I take a break from my series on friendship interactions to honour a friend. This morning (5 July 2023) I woke up to a message that my friend, Pastor Ng Kok Aun, had passed away. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He had been fighting cancer for more than six years. His condition had deteriorated recently. It was a matter of time. But I have discovered that death, though anticipated, still comes as a surprise. Every life is of infinite worth, and the finality of death, even if you believe in an afterlife, is paralysing. Time pauses in respect of the enormity of the occasion. The loss is amplified if the one who passed on is a dear friend.
I last met up with Kok Aun last December. We had not met in person for some years before that because of Covid. It was hard for me to travel between Singapore and Penang, and the times I was back I had to focus on mum. Even when I could make time it did not coincide with Kok Aun’s health and availability. The clock was ticking. The clock is always ticking, and I wanted to see him in person in this life. After all, no one knows when it is their time.
So last December we met at Georgetown Baptist Church (GBC). It would be the last time we would meet face to face in this life. When you are fighting cancer, you have good and bad days. It wasn’t a good day for him but he made the effort to drive to GBC so we could chat and pray. I knew that the time we had together was a precious gift from him. I didn’t know how precious it would prove to be. We chatted as brothers and friends. I savoured every moment of that conversation. After a while I was concerned that I was tiring him. I said it was ok if he needed to go back and rest. He brushed the suggestion aside and said we could carry on. I know it was an effort for him and a deliberate choice for our conversation to continue. Finally, it was time to say goodbye. We held hands and prayed for each other, three friends connecting — Soo Inn, Kok Aun, and Jesus.
I remember another occasion we were together. It was many years ago. We were in a car on a hot afternoon after a worship service at GBC (the original building). Kok Aun and his dear wife Lucy were about to leave for ministry studies in Australia. He was trained as an architect and she was a highly qualified musician. But they had heard God’s call to go into pastoral ministry. I had the privilege of praying for them. It was one of those moments when you really feel the presence of God. I can’t remember the year when that happened. But what is clear is that they went, they came back, and they have been serving faithfully ever since. A time will come when we will have the opportunity to reflect on all they have done for Christ in GBC. I am not sure, but I think he was the longest-serving pastor. And they led the church into what she is today. We who love GBC owe Kok Aun and Lucy a great debt for their faithful, humble service.
The following is part of what he wrote in his last message to me, in February this year:

Today I’ve reached a milestone in my cancer journey! It’s been 6 years since I started fighting cancer, undergoing therapy after therapy, 2190 days of ups & downs, joy & pain, peace & fear, gratitude & disappointment. It’s been an absolute emotional rollercoaster ride, intense & exhausting!
I must admit that many a time, I was not as positive, patient & trusting as I should be. Yet, God in His grace has been faithful, He has held me securely in His hands all the while.

I salute you my friend. I know that in the long run God is no man’s debtor as you probably would have discovered now. Your faithfulness to Him in all you went through is a dazzling light to us all in these difficult times, calling us to be faithful too as you were. Goodbye kawan. Thank you.