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