew, I'd reckon that he'd want his loved ones to be happy; not dwell on his death for too long.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cornelius,

Andrew's passing is so tragic. Feel so sorry for his family especially his children.

I have always enjoyed reading your blog. Eventhough I do not know you but from your writing I have a sense that you are a genuine, down to earth and very straightforward person and and I especially enjoy your self-deprecating humour and your very honest way of looking at life, issues and situations.

However hope you dont mind if I share my perspective on your comments on Andrew's funeral service.

You are right in saying that the Minister is probably speculating when he said "If the dead could speak..."

However, I feel his sermon was most appropriate granted that I do not know Andrew as well as you probably do. The three core messages he gave out that day:

1.Take care of your body - Andrew loved sports and I am sure he would most likely agree to that;
2. Take care of others; from Andrew's propensity and involvement in charity works, I believe Andrew wouldnt have disagreed with theat either;
3. Take care of your souls; now this is a diffcit one; but for many christians and especially for the family of Andrew, it would give much comfort to them to think and believ that he is in a much better place and is smiling down at them from heaven.

Christian/church funerals served to bring closure to the family and more importantly it is to reach out to non-christians whose souls need to be saved.

I was there at the funeral too and I thought it was a great service and the messsages were appropriate.

Just sharing my views.

Anonymous said...

I may be anonymous to you but I know Andrew during our university days and when we were in the Canadian graduates association together. Since then our path never crossed but I will always remember him the way he was in his youthful day. By the way, I stumble across your blog through a mutual friend in Facebook. I had enjoyed reading some as I can relate to them and the people you mentioned in your blog. Seriously, you should compile them as short stories in a book. Keep on writing.

Cornelius said...

Anonymous (June 25, 2011 11:00 AM),

Thank you for your comment. I did not say that it wasn't a good service. I have no issues with 1 & 2. As for 3, I must beg to differ. I suppose for many Christians, or even Andrew's family members, they would like to think and believe that he's in a better place. In fact, I would like to believe that too.

Just that if it were me, I would not use a funeral service to try to save the souls of non-Christians, because after all there were quite a number of friends of other religions that day. All I'm saying, if I knew Andrew well, he wouldn't say things which would put his non-Christian friends in an awkward situation, even if he's convinced that their souls need to be saved. There's a good reason why so many people loved Andrew.

It's OK if the minister said all those in his own capacity. It's a little different if he said Andrew would say it. But I respect your views; it may be the correct one too.

Cornelius said...

Merci, Anonymous friend (June 25, 2011 11:09 AM), thanks for the kind words. But actually I haven't written very much about our circle of friends sufficiently to be compiled into a book! (smile) But it is a great idea. I guess I will just keep writing every now and then, and then when I have enough, I could consider a book!... hehe. And then I'd probably have to pay people to read my book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cornelius,

Yes its always ok that we agree to disagree..

Keep up with the writing and catch up soon:)

Anonymous(JUNE 25 11am) :=)

Anonymous said...

Hi Cornelius, small world! After reading more into your blog, you mentioned your wife, Mia. I think she is my cousin Euphemia and so is JJ's Aunty Jacky whom you mentioned as well. I will read your book and you don't have to pay me for that.

Anonymous (June 25, 11.09am)

Cornelius said...

Ah!... Indeed this is a small world! Or perhaps only KK is small, but the rest of the world is still big?

Yes, you're right about Euphemia and Jacqueline, and my girl, Jamie Jasmine. Amazing coincidence, huh?