Today is the start of a brand new year. It is supposed to be a time of joy and anticipation as we begin the year with a clean slate. But nothing could be further from the truth for the family of Chieng Yew Kuok, my brother-in-law and husband of my wife’s younger sister Angela. His family is finding it so difficult to come to grips with their unfathomable loss. Today is his funeral day so the mood was very sombre at his house as lots of family members, relatives and friends gathered to pay their last respects to Ah Kuok. The large crowd who came to pay their last respects speaks volume about the popularity and character of Ah Kuok. The garage was filled with floral wreaths and the SMB Chung Hua band was in attendance, playing farewell music for Ah Kuok. Balloons with messages from family members and relatives were released into the sky. It was truly a very grand farewell!
Ah Kuok passed away suddenly and without warning last Wednesday, December 28, when he was attending a wedding dinner. He was his jovial self that night, greeting many of the guests at the dinner. When the dinner started, he called his wife Angela who was in Penang attending the wedding reception of our niece Carissa T’en and joked with her. About an hour later, Angela received a call from a friend who was also at the Miri wedding. The friend informed her that Ah Kuok had collapsed at the dinner and was unconscious despite attempts by a couple of doctors to revive him. Upon hearing the news, Angela broke down and collapsed in inconsolable grief. Ah Kuok was rushed to the Miri General Hospital but attempts to revive him were futile.
Ah Kuok was a devoted husband to his wife, Angela Ngieng, and a loving father to his three sons Edward, Gerald and Boiboy, and his only daughter Emily. He doted on his two granddaughters with whom he spent a lot of his free time. He was truly the pillar of his family and always put the interests of his family above himself.
I do not believe I can write a fitting tribute to him. He was full of life and his love for those he cared about always came through. He had a big heart that held his finest qualities and he offered his heart first and always and to many. But ultimately, his heart failed him.
I have known Ah Kuok since 1981 when I came to work in Miri after a brief stint working in Sibu upon my graduation from Concordia University in Canada. He was a very hardworking guy and I remembered buying cassette tapes from his shop next to the Hock Hua Bank in China Street. And at night, he also sold cassette tapes at the pasar malam.
He will be remembered as a sincere and decent person with the most genuine nature. He was utterly without guile, possessing none of the dark cunning of manipulative people. He treated people with utmost respect.
We were different in many respects. He was the outgoing type who mixed around easily with everyone while I am the reticent type. But we got along very well. Because our wives are sisters, we met quite often. My family and I will greatly miss him and the yam cha sessions with him. I will miss hearing him call me “Chia Wu”.
Although Ah Kuok is no longer physically with us, he will forever remain in our hearts. It is a blessing that he came into our lives and enriched all of us.
Rest in peace, Ah Kuok!