Thursday, March 27, 2008

Farewell to a Friend from Sibu 1947-2008


Time disappears and flies away as the second hand ticks and the hour tocks. The trees next to our school have grown old and would be cut down to make way for an very much enlarged car park to accommodate the growing number of staff. The Old Hostel for Girls has long gone. The tennis courts in which we played looked old and mould ridden. Upon looking at the scene, I once exclaimed, "Spring has gone, winter has set in!" Our teenage years have fleetingly left us and now we are in our senior citizen years. Some classmates have met over the years to celebrate success and marriages of children. Some have come together for reunions. Now perhaps we are coming together to say our final farewell.

My classmate , and friend of more than 50 years passed away on Wednesday 23 March 2008 7 a.m. in his own home in Singapore, amidst family, brothers, sister and in laws. They were gathered together, in hushed tones,ready to send him off in the Chinese Foochow way - to listen to his final breath. It was chokingly touching moment for any one, dear and near, and the saddest moment for a beloved wife who had to part with a beloved husband of more than 30 years.

A sixth form classmate called up to let me know all these. Our class of 13 Sixth Formers have been very thick friends since 1967, and we said a prayer together for our good friend and started to reflect on friendship and on life in general. I only wished that Celcom would give a discount for people who make bereavement or condolences calls.

How do I remember Cheng Hua Chuan? The school stage on which we played Julius Caesar, the Gypsy Baron, Salad Days and Carousel, is now part of the school library. He acted in all those plays because he was tall, had a good singing voice, and good English. That stage was where Hua Chuan as a prefect had made announcements as was his duty - I remember that in particular. I also associate the Tennis Courts with him as they were used by him for years for his tennis tournaments. He had cut a great figure as a star tennis player. Somehow these images keep floating around all the time.

But I remember him too for he and his brother Hua Ging would send eggs to my home after my father passed away. His family had in those early days raised chickens and sold eggs as a side line. My father had passed away suddenly and we were in dire straits. His father, being a good friend of my father’s came to lend a helping hand and we children had cheaper eggs from Uncle Cheng. Not only did we get a discount but we also had home delivery. This source of protein will be always appreciated and remembered by my family. Hua Chuan and his brother Hua Ging formed the best pair of loving brothers that I know of. In later years I would look at school photos, and the two would always be standing together in the photos.

When his father passed away, the family was held on together by their mother and continued to receive a good education. The determination of Mrs. Cheng and the unity of the family impressed me. The Cheng children were brought up, humble, kind, considerate and Godly. Hua Chuan’s brother , Hua Kong was the “permanent” choir conductor of Wesley Church. Hua Chuan himself remained a strong Methodist throughout his life, blessing the Singapore churches that he attended.

He had been a formidable business man with global interests and concerns and a business partner of his wife Jenny. Perhaps that is for the business world to write about. But it was his honesty, his concern for his employees and his good Christian heart that helped him rise up in the ranks of the corporate world. And there is no doubt, his acumen was sharpened by wisdom granted by the good Lord.

When he heard from his brother that I needed heart surgery three years ago, he was so full of good advice and told me that I would have excruciating pain and a scar. I had fears of death on the OT table . And one long distance call from a very unexpected source ,from him, an elevated business personnel and someone who was not very well himself, in such humility and gentleness, propelled me to greater hopes that the operation would definitely meet with 99.9% success with God's blessing. I was touched by an angel's act of kindness.

My last meeting with Jenny and Hua Chuang was just last year before I went on a mission trip to China. Although he was shockingly frail, he made it to a restaurant to meet me and my fellow missionary. He still had that very straight, chest up and out, walk. He had never changed his gait of walking. He had told Jenny,” We must give C....Y.. the very best of meals.” This was definitely more than the usual Foochow gesture of hospitality and and "having face" amongst good friends.

For that and so much more, I remember him. Ah Chuan had always given the Best to his wife, his children, his brothers and sister, to his friends and indeed to every one he knows. He was a very dedicated friend to his school mates, his classmates, his colleagues. He was a very inclusive kind of Christian. He was clearly a servant of God.

Perhaps all our friends who wish to think of him, would like to remember this song from our school play, Carousel, in which he had a good role.

Ever since we staged the musical in our school my memories of the school and school friends, and teachers would come back when I hear the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" which is by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

In the musical, in the second act, Nettie Fowler, the cousin of the female protagonist Julie Jordan, sings "You'll Never Walk Alone" to comfort and encourage Julie when her husband, Billy Bigelow, the male lead, has killed himself after a failed robbery. It is reprised in the final scene to encourage a graduation class of which Louise (their daughter) is a member. Billy attends this ceremony during his return to earth and inspires them with his words of encouragement, assuring them of his love.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho' your dreams
Be tossed and blown

Walk on..
Walk on..
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Walk on..
Walk on..
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

(This song was the Methodist Schoolo's Arts' students' song for many years. And we kept it in our heart. Any one of us humming this song would bring back lots of memories of our school time. It is now a popular commencement song in American colleges and a football club song in the UK.)

Hua Chuan, as an angel he had always been, will be amongst angels in Heaven. Rest in Peace.

(Note: I wrote this in Miri at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in lieu of my presence in his memorial service in Wesley Church, Sibu,on Friday, and I am sure my classmates will like to join me in conveying condolences to the Cheng and the Lau Families. Margaret Teng, Talip Epi, Catherine Purnell, Charles Yip, Sebastian Gaong, Ling Teck Chung,Winnie Yii, Sheila Kang,Datin Siti Zaharah, Paul Loi,Tan Kui Chiang)

2 memories:

Yan said...


I was there this morning. It was such a touching funeral service. We were actually ministered by the children!

Have a look at the bulletin of the service -

sarawakiana said...

Thank you. You are very thoughtful. We are all blessed by reading what you have posted for the family. Yes, he had brought up a wonderful Godly family. And I am sure, God's name will live on.

May he rest in peace and may his wife and family be comforted by the Lord always.


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