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Friday, 30 December 2016 00:00

Walking the Tzu Chi Path till the Final Breath

Written by  Low Siew Lian, Melaka / Translated by Goh Hwe Yong

How Yong was always composed and kept a low profile. People in contact with him always felt the warmth of his personality. [Photograph by Chin Fook Kuen]

How Yong Soon Pang spent most of his life in the building industry. Upon his retirement, he ran a small hotel business. He had been a Tzu Chi volunteer for over 16 years. When he became a certified Tzu Chi volunteer in 2007, he was given the Dharma name of Ji Shun (濟舜). His composed and humble nature gave joy to the many he cared for.


The clock stopped on December 18, 2016 for How Yong Soon Pang. Having received the red packet of blessings given to each and every Tzu Chi volunteer by Master Cheng Yen on the evening of December 17, he felt an urge to visit the Tzu Chi Melaka premises the following day; and he did. That very day, the annual Year-end Blessing event for public members was held on the premises. He joined the Traffic Control Team to direct traffic flow, and smiled and waved happily to the familiar faces he saw.

In the evening, after the end of the last session of the event, he returned the traffic baton after completing his duty. Suddenly he collapsed and fell onto the ground. In a chaos, an ambulance was called and he was transported to the emergency department, accompanied by Volunteer Tai Piang Boon. Sadly, How Yong passed away. Piang Boon remained in the hospital till 2 am, in order to accompany family members of the deceased.

Seventy-seven-year-old How Yong had contributed as a volunteer to his last breath. His demise was an alarming reminder to the rest of Tzu Chi volunteers that life is impermanent, just like a morning dewdrop, the last breath out is certain, but we never know when will be the last breath in.

Caring for others like his own family

“No hurry, go slow…..” such were words he habitually uttered. Back in 2012, he and some other Tzu Chi volunteers were busily running around government offices, trying to get an official OKU Card (identification document issued to people with disabilities) for a care recipient, Chong Leng Kong. With such a card, the care recipient is entitled to social welfare aid from the government department concerned.

However, due to certain technical errors, the application for the Card was not smooth sailing. For a few days in a row, How Yong kept his patience going through all necessary procedures in meeting technical requirements together with Leng Kong, who was wheelchair-bound and required to appear in person during the procedure. It was quite a huge task for How Yong to load and unload Leng Kong’s wheelchair onto/from his car, yet there was not a word of complaint. Finally, the application came through and How Yong was very happy.

“Brother How Yong was a slow speaker, always thinking before he spoke; but when he was entrusted with a task, he would accept it without demur and did his best to complete it,” said Wong Sock Cheng, a social worker with Tzu Chi. This could be reflected in the above case, where he had faced and overcome all challenges by himself without troubling anyone at all.

Leng Kong had a spinal problem that affected his nerves. He underwent a spinal surgery in the hope of some improvement. However, to the contrary, he became wheelchair-bound. When volunteers conducted a home visit on Leng Kong in 2011, they found a 35-year-old physically-challenged man living alone in a small room of a double-storey wooden house. How Yong and other volunteers regularly visited him with care and tender love. He reminded Leng Kong of his kind grandpa, who had loved him so much as a boy of less than five years old.

Leng Kong informed, “My sleeping hours were abnormal, in terms of day and night. Once, Uncle How Yong waited at the door for more than an hour because I did not get up. He was worried about my health, and urged me to sleep early.”

Once, the Public Works Department carried out road works to widen the road in front of Leng Kong’s house. As a result of digging, lots of potholes and debris were left behind. It constrained his movements on a wheelchair. When How Yong came and noticed the situation, he returned that same evening with the necessary equipment to clear the debris.

Great attention paid on home visit findings

As Tan Min Hua, a certified Tzu Chi Commissioner, listened to Leng Kong’s tearful account of his encounter with How Yong, she voiced in agreement too, for she was one of the volunteers who visited Leng Kong on that occasion. She said that before she could put her thoughts into action to clear up the debris, How Yong had already taken the initiative.

She recounted that in her early days as a Tzu Chi volunteer, she was led by How Yong in recycling work and home visits. The pair had a father-and-daughter kind of relationship. He was always guiding and encouraging Min Hua, making sure that she was able to solve her puzzles and hitches.

Min Hua chokingly said, “He walked the Tzu Chi path till the last moment. I will continue in the same spirit, lead new volunteers by example, and be fully committed without hesitation.”

How Yong was also well-remembered by another volunteer, Tan Kok Wei. To Kok Wei, How Yong was a loving senior volunteer, who never had any airs, and was one who paid attention to details while carrying out home visits. He had taught him all the dos and don’ts about home visits, the need to jolt down notes about each visit, the mannerism in talking to people from other cultures, and to speak simply.

Kok Wei related, “He would ask me to stay back in his house after a home visit, so that he could guide me in writing a report on the home visit. He would remind me time and time again that such reporting should be clear and precise in order to become a record of any relevant event.” He also taught Kok Wei that charity was the root of Tzu Chi, and that it was important to ensure this philosophy was well kept. Kok Wei knew very well that without How Yong by his side, he has to be even stronger to shoulder more responsibilities.

Well remembered by one and all

Yet another fellow volunteer, also brother-in-law of How Yong, was Chu Pak Meng. He was introduced to become a volunteer by How Yong. He recounted that How Yong frequently talked about recycling as a mission in environmental protection.

