Mr Lee Sek Hin, my father-in-law, was kind to the end. With Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, he had been bedridden for a while, unable to speak. Each day he got weaker. The doctors had told us to expect that he could pass on anytime for some time now. We would be concerned each time we had to travel overseas. Earlier in the month we had to make a trip to North America. When we came back dad was still ok, status quo. Last Thursday, December 18th, he passed away. Not only did he wait till we came back; he gave us a week to rest. He was kind to the end.
On the morning of the 18th, we were having our quiet time at breakfast and praying. Each time we prayed we would lift up all our family members to the Lord. In recent times, not always sure what to pray, I would pray that the Lord would hold dad Lee close in His embrace. That morning He answered literally. One of our helpers came out to call us in the midst of our prayer. They never interrupt when we pray. We rushed to dad’s room. No pulse, still warm, he had already transited to the Lord’s presence.
I will never forget the first day darling Bernice brought me back to meet her parents. I was apprehensive. Bernice had been married before. (Her first husband had died of cancer.) What would they think of the new guy? And dad Lee had been educated in the Penang Free School. I had done my studies in St Xavier’s Institution. The schools were traditional rivals. Would this turn out to be a Montague vs Capulet type scenario? We soon discovered that we were both supporters of Arsenal football club. We shared a common loyalty. And more.
Bernice and I were also surprised to learn that dad Lee knew my dad and they had played football together as children, when they were growing up in Penang. This was one of many serendipities that gave us hope that maybe Bernice and I were meant to be together. Dad and mum Lee embraced me from the start. They welcomed me into the family and into their hearts. I will never forget. My dad passed away not long after Bernice and I met. I was especially grateful that I had another dad. And now he too is gone. If there is football in heaven, and I am sure there is, I trust that the two gentlemen are playing together again.
As we talked to family and friends during the wake and the funeral, and as we processed our memories, the key word that appeared again and again was “kind”. His students remembered him as strict/firm but kind. Some of them were students he had taught in the ’60s. They still remembered. They came. All of us have many teachers in our lifetime. There are the few we specially remember. His students remembered him. Belinda, Bernice’s sister, remembered dad riding on the bus with her to school. Knowing that she was prone to motion sickness, dad would direct her attention to the trees that they passed by, telling her their names and characteristics. Bernice remembers dad taking her to the Wednesday night pasar malam (night market) on Dunman Road. I can imagine daddy and daughter holding hands walking through the noisy, colourful crowds. No wonder Bernice found it easy to believe in a God who loved unconditionally.
Dad came to know the Lord late in life. He had resisted all invitations to follow Christ till a few years ago. Perhaps mum and dad realised the fragility of life because of some health issues they were going through. Whatever their reasons they said yes to Jesus’ invitation and placed their faith in Christ. Their marriage had become difficult because both were on their journeys with dementia. When mum passed away dad said that he hoped God would cut mum some slack when she got to heaven. Here was young faith and a dad kind and still concerned for his wife. Thank God He cuts all of us lots of slack.
So dad was a kind man. Not loud, not showy, he quietly gave himself in kindness to the people in his life. Here is one who deserved to be numbered as one who was “salt of the earth”. I am sorry that I tasted that kindness for only short while and had so little time to reciprocate that kindness. But I continue to experience his kindness through the kindness of my beloved Bernice who channels and passes forward the kindness of her dad. She is her father’s daughter.
It was hard seeing dad suffer. He never complained, but after a bad fall early in the year, his condition deteriorated. I miss our chats about Penang, Malaysian politics, and football. So we have mixed feelings. We are glad that dad is no longer suffering. We are glad he has traded in his old broken body for a new perfect one.
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1–4 NIV)
But we miss him. Bye bye dad. Till we meet again.