Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Bag of Prunes

"A bag of prunes is surely going to cure his misery," I assured myself as I collected the change and headed towards the hotel. Before going to bed, I texted him goodnight, "Rasanya seperti apa? Aku beliin asem2 dan asinan dari Singapur. Besok ketemu di Vermont ya." (How do you feel? I've bought some pickles for you from Singapore. We'll see each other in Vermont tomorrow). But he left, before tomorrow came.



Prunes are what I'd like to remember him by. On the first day of mourning, friends, family and colleagues paid a visit to Vermont, an address that he shared with his wife and two Siberian huskies. If there is one thing we could all agree on was that my Opa was an accomplished man. 

Within 82 years, he built a thriving business, established the pharmaceutical arm of the Indonesian army, and created a medical school Palembang. Friends confirmed his love for bridge, the army and golf. He made for a loving and spirited husband, father, and Opa. But most knew him as an icon. 

Personally, I see him as a man defined by simple wants and needs. He love building factories, shopping for machinery and receiving sales figures. But, I mostly saw him happiest when his football team, Manchester United, won a match. He was chronically popped Pagoda, a menthol. He hid his tablet from Oma so he could resort to playing with stocks. He spent evenings sitting around the living room, eating snacks, namely pickled fruits, such as the prunes I had bought him. 

I'd like to remember him as an approachable man, instead of the icon he had become.
Knowing that he would not be wooed by a flashy watch or a snazzy wallet, I brought home Scrabble chocolate after a year of studying abroad. The Scrabble aimed to cheer him up and the chocolate satisfied Oma's penchant for sweets. That was less than a week ago and that box of Scrabble chocolate has become lost, untouched, and unplayed in the wake of his death. 

Even in the most mundane moments in his life, Opa set by example. Here are three things he has taught me in the past twenty years. 

1. Idealism. 
2. Straightforward. 
3. Appreciate. 

Opa would not have been the icon that he is today without his love for Indonesia, a country that experienced a scarce supply of medication. Despite his heritage and his upbringing, he was strongly planted to the Indonesian soil, the tanah air. The word “Deserting” never existed in his vocabulary. He loyally stood by his country through tough times, deciding to continue building capacity and innovating during difficult times.

Second, be straightforward. Opa always struggled with being straightforward. But he learned, slowly that being honest with others and yourself, as well as voicing out your thoughts, wants, and needs are often necessary in life. Even if it means complaining, especially about my penchant for writing complicated articles. 

He was an appreciative man. His eyes light up the brightest when he speaks of his colleagues in Dexa, a company he founded over forty years ago. Believe me when I say that he smiles the widest when he talks about those who ensure that vital medication is available as many Indonesians as possible. And believe me when I say that he appreciates each one of you here today. Perhaps, that is the very thing that made him hold on to life as long as he did. 

As I write the ending to this piece, I can't help but recount one of his last complaints. Keep it simple and straightforward. Don't twist and turn when writing, which often happens when I am left without a conclusion. 

But, like most epic tales, his is without an ending. There are no conclusions to be made other than that life needs to go on. Opa, our Opa has left us. And though he is no longer here to ask Dexa, Fonko, Beta, Argon, or Ferron’s progress, he has left us with the treasure to live and provide life for so many more people. 

Put simply, a big tree has fallen, but has left strong roots.


Written August 1, 2015

Delivered as a eulogy by on August 2, 2015

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