On the morning of 14 May, 11 Tzu Chi volunteers sat upon a boat at Changi Harbour, bidding farewell to the fellow friend of Tzu Chi. As the ashes and chrysanthemum flowers ebbed, so did the memories…
Mr Guan lived in the southern part of Singapore and rarely had visitors. In July 2009, he was placed under the assistance of Tzu Chi Singapore’s medical scheme due to his inability to afford the medicine for his HIV condition.
A Tzu Chi volunteer described his experience when he first stepped into the Mr Guan’s house. It was barren, with completely no furniture or any décor. If not for the clothes hanging on the wall, one might have mistakenly assumed there was no one living there. Despite being ill to the bone, Mr Guan still bravely opened the door, letting the volunteers, who were strangers to him, in. This required a lot of courage and it was this courage that he possessed that led him to take his first step.
The Tzu Chi volunteers assisted him not only with his medical fees, but also with his daily life as well as emotional well-being. Every month, when the volunteers came, they would chat and ask how he was doing. This sincerity deeply touched the care recipient.
Although Mr Guan did not have any possessions, he was contented, and rejected the volunteers’ suggestions to help add some furniture into his bare house. Later though, upon the discovery that he was ill with other symptoms, volunteer Brother Ni advised him not to sleep on the floor as it would be bad for his health. Only then did he accept the volunteers’ help in adding a simple mattress and bedding.
With the encouragement from another volunteer, Mr Guan took part in Tzu Chi’s community recycling activity and could be seen at the monthly recycling sorting event. He would carefully put the bottles in the right categories, even correcting new volunteers when they accidentally misplaced the bottles in the wrong places. Because of his keen observation skills, the volunteers praised him and quipped that he was akin to a “Supervisor”.
Mr Guan was a quiet man, and he constantly apologized for it. In May 2010, he surprised the volunteers when he agreed to participate in the sign language performance for the care recipients’ befriending session. Not only that, the volunteers were glad to see him participating with passion, taking up new responsibilities, and even giving encouragements to the other group members.
“It doesn’t matter if the performance is not good. What matters is that we can show what we feel.” Several of the performers even practiced after the monthly recycling activities, and in addition to that, met up three times on their own to rehearse. This led to a deep camaraderie between Mr Guan and the fellow care recipients and volunteers.
In early 2011, because of a change in the government’s healthcare policies, Mr Guan’s medical cost was fully subsidized by the government and he was switched to our care scheme up until February that same year.
Although he was no longer under our care since then, the volunteers would still call him up regularly and ask how he was doing. To give the volunteers peace of mind, he promised to take good care of himself and continued to participate in the monthly recycling activities. He once shared with the volunteers that it was all because of the love and encouragement he received from Tzu Chi that he was able to change his ways and give back to society.
In February 2012, Mr Guan was hospitalized due to progression of cancer. When the volunteers called to ask how he was doing, he told them not to worry and that he was fine. In May, a few days before the prayer ceremony event, our social work officer Sister Karen Lim received a call from the hospital, notifying her that Mr Guan was not doing well and he had wishes for his funeral to be done in a simple manner.
A few days later, the former Tzu Chi care recipient passed away peacefully in the morning of 12 May. The hospital called and asked if Tzu Chi could take care of his funeral proceedings. Such is the fate between him and Tzu Chi, so Sister Lim notified the charity team leaders and volunteers in charge of the South Zone to carry out the proceedings together.
The volunteers in South Zone all expressed their desire to send off Mr Guan. Following the organizing of the prayer ceremony, on 14 May at 10am, Sister Hsu Hsueh Yu, Sister Karen Lim and nine other volunteers took a boat to the waters at Changi Harbour and sent off Mr Guan.
We remember Mr Guan, aged 66, who although was under our care, still educated us in many ways. The volunteers saw courage and optimism from the way he dealt with life, and albeit his illness, he continued to volunteer his time, forging many strong bonds in the process, just as the saying goes, “You reap what you sow”.
You will be missed, Mr Guan.