I learned about fatherhood today. It came from this report, "Singapore's oldest living kidney donor".
Wong Siak Wan is 81. But two years ago, he became the oldest living kidney donor at 79. His son, Jack, was 45 at that time. The Straits Times honored him today for his selfless act.
But Wong's love and humility stood out in the interview. He said, "I saw that Jack was suffering after his kidney failed...I cannot bear to see him suffer. He is my son. If I don't help him, who would?"
Wong recalled that he felt "the angst of Jack's suffering" when he "fainted at a coffee shop after dialysis."
Jack was then working as the head of sales at a Harvey Norman retail shop.
Wong then said, "What I did, any parent would have done. It has nothing to do with how old I am."
This is what his son has to say as reported:-
"I can lead a normal life now because of my dad. My father is a soft-spoken person, he does not talk much. I also don't talk much. But this operation has brought us closer together. No words can describe how I feel."
Lesson? Just one, that is, one long, life-defining journey as a father with your children. But first, here's some background.
Wong married in 1966, and his wife, Mdm Sim, had two children from her earlier marriage. Wong treated them as his very own.
Jack was born four years later (1970) and his daughter, Yoke Yin, was born in 1971.
Wong dropped out of Primary 5, and at 18, he was roped in as a welding apprentice in a gas company.
Since then, he has been welding gas pipes and storage tanks to make a living.
As a sole breadwinner, and with four children to support, Wong started to work long hours and even worked in oil rigs in the South China Sea near Borneo for several years.
He recalled, "I would live in the oil rigs for a few months each time, welding oil pipes. Some of the pipes were really big, more than 30 inches in diameters. I had to climb into them to weld the joints inside the pipe."
Wong then took home about $3000 a month.
When Wong at 79 went under the knife in 2015, he said, "the doctor was confident, so there was nothing for me to worry about."
While his son was in the hospital for nine days after the surgery, Wong was discharged in four. And barely a month after, Wong returned to work on a town council upgrading project.
It reports that "he now spend his retirement visiting the families of his four children and stepchildren, who live in Toa Payoh and Woodlands. He has a total of eight grandchildren and a great-grandson."
Wong's wife passed away in November 2016, and in the interview, he attributed his health to drinking tap water and eating lots of vegetables and fish.
I share and write about this story because it demonstrates the simple devotion of a father to his children and the world needs more of such fatherly nurturance.
I once attended a wedding where the father in tears gave away his daughter.
When it was time to speak, the daughter turned to her father and said, "Daddy, you told me you were afraid that you could not afford a better life for me, with a big house, expensive stuff and all. But I have no need for them, because I have you. You are all I need and all I wanted."
I walked away from that service shedding silent tears, recalling the daughter's words.
Her words touched my heart not just because I am a father, but because I caught a glimpse of the fruit of a father's labour of love.
As the daughter and father were crying on stage, I saw how unbreakable the bond was, and how mutually empowering and life-affirming it has become for both of them.
This paternal bond and love are tireless, always sacrificing. They are unconditional and enduring too.
Unlike a job or a project, there is usually a target date for its completion. Everything has an expiry or retirement date. A President has a term of office and CEOs will have to make way for others.
But being a parent, the role is for life. You become one at their birth and you don't retire or relinquish it until you breathe your last. Even when you are no longer around, your devotion and legacy still live on in their hearts.
It is a life within a life transcending mortality, and it breathes life into a life overcoming all adversity.
In other words, you are always their mother or father, and you are always there for them through the pain and sorrow, the tears and joy, and the trials and hope.
That is what makes Wong's sacrifice for his son so inspirational as it shows the journey of a father who persevered in his marriage, fulfilled his sacred call as a father, and loves unconditionally for as long as his life permits.
This lesson is empowering for me because I still have a long journey to go. It will no doubt be a journey of trials to test my faithfulness and devotion.
But Wong's life of humility and service will always be a guidepost in my walk with my own children. It will also remind me that fatherhood is a privilege, and I will treasure and honour it for as long as I live. Cheerz.