Tuesday, Oct 24th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 26 February 2017 00:00

A Changed Person

Written by  Low Siew Lian, Melaka / Translated by Ong Yoke Ching

Tay Kim Wee is seen here segregating recyclables during an activity to promote environmental protection at the Oriental Melaka Straits Medical Centre. [Photograph by Chong Fook Lin]

When Tay Kim Wee first came to the recycling centre, there was always a distance between him and the volunteers. After his two years of volunteering at the recycling centre, volunteers gradually changed their perceptions towards him and the distance between them started to close.


Back in 2011 when Tzu Chi Abadi Recycling Centre in Malim just started operation, volunteers always encouraged one of the members, Tan Cheow Lan, to invite her husband, Tay Kim Wee, to join in recycling. However, her reply was always: “My husband is very stubborn and stingy. He will not come to serve as a volunteer.”

However, Kim Wee later revealed that back then, Cheow Lan would always share with him about Tzu Chi upon her return from the recycling centre in the afternoon, and he would always reject her invitation to volunteer with Tzu Chi with the excuse that he had too many house chores to handle.

The first step to change

When Cheow Lan had a relapse of ovarian cancer and was unable to volunteer at the recycling centre, volunteers would frequently visit her and catch up with her after recycling activities. Knowing that she was looking forward to getting involved in Tzu Chi’s activities again, they would bring her mooncakes and rice dumplings made at Tzu Chi premises during special festivals, to cheer her up.

Initially, Kim Wee was cold towards the volunteers on their visits, and would at most greet them with a brief “Sisters.” It was only after volunteers’ persistent visit on a weekly basis for more than a year that he gradually talked to them and shared about how he took care of his wife’s daily needs, and bits and pieces of life.

On November 5, 2014, Cheow Lan lost her battle against cancer and passed away. As their only daughter has formed a family of her own in Singapore, Kim Wee was left to live alone after his wife’s demise. Life became dull as the man in his 80s, who had been living with his wife and taking care of her wholeheartedly in the past 48 years, was not a sociable person and was not fond of travelling. His only mode of transport was a bicycle.

Seeing that he was always home alone, volunteers encouraged him to go to the recycling centre once a week. They told him that it could be a form of exercise, and that he would not feel lonely with fellow volunteers to chit-chat with.

Kim Wee was a framer until his retirement at age 75. He then concentrated on caring for his wife. As such, and as he was still healthy, he saw no reason why he should not volunteer at the centre, which is near his house. He could cycle to the centre and help in recyclable sorting, thereby relaxing his muscles.

Thus, two months after his wife’s demise, he finally went to help out at the recycling centre. The volunteers were pleasantly surprised to see him there.

Exercising while giving

Every Monday morning at around 8 o’clock, the field in Taman Abadi would be full of life with ongoing Taichi session, and a group of women practising line dance in the community hall nearby. Between the Taichi training spot and the community hall is a small storeroom, used to store some tables, chairs, and so on, belonging to the community hall. At volunteers’ request, the Residents’ Association had allocated some space for the volunteers to set up a small recycling centre, making it another spot for exercising and contributing to society through recycling.

Kim Wee has taken over his late wife’s role of opening and closing the door of the recycling centre. On each occasion, about seven volunteers could be seen serving at the recycling centre. Among them are people who live alone, people who work part-time at home, and passers-by who drop by to help briefly while having a quick chat.

According to volunteer Tan Giok Kiat, leader of the recycling centre, there are two recycling traders nearby. So occasionally, one could see people sending carton boxes for sale to the traders on their bicycles. But on Monday morning, there are still people who would send recyclables to the recycling centre before going to work.

Blessings from his late wife

In the past, Cheow Lan would make donations for charity and hide the receipts from Kim Wee. Unbeknown to Cheow Lan, Kim Wee was fully aware of it, but he pretended that he did not know because he saw how much his wife had enjoyed participating in Tzu Chi’s activities and in recycling. Kim Wee has now become a Tzu Chi donor. He also donated, on his wife’s behalf, the remaining condolence cash collected from her wake to support the building fund of Tzu Chi International School. He even framed up the appreciation note from Tzu Chi and hung it alongside their engagement photo, family photos, and a photo of Cheow Lan with volunteer Li Qiao Lian, who used to offer the former a ride to Tzu Chi’s activities in the early days.

On February 26, 2017, Kim Wee prepared brewed black coffee, “nasi lemak”, biscuits, fruits, and so on, and took a bus to Seck Kia Eenh temple to commemorate his late wife.It was his routine on the first and fifteenth day of the Lunar calendar each month to accompany his late wife and to free himself from the boredom of being home alone.

He mentioned that he did seek Cheow Lan’s opinion before he joined the recycling activity by tossing the divination blocks at home and at the temple. Both times, he got a “yes” with just a single toss. He said, “It was my wife’s long-time wish. That’s why she happily agreed when I asked about it.”

Kim Wee has been a volunteer for two years now, and he has recently been presented with a recycling volunteer identification tag. This shall be a good start for him. He has been a changed person from what his late wife had described. Even though he lives frugally on his savings and government welfare fund now, he is not stingy; and he keeps an open mind on volunteers’ advice.

His life is not as dull as before. He has the care of fellow volunteers, and besides recycling activities, he would join fellow volunteers for home visits to the poor and needy. With a strong body, he has no problem lifting items at the recycling centre. He is always the last to leave the recycling centre on Monday, after making sure that it is properly locked.

Taking over his late wife’s role in Tzu Chi has enriched his life, and there shall be more for him to discover.

 

On May 18, 2014, volunteers brought a Buddha statue to Tay Kim Wee’s home so that he and his wife, Tan Cheow Lan, who had a relapse of ovarian cancer, could perform the Buddha bathing ritual at home despite not being able to attend the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]   Tay Kim Wee took over Tan Cheow Lan’s responsibility of opening the door of the recycling centre. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]

On May 18, 2014, volunteers brought a Buddha statue to Tay Kim Wee’s home so that he and his wife, Tan Cheow Lan, who had a relapse of ovarian cancer, could perform the Buddha bathing ritual at home despite not being able to attend the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]
 
Tay Kim Wee took over Tan Cheow Lan’s responsibility of opening the door of the recycling centre. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
 
The appreciation note from Tzu Chi is hung alongside other photos in Tay Kim Wee’s home. [Photograph by Loh Siew Lian]   On the first day of the second Lunar month, Tay Kim Wee took a bus to Seck Kia Eenh temple to commemorate his late wife. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

The appreciation note from Tzu Chi is hung alongside other photos in Tay Kim Wee’s home. [Photograph by Loh Siew Lian]
 
 
On the first day of the second Lunar month, Tay Kim Wee took a bus to Seck Kia Eenh temple to commemorate his late wife. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]