The Passing Of An Old Friend

Last month I attended a funeral wake. It was my old friend’s passing. He was in his late-50s. He died of cancer. Battling that debilitating illness, he fought a good fight for the past 4 years.

There were only a handful of friends, apart from his family members. We were still under CMCO (Conditional Movement Control Order). The C-19 pandemic was still out there.

Against the wall at the far end, there was a huge backdrop curtain. The letters in gold proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” John 11:25.

My friend who lived his life as a good Christian, shall die as a good Christian. He was always ever ready to lend a helping hand to his friends.

The coffin laid in front of the banner. It sat on top of a steel pedestal covered with a satin-like purple pall. The lacquer brown exterior coffin had a smooth wax finish. A square clear glass provided a view of the deceased.

There he laid. Serene, eyes closed. His lips were drawn to a small smile. A satin white cloth covered him to his shoulder. His Western coat and a matching blue tie gave him a very dignified look. His face was pale. His cheeks were sunken. But it did not give him a look of deprivation. He lost a lot of weight in his battle against cancer.

His centre parting hair was neatly combed back. He was a great fan of the Hong Kong movie star then, Jackie Chan. Center parting hair was the vogue those days. Even in death his still black lustrous hair, though thinning, was always neat and tidy. He had refused chemotherapy. Instead he relied on acupuncture and controlled health food in-take. He was always proud of his hair.

I stood in front of the coffin. My heart was heavy as lead. I clasped my palms. In benediction I said a prayer:

“O’ Arbiter of Life and Death, has now taken him away from his family and friends. May Thy Holy Will be done: Thou knowest best.

The only hope that remained for his family in such a sorrowful time was that Thou may receive him into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy. That eternal light may now shine upon him. Amen”

The mood was sombre. All of us wore face masks. But the mournful eyes of his family members were discernible. Silent tears of the last farewell welled from them. Their grief palpitated with our senses.

Just as when he was about to retire and travel the world with his doting wife, he was called to the Lord. Just as when 3 of his kids and a daughter-in-law were doing well in their business and work, he was to take his leave from this earthly world.

Perhaps God has other plans for him. 

People at the wake talked in whispers. There were some old friends whom I had not met for ages. We still kept in touch through the social media. And in this melancholy occasion we met again. The friendship that bind my deceased friend with me had renewed my friendship with other friends, who came to say their final goodbye.

A brother of the deceased came on the mike. He gave an eloquent speech about his brother.  The heartfelt speech moved some to silent tears. Then he called for a eulogy from the audience.

I went up. I spoke briefly. I said, “He was a friend whose heart was good, who walked with men and understood…” I quoted part of a poetry I read some years ago.

Then all of us stood up. With a small booklet in hand, we sang “ Amazing Grace ” and “What a friend we have in Jesus.” 

These were the two favorite songs which I knew in my head and in my heart.  The lyrics were always on my lips. Strange that I had to sing these two beloved songs to send a friend off.

The wake concluded early.

We left. No handshake. No hugs. We maintained our social distance. Only fist-bumps and bows.

May he rest in peace.  Amen.

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