Sunday, March 17, 2013

RIP Winston Koh

2 days ago while I was busy working, my cousin asked me if I knew that Winston passed away in a diving mishap in Malaysia. Apparently, Singapore Management University (where Winston was working a Professor) sent an email informing the students about his demise.

I was shocked and sad. Winston was a living such a full life that I am always interested to see the FB updates from him. Below was his last post on FB:

It was his first diving trip (open-water course certification). Later, I learnt that somehow Winston was lost in the water and his body was found 4 days later in the water. I was perplexed and angry, especially as a diver I know that diving is very safe. What were his dive buddy and instructor doing? Winston was an Ironman (extremely fit & strong swimmer), so what exactly happened? For open-water course, the diving depth is normally 12m deep (4 storeys), if there was any emergency, it is easy to surface to the water. It really sadden me to imagine Winston last few moments in the water.

Above is the picture taken back in 2009 when we went to Desaru (Malaysia) for a cycling trip as part of our triathlon training. That was the first time I met Winston, who humbly introduced himself as someone who teaches.

In fact, Winston was an over-achiever.  He was Singapore Management University Professor, Princeton Phd & MA, Cambridge MA & Bachelor, Ex-JP Morgan Investment Banker, Ironman, Ultra marathoner, adventure racer, Photographer, Ballroom dancer & avid traveller.

Despite his achievement, he was still very nice and humble. That is rare.

Last year, I shared with him that I decided to follow doctor's advice to stop training for triathlon.
Winston said that if he had followed his doctor advice, he won't be doing anything. 

He had the passion to live fully and try new ventures.
He departed too early and suddenly.

A lesson and reminder to live fully too.
The Impermanence of Life

He had inspired many people to live a full life. 

RIP Winston.

FB Memorial:
A video uploaded by Winston:



Yesterday, I attended the Memorial Service of Winston (in my 70.3 ironman finisher outfit - the race that he took part also). When I saw the number of people attending his memorial service, even though I was sad about his demise, I was also happy that he lived such a full life and inspired so many people.

There were a lot of sharing about Winston's life during the Eulogies. I always assumed that Winston came from a privileged background (he lived in Bt Timah, drove a Mercedes, studied at Cambridge & Princeton), but in fact, he came from a humble background - both his parents are uneducated, and his father was the sole breadwinner working as odd job labourer. Winston studied hard in Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong JC to earn his PSC scholarship to study in Cambridge University.

Then, it dawned on me why he was so humble and modest. Against many odds, he worked his way up and lived a life that many people could only imagine. That's inspirational.
Goodbye Winston, it is my privilege to know you.

"But what is a good life anyway? To some people, it is about achieving fame and fortune; to others, attaining power and control, or to see the world and accumulate new experiences, etc. I have come to the conclusion that in the end, what we will remember of a person's life is usually not about how rich, powerful or popular they once were, but what they mean to us in our thoughts and memories, and if they have made a difference to the lives of the people around them, whether it is a life-long friendship or a flitting encounter. Kindness, compassion, sincerity and moral courage are some of the qualities that matter in the longrun and which we will remember in a person."
Random Thoughts On My Birthday
Winston Koh, 18 February 2009

RIP Uncle (Ah-Q)

On 20th Jan 13, I was transiting in Doha Airport for my flight from Rome to Singapore. I saw my cousin posted a note on FB about the death of my uncle. I was shocked and found out that my uncle died of old age related complications. He was in his early 80s.

A few months ago, he had TB and we were advised not to visit him as it was contagious. He recovered from it, and I thought that everything was fine. Nobody told me that his health was extremely weak and he was hospitalized for some time.

Sadness overwhelmed me and I started to cry in the airport. I knew he lived a very good life, but I was sad because I did not have the opportunity to thank him for all his kindness and generosity over the years.

Back in Singapore, my aunt told me to prepare a eulogy, and I was in tears again when I started writing and thinking about my uncle.

Since I was very young, my mother told my siblings and me that Ah-Q was very good to my family. She reminded us that we need to be grateful. Ah-Q knew that my family’s financial situation wasn’t very good (when I was young), so during Chinese New Year, he would always give my siblings and me additional red packet (with quite a decent sum of money). He also told my mother to look for him if we needed any financial help.

He was a very thrifty person, but towards his family, he was a very generous. He embodied the good Chinese values where family and kinship is the most important thing in life. In the early years, there were as much as 17 extended family members (including my mother) staying at his little shophouse. As the big brother, he took care of the bill and fed everybody.  He was selfless and really cared about the younger siblings and cousins.

He was the pillar in the extended family. Everybody has received kindness and help from him. At the wake, there was an out-pour of grief and sadness. Everyone was reflecting how great a person he was.

I was thinking: How many of us could be like him? Not many, especially in this modern individualistic society, where personal gain is more important than anything else.

 I was also reflecting what would the best way to remember him.

 Using him as a role model and remember the values that he embodied. There is no way I could repay his kindness and generosity now, but paying it forward. 

At the end of the day, it's the kindness and love that matters.
A reminder for myself. 

Thank you Ah-Q for your kindness.
I will always be grateful.
May you rest in peace. _/\_