That was what I said to him before I left for London.
Where do I begin?
How do you write about a man who has written all his life?
To many, he is known as Soo Ewe Jin, editor of The Star and inspiring columnist of “Sunday Starters” who has lifted the spirits of many with his heart-warming articles (and probably the sole reason I still read the local papers).
To me and my cousins, who were brought up in a large extended family of eight aunties and one uncle – he was our one and only Ah Koo.
People who are close to me know that writing, be it in public or private, remains my primary outlet – and I owe it all to him. I write this with a heavy heart. 2016 has been a year of many goodbyes, and this one is especially hard for me.
My love for reading was instilled by my mother, whereas my passion for writing was inspired by Ah Koo. In fact, I could easily attribute the existence of this blog to him. He used to keep us updated with a family newsletter, and would send handwritten postcards and letters to us from time to time, even at this age where everything could be typed and sent with a click of a button.
When I was little, he was the middle man between the exchange of letters that I had with my cousin where we would write chapters of extended stories from our favourite video game at that time. He would also nudge me to enter essay competitions, and helped published my first poem on the newspaper. He made me believe that writing was free and can be used to help inspire others.
Ah Koo was not only generous with the written word – his entire life is about giving. He is, by far, still one of the most generous people that I know. I always told others that if he had two of something, he would find two different people to share or give them away. A man of faith that God will provide all that he needed, he was equally passionate about passing it on.
Even though he has a cosy family of four of his own, he used to drive a van just so he could ferry the rest of his extended family (mostly us nieces and nephews) around to the zoo, for a swim, to the park and waterfalls whenever we visited. With the infamous “IDONTGOTO UNIVERSITY” (I once believed it was a real university in Japan) bumper sticker at the back of the windscreen, he was the fun and cool uncle who would greet us with the biggest bear hugs every single time.
As we got older, so did he. Our ‘fun and play’ sessions would soon evolve into life’s wisdom sharing sessions, sometimes borderline naggy, but most of the time profound. Even though I went to engineering school, eventually became an engineer and became far too busy just like every twenty-something working adult – he always found time to remind me to write. Sometimes they come in a form of a postcard. And sometimes, it would be the occasional request to publish one of my blog posts in the local papers.
And let me tell you this: when you’re all caught up in the daily grind, and you come home to a familiar handwriting on the back of a postcard in your mailbox – it brings you back to a place where everything is good.
In fact, just couple days ago, I was halfway writing a Christmas card to him and his family. Because Christmas has always been a special time for us all and being away from home does make one a little more sentimental. Every year, Ah Koo would always have an open house on Christmas for his family, neighbours and friends. It wasn’t restricted to Christians only, in fact, it is probably the most Malaysian Christmas one could get. It was the only time we would have turkey, followed by his famous delicious turkey porridge the next morning (he would always claim that the secret ingredient is that accidental drool while he was making the broth).
This year on, Christmas will be quite different for some of us.
Dear Ah Koo,
I’m sorry I couldn’t be back to see you this time. You have fought a long good fight, and you have run races that many would have given up on. And along the way, you also picked others up and extended love and grace to them. Not only have you kept the faith – you have also reminded us all to keep ours. And now, it’s time to rest and let us continue the run. Thank you, for your love, and for reminding me that all is possible with God, and my only limitation is myself.
Each time I write, I will think of you.
And yes, I’ll see you when I come home.