We are now in the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. Last night, I couldn’t sleep till after 3am. I read and read. Made mental notes what I needed to do at work today. Then suddenly, I remembered – the anniversary of my father’s death. My father passed away on the twelfth day of the seventh month. Which would be tomorrow. It would be twenty years since his passing. In 1991.
This morning I was naturally tired. I went about work as usual. The TV in my office was not working. The internet was down. The whole factory building seemed to be in disarray. It was difficult to concentrate. Then I remembered and put in my diary – tomorrow morning – the visit to the cemetery and temple – with my mother. By noon, I had a feeling perhaps I should go this afternoon. After lunch and a meeting, I drove home to fetch Siti and my mother. At home, I decided MG, our dog should come along. We stopped by a shop at Ang Mo Kio to buy what we needed for such prayers.
Around this time every year, I would think of my father. He passed away during the seventh month. The Chinese believe the dead return during the seventh month. I feel he is watching over me in the seventh month. In the last two years, I have felt a stronger need for this strange assurance. Maybe my mother’s health is frail. Maybe these are indeed uncertain times.
While taking my lunch in the office, I felt the urge to text Peter Chan. “How is your mother?” I asked. His mother has been very sick. He told me he has “been to hell and back a few times”. I felt the urge to read what I posted on my blog last year on Father’s Day. While reading, I felt the rush of emotions again. Our movie, ‘1965, The Beginning’ is mostly about the second generation immigrants who became the ‘pioneers’ of an independent Singapore. My parents were two of these ‘pioneers’. They led a hard life. Their challenges were all bread and butter and so much about survival that most Singaporeans today will not comprehend nor understand.
The cemetery is called the Mount Vernon Sanctuary. We took a different route from Ang Mo Kio but somehow found our way there. It occurred to me why I should be there this afternoon. My father passed away at night. So by tonight, it will be the 20th anniversary of his death. My mother and MG stayed in the car while Siti helped me with the prayer. When we reached the second level where his ashes are placed, there was a lone chair in front of his unit, number 29. It was as if he was waiting for us.
Has it really been two decades since he left us? This year, my mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she had a successful surgery, and we were torn if post surgery radiation treatment would be too harsh for her. She told me, while she was waiting in the car, she saw birds flying around her. She said, “father must be very happy we are here”. I smiled at her while I drove towards the temple.
I texted a close friend, ” 20 years ago, my father passed away at night. I am thinking of him”.