Uncle Lee came into my life in 1998. I was then studying in the normal stream in
Form One in a neighborhood school. Although derogatory labeled as a slow learner
by teachers and a non-achiever by relatives, I remained unconcerned. It suited
my indolent nature. "Let my overachieving
big sister garner all the laurels and praise," I thought.
Uncle came from Ipoh.
He was a lazy layabout like me and a luckless gambler. Auntie Mabel, his wife,
had divorced him. When Uncle came to live with us, we hit off famously. I
followed him as often as I could after school. He would
regale me with stories of his bravery during the Japanese
Occupation. Sometimes, he would talk of his gambling exploits. Uncle had no job,
and no steady sources of income except for his wins once in a while at mahjong
sessions. Whenever he won, we would fritter our time at McDonald's. Naturally,
my school grades deteriorated even further.
However on 31st December, 2012, I
received a telephone call which changed my life. I was about to retire to bed on
New Year's Eve when the phone rang harshly. It was from Uncle. He was gasping in
a drunken voice," Matthew.. I think I am dying... in Pearlee pub... come fetch
me... do... do not follow my way. " His voice trailed off brokenly. Heart
beating and cold with fear and panic, I informed my family. We rushed over to
Uncle's favorite pub but it was of no use. He was stone dead when we arrived.
Besides us, Uncle had no relatives or friends to mourn his passing. But I
remembered his parting words to me very vividly on the night of his funeral. I
reviewed my wasted life in the past... how I frittered my time away in unhealthy
and unproductive pleasures and pursuits. There and then, I decided to heed
Uncle's advice and he the man Uncle and my parents or teachers would be proud
of. I would not follow Uncle's ways.
From then on, my elders and friends
detected a marked change in my character. I applied myself faithfully to my
studies. In no time, I was promoted to the express stream and at the following
year's end, was commended as the most improved pupil. My parents also noted a
marked change in my discipline. I no longer frittered away my time after school.
I became an active Boys' Scout and also a youth leader at the local boys' club.
My neighbors remarked on my polite ways and I made new friends who were good
What gratified me most, however, were the happy looks of my
parents who praised me and my teachers who commended me. On the first
anniversary of my Uncle's death, I was chosen to give a speech. What I said
moved those present to tears. I commended Uncle for his generous ways and love
for me, but most of all, I noted that Uncle regretted his bad ways on his
deathbed and gave me the best present I ever had - his parting words of regret
and advice to me to mend my ways.