The outpouring of grief and updates in the FB group called Love and Prayers for Jerlyn left me in a daze. I could only imagine what her family members, her husband, two young sons, and closest friends felt. I am not a family member or a close friend yet I was stricken with sorrow when I read of her passing in FB. We weren’t BFFs, but we weren’t enemies either. We were colleagues, but it went a notch higher than the perfunctoriness of colleagues. It has taken me days to categorize my relationship with Jerlyn because of the anguish I have been feeling and the niggling question of why. Do not get me wrong – I am far from being impervious to sentimentality but I am not inclined to maudlin sentiments either. As I said, Jerlyn and I never had BFF moments. Then it hit me: we were the best of acquaintances, if ever anything like this existed.
People say you will forget a lot of things but never how a person made you feel. I was a complete stranger – an outsider actually – in the workplace Jerlyn and I used to be employed because of my ethnicity, which was wrapped in all stereotypical notions that became too tiring to break. You see, I remember Jerlyn never giving me grief about my ethnicity, which was a welcome respite from the usual experience. She welcomed me and never dictated how I should conform to her norms. She gave her full attention to me even if we were sharing trivialities. I remember us laughing although the topics escape me now. I remember her smile – the kind that starts from the lips and reaches up to her eyes – that I never failed to see whenever we saw each other in the hallway or outside of work.
We lost touch when I left Singapore for a new life in Indonesia and she to Hamlet country. But we caught up with each other again in FB and I never tired of looking at the pictures she posted or was tagged in – wedding, departure from Singapore, her little boys’ shenanigans, shopping with her boys, her new house, Chinese New Year celebration etc. Then I noticed the postings became less; I chalked it up to her being busy with married life and motherhood.
I was greatly mistaken. The FB status of her best friend Ivy Ho that popped up on my newsfeed in April told me all was not well in the universe. I was hoping it was just a slight hiccup in Jerlyn’s universe, but the morning of May 14, as I read Ivy’s status, painted a different ending from the one I had pictured in my mind. That Wednesday was a dark, sad one.
She will be laid to rest tomorrow, May 18. I can picture the funeral cortege decked in white tops, as she requested, en route to the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Crematorium. In my own little send-off from Jakarta, I will light candles for you as you walk towards the white light. Good night, sweet princess.
(Pictures by Tricia Tang and Eric)