Pak Meng, How Yong and fellow volunteer, Ng Chee Cheng, were buddies. The trio were good at doing construction and repairing of buildings since they were in that line. They were never reluctant to provide their professional skills where Tzu Chi was concerned. In fact, Tzu Chi was their second home. They were on duty at Tzu Chi recycling centre three days a week. To help others was what originally attracted them to join Tzu Chi, and in so doing, they felt great joy in serving, which became the motivating force for them to serve in any way without reservation.

In the early years, How Yong used to drive his new car around to collect recyclables from 13 blocks of apartment buildings. His car was always fully loaded with recyclables collected. Whenever he went to the Tzu Chi Air Keroh Recycling-cum-Educational Centre, he would look for specific task to take on. If there was a need, he would guide new hands on sorting recyclables, otherwise he would get down to work at the dismantling section, where he would dismantle home appliances for iron, steel and plastic parts.

At 82 years old, Granny Chan Ah Moi and a few others in their 80s, have been doing recycling work for seven years. All through these years, it was How Yong who ferried them three times a week to and fro. Whenever he could not get Granny Chan through the phone, he would definitely go up to her unit to ensure she was alright.

The demise of How Yong was so unexpected that Granny Chan was still too sad to speak about him two weeks later. Her remark about How Yong was: “He was gentle and good to everyone he knew, but he was never a chatterbox…”

Gratitude from family members

On December 19, the second day of his wake, more than 200 Tzu Chi volunteers offered a chanting service; and on December 23, the hearse headed to Tzu Chi Melaka premises to allow the late How Yong a final visit before his burial. Then on December 30, a memorial service was held at the recycling centre in honour of the deceased. More than 30 family members and a hundred volunteers were present at the service, including Min Hua, who fetched Leng Kong to the service.

How Yong’s daughters, Fong Yee, Fong Quin and Fong Leng went on stage to express that they would emulate their late father. They thanked Tzu Chi for holding the memorial service, from which they learnt so much more about the good deeds their father had done, and the good example he left behind. Fong Quin said that Tzu Chi had added meaning and value to her late father’s retirement life.

Fong Leng said that after she started a vegetarian eatery, her father would come with her mother to help out on the first and fifteenth day of each Lunar month. Such occasions provided the father and daughter many intimate moments. When she launched a charity sale of vegetarian food, he gave her great encouragement by pointing out that that was a correct way of giving according to Buddhist teaching of “dana”.

Zealously walking the Tzu Chi path, How Yong added much colour and meaning to his retirement life. He did his best till the last, and departed peacefully in his Tzu Cheng uniform, which he took pride in. The bereaved family also donated a sum to Tzu Chi for his karmic merits.

 

Chu Pak Meng, as How Yong’s brother-in-law, joined Tzu Chi as a volunteer due to How Yong. They were like real brothers to each other. [Photograph by Chua Fook Yuan]   How Yong (back row, 4th right) and Tan Min Hua (2nd left, grey shirt) paid regular visits on Chong Leng Kong (front row, black shirt). This picture was taken after the 2013 New Year reunion held in Leng Kong’s house. [Photograph by Chong Siaw Pen]

Chu Pak Meng, as How Yong’s brother-in-law, joined Tzu Chi as a volunteer due to How Yong. They were like real brothers to each other. [Photograph by Chua Fook Yuan]
 
How Yong (back row, 4th right) and Tan Min Hua (2nd left, grey shirt) paid regular visits on Chong Leng Kong (front row, black shirt). This picture was taken after the 2013 New Year reunion held in Leng Kong’s house. [Photograph by Chong Siaw Pen]
 
More than 200 Tzu Chi volunteers attended the chanting session for the karmic merits of How Yong. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]   The demise of How Yong was a great loss to 82-year-old Granny Chan Ah Moi, whom How Yong had been fetching to and fro for recycling for seven long years. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]

More than 200 Tzu Chi volunteers attended the chanting session for the karmic merits of How Yong. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]
 
 
The demise of How Yong was a great loss to 82-year-old Granny Chan Ah Moi, whom How Yong had been fetching to and fro for recycling for seven long years. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]
 
How Yong’s hearse made a special detour to the Tzu Chi Melaka premises to bid his last farewell. A deep bow of respect was made in tribute of his good work as a Tzu Chi volunteer. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]   At the memorial service for How Yong Soon Pang, his daughters, Fong Yee, Fong Quin and Fong Leng, said that they would emulate their late father. They felt thankful that Tzu Chi held the service. [Photograph by Choo Tee Seng]

How Yong’s hearse made a special detour to the Tzu Chi Melaka premises to bid his last farewell. A deep bow of respect was made in tribute of his good work as a Tzu Chi volunteer. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]
 
 
At the memorial service for How Yong Soon Pang, his daughters, Fong Yee, Fong Quin and Fong Leng, said that they would emulate their late father. They felt thankful that Tzu Chi held the service. [Photograph by Choo Tee Seng]
 
Tan Min Hua and Chong Leng Kong, a volunteer and a care recipient respectively, spoke in memory of How Yong. [Photograph by Choo Tee Seng]  

Tan Min Hua and Chong Leng Kong, a volunteer and a care recipient respectively, spoke in memory of How Yong. [Photograph by Choo Tee Seng]