We are all liv­ing on bor­rowed time; ev­ery wak­ing hour is a chance for us to do good and make the best of it

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

THE deaths of three peo­ple in the past two weeks brought into per­spec­tive how frag­ile life is. Jo­hore­ans were shocked to hear of 11-year-old Mo­hamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gadaffi’s death after he en­dured weeks of pain when his legs were am­pu­tated after he was al­legedly beaten with a rub­ber hose by an as­sis­tant war­den at a reli­gious board­ing school.

Cov­er­ing his story was a heartwrench­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Thaqif’s mother, Felda Wani Ah­mad, 40, kept vigil at the high de­pen­dency ward at Sul­tan Is­mail Hos­pi­tal for many weeks.

Felda was at her son’s side when he died on April 26. She never got to see her son re­gain con­scious­ness after the boy’s legs were am­pu­tated to pre­vent an in­fec­tion from spread­ing to his kid­neys. Thaqif died on the same day doc­tors were sched­uled to am­pu­tate his right hand.

Thaqif’s fa­ther, Mohd Gadaffi Mat Karim, and the boy’s grand­fa­ther, Ah­mad Mo­tai, were dev­as­tated. Ah­mad was the most af­fected as he was very close to Thaqif since his in­fancy.

As tears flowed, Ah­mad re­lated his grand­son’s en­thu­si­asm when he started study­ing the Qu­ran at the tah­fiz in Kota Tinggi.

It was, how­ever, dis­tress­ing for Ah­mad to see Thaqif ’s change of heart after two months at the school. The boy wanted to trans­fer to an­other school, but no one in the fam­ily knew why.

It was only later that it be­came known that Thaqif had been sub­jected to abuse, which he de­tailed in his di­ary.

“My other grand­child found the di­ary when they were clean­ing the house. I can’t bring my­self to read it as it would make me miss Thaqif more,” said Ah­mad, who was over­come with emo­tion when met at his home.

Po­lice have taken state­ments from all the peo­ple linked to the case, in­clud­ing Thaqif, who had been in­ter­viewed by po­lice of­fi­cers upon be­ing warded at Sul­tan Is­mail Hos­pi­tal.

The two other deaths in Jo­hor were peo­ple whom I had the priv­i­lege to work with.

One was late jour­nal­ist Dan Guen Chin, whom I first met dur­ing my stint in Jo­hor nine years ago. Al­though his beat was sports, he was a reg­u­lar at other as­sign­ments.

A great writer and a sharp news­man, Dan was a sea­soned jour­nal­ist who was known for his hard-hit­ting ques­tions, loud voice and jovial laugh.

Like most old-school journalists, he knew how to cap­ture the heart and soul of any­one he in­ter­viewed, re­gard­less of whether he was talk­ing to an ath­lete,

in the kam­pung or the prime min­is­ter.

It was a shock when we heard last year that Dan suf­fered from stomach can­cer. We knew some­thing was not right when­ever his wife, Angie, greeted us at the ward while hold­ing back tears.

Dan’s son, Jeremy, took turns with his mother to take care of Dan at the hos­pi­tal. Jeremy took over his fa­ther’s hand­phone, and kept friends and col­leagues updated on Dan’s con­di­tion.

I will not for­get the last time I met him at his house in Ta­man Per­ling, Jo­hor Baru, a few months ago. Be­ing his jovial self, he wel­comed vis­i­tors with a wide smile and warm hug.

“If my fam­ily weren’t around, I’d prob­a­bly die,” he said frankly when talk­ing about chemo­ther­apy and the strug­gles he went through when­ever the pain was too much to bear.

Dan died on Tues­day after be­ing in crit­i­cal con­di­tion for the past two weeks. He was 64.

An­other death last week was of a friend, Mo­ham­mad Fir­daus Ab­dul Hamid, who was a public re­la­tions of­fi­cer at the Jo­hor Baru City Coun­cil. His death, be­lieved to be due to can­cer, was kept a se­cret.

Some re­porters in Jo­hor heard about his death and asked around for con­fir­ma­tion. No­body knew ex­cept for a few of his close friends that Fir­daus was bat­tling an ill­ness alone.

“He never wanted to trou­ble any­one. He did not want any­one to worry,” said one of his friends.

Fir­daus, who was only 38, was much loved by his large fam­ily, re­porters, col­leagues and any­one who met him due to his friendly de­meanour.

The deaths of these three peo­ple are not re­lated in any way, but their pass­ing serves as a re­minder of how pre­cious life is. Ev­ery wak­ing hour is a chance for each of us to do good. Each day we spend with our fam­ily, friends and ac­quain­tances are memories that we will cher­ish for a life­time.

May their souls rest in peace.

The writer is NST Jo­hor bureau chief. When not work­ing, he loves driv­ing along the coastal high­way and trunk roads of Jo­hor. A lover of food, mu­sic and the­atre, he rec­om­mends ev­ery­one to try Jo­hor’s ver­sion of 'ais ka­cang', which is drenched in choco­late sauce

The deaths of three peo­ple in Jo­hor in the past two weeks have brought home how frag­ile life is. May their souls rest in peace.

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