A Christmas Day of Remembrance

Christmas is a day of remembrance. But, a remembrance of what? To the Christian, it is a day of remembrance to commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a day of celebration and get together with family members from near and afar. It is a day of lots of good food and drinks. It is a day of big parties. It is a day filled with laughter and fun. It is a day when people take a short or long journey to someone’s home for a big gathering. But, to some – it is a day of “Just another day”.

To me, it is a day of remembrance of my belated father’s memorial. Three years ago, exactly on December 25th about 1:30am in the morning, I received a call from my sister back in Penang. I was in bed, after a lovely dinner at our dearest neighbour’s home, Helen and Ted, to celebrate Christmas evening. It was very sudden. I remembered the phone rang next to my bed. It rang a few times. In the dark, my right hand reached out to grab the phone. I answered “Hello”. On the other end, I heard my sister’s voice. Her voice was quivering. She was in tears. She could hardly speak. She spoke in Hokkien. And, she said “Ah Pah Si Liaw”. That was the word – the word that grabbed my heart – “Father has passed away”. My heart sank. I was in shocked. It was just an hour ago that I came home from a lovely dinner at Helen and Ted’s place. It can’t be true. I must still be asleep. But, no. My sister passed the phone to my mum. She was also in tears. She was very shocked of the sudden demise of my dad. She explained to me what had really happened. I still could not believe what I was hearing. Mum told me that dad passed away watching the news. She was in the toilet. When she came out to join dad, the TV remote was on the floor. She saw dad slumping to one side on the chair. She knew what had happened. She screamed for help. She was all alone in the house with dad. Some neighbours came running over. They put him on the floor and tried to revive him. But, it was too late. It was all too late. My heart sank a thousand miles away. There was no tears in my eyes – I was trying to remain strong and calmed my mum over the phone. Eventually she said she had to hang up – my brother and his family had just arrived.

After I hung up the phone – I went to the other room. I switched on the PC. I searched the next available flight out of Australia, from Melbourne. The earliest I could find was two days later. It took me an hour to work out my flight time, from Hobart to Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur to Penang. While I was sorting out my flight home, my partner was sitting on the couch to keep me company. There was no time for me to shed tears. It was 3 am. I was like, I need to get home. Forget about the cost. Then, everything sunk in. I sat down. Now I have a moment to take all in. My tears started to roll down my eyes. I tried to fight back. But, I could not. My partner hugged me tightly to comfort me. He was in tears as well. My dad likes to joke with him, and always share a glass of wine at a dinner table when we get together. My dad had stopped drinking after he retired – because of his health. But, he drank with my partner as a symbolic acceptance of him into our family. We never stopped shedding our tears until we eventually went back to bed. We were emotionally exhausted. That was three years ago.

Today – my life moves on without my father. My mum has finally accepted his soul is now free. My mum called me yesterday to wish both of us a happy christmas and new year. My mum told me that she had a dream the night before – a dream of dad saying to her in Hokkien, “Wah Kah Lu Lee Hoon Liau”. That means, “I am divorcing you now”. My father’s spirit will now move on – leaving my mum to carry on her life in our world. In our tradition – we have to commemorate the deceased over a period of three years. Praying and worshiping – wishing our deceased a good and peaceful life after death. On the third year memorial service, the spirit is set free. And, follow the path of Buddha’s chants.

Even on this day – writing this post and reflect back – I still grieve quietly for my dad. And, when I looked at the photos I have taken at the funeral service – I feel a part of me is empty. I am dedicating this post to my belated father – who has supported me through my years of education. Without his support and hardship, I won’t be here – reaping the reward of a good job and career over the past years.

Floral wreath from mourners at dad’s funeral. An altar with food and drink offering. A terracotta urn for burning paper money offering.

Me folding lots of paper money for dad in his after life – so he can be filthy rich!

More paper money. Mum’s neighbours and friends – so we can all be blessed by dad’s spirit and not haunted by him!

“Lao Tze” praying and chanting for dad to listen. May he rest in peace and follow the Buddha’s path.

Blessing my dad’s after life – his mansion with servants, cars and lots of money.

Have a happy after life, Dad!

Your memory will always live in us.

Love from all of us.


9 responses to “A Christmas Day of Remembrance

  1. Oh Victor – I am in tears after reading this. I could say so many things but all would sound trite, and sell your dad, and your feelings, very short. It is a tribute to your strength of character that you were able to write about it here today. And from what you said, your strength is one of the many things you got from your dad – so it’s a circle, isn’t it? Have a peacefully contemplative day with Reb. x

    • Thanks, Rita. That is very sweet of you.
      We are having a quiet Christmas together. If the cloud clears up, we will take our wee scottie, “Bonnie” to Randalls Bay – her favourite beach.

  2. Hugs to you Victor


  3. Victor – Thank you for sharing your personal story. I could only imagine how tough it is to lost someone that meant the world to you. Those words are so similar to lao words.. “Ah Pah Sear Leaw”, especially the word “sear leaw”.

    • It was the first time I have lost someone close to me. It was not easy at the beginning, but we learnt to adapt in new situation. Thanks.
      When I was in Laos – I get by using a bit of Thai and mostly English. Didn’t try speaking in Hokkien.
      Btw – did you read about the news in Thailand sending about 4,400 Hmoung refugees back to Laos? Terrible news.

      • Victor – Yes, I’ve been trying to follow this story for sometime now, I actually post this topic at my bog. It is a sad situation for those folks and I can only imagine the horror of getting send back to Laos. Thais doesn’t not allow any agencies or the press near the camp at all, so there are no video of their actions. All the media are being station about 7 miles away from the camp itself. Some of the video I saw was the Hmongs are being transport out of the camp by military trucks.

        The crazy thing about this, I haven’t seen any news from Laos side about accepting them back. 4000+ is a lot of people, where are they going to put them at? Laos almost have to build a new town just for them. The question will come up, who’s going to pick up the tap for this???? If you think Laos will pick up the tap, just forget it..

        • Yes, Seeharhed. This is indeed a very sad situation for humankind. I just read your post on the Hmong refugees. Must be terrible for them. I really cannot imagine what it is like, and how they are going to cope.

  4. Dear Victor, your words about your dad really resonated with me. Having lost my mum this year I can really appreiate the impact the loss of a parent can have on a person.

    It’s such a cliche until it happens to you.

    My dad has had such a profound impact on my life, in fact I think he might have defined me, that I’m not sure I will be able to do him the service that he deserves, despite his human frailties.
    With love
    Steve & family

    • Thanks, Steve. I remember meeting your mum once. It was at your restaurant RVL. i think during mid-winter lantern festival/parade in Cygnet. It was cold and raining. We were all so excited when the floats paraded passed RVL. I remember your mum smile with your children around her. You have a lovely family and I am sure you have done your mum and dad proud. Cheers.

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