9 Apr 2010

Farewell my friend

Sharon Saw reminisces about her long-time friend who had recently passed away and fortunately for Buddhism, she is able to offer him something more substantial than tears and regrets.

Last Tuesday, I was woken up by a phone call from an old friend, Michelle. She asked me if I heard what happened to our mutual friend, Hock. I had no clue. And that was when the nightmare began. He had been missing since last Monday. I smsed one of my oldest friends to ask what it was about. She was away in Germany but said that Hock had gone missing.

Later that day, it was confirmed that Hock's body was found and it was probably homicide. The rest of the day was spent fielding phone calls from friends and acquaintances, all asking about Hock. Some were just busybodies who wanted the inside scoop and I personally wanted to slap them. Hock died under the worst circumstances and all they wanted to know was – was he gay? Was it a crime of passion? The newspapers also had a field day. How macabre to use someone's death just for gossip.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

Anyway, I couldn't believe it. Hock was my neighbour in Penang but I only really got to know him in London. There were a group of us, mostly from Penang, who hung out together. I was the youngest and only joined them during weekends when I could steal away from my boarding school. Then we would have weekends of no sleep and plenty of madness. All legal though. We didn't do drugs though we did attempt to drink ourselves into oblivion and succeeded often. We'd rent cars for the weekend and go racing up and down Park Lane. Those were the days of Hippodrome and sometimes Stringfellows. Shopping in Bond Street and South Molton Street. Discovering Michiko Koshino and Issey Miyake. And Ixis in St. Christopher's Place.

We were young and restless. I revelled in it. My parents had an apartment in Marble Arch but I never went there if I could help it. I would come straight from school to the safe, friendly arms of Lancaster Close, where my friends lived. On the weekend, we'd meet up with Hock and others to eat in our favourite hangouts in Queensway. And after a weekend of partying, one of my friends would often call my school to tell them I was ill and could I only return a few days later. Those were the Halcyon days.

That was a couple of decades ago. Over the years, we went our separate ways, even to separate countries. One lives in Hong Kong, another in Jakarta. Of course we'd meet up now and then and reminisce over the old times. I kept close to a few who lived nearby.

Hock – I hardly saw though we had caught up now and then. He was building his dream house in Bangsar in KL, complete with pool and lifts! And he was building this house for his mother so she could come and live with him. He was that kind of guy. We said we'd catch up soon. After all we'd almost be neighbours – again.

Famous last words. We were supposed to have another reunion last year but I was just too busy and never found the time.

So Hock has left.

I remember him as someone completely mad. If there was a choice over two evils, he'd always try the one he hadn't tried before. He was always one for a laugh. A die-hard Peter Pan who never grew up and an irrepressible prankster. We got him back a few times though.

Of course, aside from being this joker, he was an incredibly intelligent and talented guy – qualified as an engineer and chartered accountant, he was considered a financial wizard who had authored books and also wrote for a column for our national newspaper, 'Hock's Viewpoint'. Despite his success, he would talk to anyone from any walks of life. He loved to travel and wherever he went, he would want to get to know the locals and how they lived.

When I first heard of his untimely death, I wept. I wept for the old days. I wept for the times I was looking forward to catching up with him but never did. We always think there's plenty of time, then time passes. I forgot our mortality. Impermanence indeed.

Thank Buddha for being in Buddhism now, for I managed to pull myself out of the trough I was wallowing in. Fortunately for Buddhism, I can offer Hock something more substantial than tears and regrets, which would not benefit him one iota. Thank goodness for H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's Dharma teachings and letting me have the opportunity to do Dharma work, so that I can dedicate my daily merits to his good rebirth and benefit him in the long term.

Last Friday, our London group got together to celebrate Hock. It was nice because no tears were shed. Instead we drank to Hock and his effervescent life. I'm sure he is wandering around somewhere, playing practical jokes on the dakas and dakinis. Hock was an agnostic (well, Hock, at least now you know for sure whether God exists!) though we did have some good conversations about Buddhism, which I think he identified with the most out of all the religions. He was by no means religious, except about having fun. And whether he was gay or not – what the hell does it matter to anyone now.

Wherever you are, Hock, you're missed. I'm praying for you. May you have a swift and good rebirth.

Sharon Saw is a writer / editor at Kechara Media & Publications, which focuses on publishing the teachings of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a high incarnate Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A selection of Buddhist and non-Buddhist related books from Kechara Publications is now available on Fridae Shop. You can follow Sharon on Twitter. This column will appear every other Friday.