Alden Boon

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son: How Jimmy Ong Restarted His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom

13/07/2018

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The end is come

There emanated from the vital signs monitor eccentric, rapid beeps, followed by an elongated one in a higher pitch. At that, many things happened. Nurses and doctors rushed to Shaun’s side, and tried resuscitating him with every medical trick in the book: chest compressions, intubation. Helpless pleas of “Shaun! Come back!” broke out amidst the maelstrom. The whine of the defibrillator charging stung the ears. But Shaun remained unmoved, his eyes shut, a deathly gloom passing over his face. The flurry of efforts by the medical team began to slow, and finally to a stop. For a moment all stood still, the silence finally broken by the doctor’s pronouncement of death.

“Can you imagine the pain of watching the nurses place a white sheet over your son’s body?” It was a finality. A brutal epiphany dismantling Jimmy of his armour wrought of denial and hope, leaving him utterly naked. Shaun’s voice, his laughter, would never again fill the air, never again to be heard.

Wheeling the gurney, on which Shaun’s lifeless body laid, the family now had to make their way to the morgue. The length of the walkway seemed to stretch on, and every step Jimmy took was a drag as if he were shackled. The nurses, with whom Shaun had bonded, were downcast, their tears falling unrestrained. Other parents, whose own children were sick, threw backward glances of dread, their eyes not daring to meet Jimmy’s, unable to even imagine the possibility that the same stroke of doom cruel and senseless might strike them.

Despite having just lost his son, Jimmy still had something to attend to. A pressing administrative matter. He headed to the basement level, and found his way to the room, where he sat alone with his thoughts. Then entered a couple, their faces wreathed in smiles as they cooed over their newborn, bathing him in love. It was as if fate had fangs for teeth, and was now goading Jimmy. “Who’s next?” said the lady behind the counter, her voice cheery. Jimmy walked up to the counter, and said in staccato notes, “I need to register the death of my son.” Nine words that took all of him to say out loud. Immediately, a hush fell over the registry of births and deaths, the palpable silence gathering like a tide swallowed him whole.

Stuck in limbo

Jimmy headed home, a photo of Shaun ensconced in his arms. Walking up to the window, he saw the great height from the eleventh floor of the flat, and contemplated the sweet release suicide would bring. “I thought about my life, and how everything went so wrongly. I lost a happy family, lost my business, became a bankrupt, and now, the one person who loved me unconditionally was gone.” The jump would be quick, a coup de grâce. His problems would no longer be his; he would not have to deal with this torment. But just as the pull was tightening its grip, there flitted in Jimmy’s mind a gentle voice, Shaun’s, reminding Jimmy the three promises he had made to him: quit smoking; love his parents; and to work hard enough so he could afford his own place.

“I couldn’t die, because I had to fulfil my promises to Shaun. And yet I had a life that wasn’t worth living.” For the next few years Jimmy descended on a downward spiral, crushed beneath the immense weight of grief. “Shaun had a favourite fishball noodle stall along Scotts Road, and I never dared to pass by that place. The memory of it was just too painful, so I’d always make a detour just to avoid seeing that place.” To cope, he buried himself in work, spending late nights drinking with clients, ostensibly entertaining them, but really was drowning his sorrows.

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son How Jimmy Ong Rebuilt His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom nedla

Then one day in April 2005, his detrimental lifestyle caught up with him: Jimmy was arrested for drink driving while operating a company car. Sequestered in a jail cell, there he finally was: rock bottom. Like water gushing from the sluice of a reservoir, many thoughts of how his life had derailed flooded Jimmy’s mind. A thousand guests had shown up for his wedding — where were his friends now? He then remembered the beautiful eulogies delivered by Shaun’s friends and loved ones at his funeral. “I was so proud of him: Others talked about how caring a person he was. Even when he was hospitalised, during his moments of pain, he’d ensure that everyone got home safely. And then I wondered, ‘What would others say at my funeral?’ Probably ‘Poor guy, what a terrible life he had led. It’s better that he’s dead; he can rest in peace now.’”

Read: Lisa Teng: How Caring for the Elderly Allows Her to Answer Her Calling as Christian

To bounce back from rock bottom is not about making big, drastic changes to your life. You need to pinpoint and start with the smallest of change.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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