The fragility of life


The Class of 1967 of St Thomas’ Secondary School.

I LEARNT this week that another classmate of mine has left us to be with the Lord. He was in the same year and class with me at St Thomas’ Secondary in 1967; he had left to join the police force and then to study law; at the time of his untimely demise he was practising law in Miri.

We are both 68. Once we reach this age we are reminded of the good book’s quotation in Psalms 90, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

Shakespeare even used it in Macbeth in 1605.

‘Threescore and ten’ is the nominal span of a human life; in olden days this expression was considered to mean 70 years.

I am feeling the fragility of life as we know it. In the past few years, I have lost eight of my 29 classmates from my secondary school years. The earliest of these had occurred in the 1980s to a very close friend, who had become a doctor in Scotland. He died in a tragic accident.

I belong to the class of ‘almost gone’ but managed to stay back for a few more years (?) – those who have had serious health scares and had to contend with medical procedures and treatments. There are quite a number of us in this special class of mine.

Those who are in my class now look at life through different points of views. Firstly, we are grateful for having been given a second (or even a third) chance in life; and to look at life from newly-gained perspectives. It would be a great pity if we don’t and we continue to live it the way we had, not making changes for the better.

In my personal opinion, I’ve always had this view that our lives (and deaths) are determined by three major factors – our genes, our lifestyles and of course the unforeseeable – by accidents.

Genes we are born with; it’s true to a certain degree if you actually study the folks who have lived to a ripe old age – usually their forebears and ancestors also did. There’s nothing we can do about this biological fate.

Accidents too are totally way out of the field – there is no way and no one but God knows what may and can happen to anyone – that’s why they are called accidents.

There’s only one factor we have any control over – our lifestyle. This is one vital statistic that will determine if we can live a long, fruitful, and enjoyable life, bar the genetic and accident factors.

Yet many of us have still decided to live dangerously – preferring a lifestyle which can be highly disastrous and not conducive to health and happiness.

The major red-light districts of the dangerous lifestyle include the usual vices of smoking, drinking, gambling, and more. If these are coupled with spending late nights out, gallivanting, hyper-socialising, and being a workaholic to boot, you’re simply asking for it. At the end of it all, you can have all the money in the world to spend on yourself and your loved ones; but you won’t have enough money to buy back what you have lost along the way acquiring it – your own personal wellbeing and health.

We decide for ourselves what sort of life we want to lead as well as what plans we have for our family – to see our children through their education, finish a good higher education, and get a decent enough job and that they grow up, mature and have their own families.

I am a great believer of letting them go – once your children reach 21 and are of maturity, let them go, they have their own lives to live. By then if you have been a good parent, they will care for you both and ensure continued close family ties.

As for ourselves, once we reach a certain age, be it 55, 65, or whatever; you may decide to retire and enjoy the rest of your life.

As for me, I am one of many who decided not to retire as I have my own business and I still keep active with selected projects as well as my writing. I believe that a full retirement will be boring and could probably in my case, bore me to death.

Stay interested in other people besides your own immediate family; keep socially active within your own circle of friends, families and associates. Try and find some interest in hobbies that you can mutually share in or keep active – there are many – the gym, hiking, line-dancing, tai chi, cooking, dancing, and for the men, gardening, fishing; for both if you can afford it travel as much as you can while still mobile. Once immobility or weakened limbs and legs set in, you will find it difficult.

Now is the time to spend your life’s savings; in most families I know, their children are not that eager to inherit their parents’ wealth, if they are still making their own, and they would prefer most that if you are still able to – go enjoy the twilight years of your lives; because sooner or later the time will come when they, your children, will have to become your caretakers – whether they like it or not.

This year marks the 50th year of my class leaving school in 1969; and we hope very much that we’ll be able to get together for a small celebration sometime later in the year. Because with life being so fragile we never know whom we’ll never ever meet again in this life.

The Class of 2018 with Kuching North Datuk Bandar Datuk Abang Wahab Abang Julai (seated left) and Kuching South mayor Datuk James Chan (seated right).