In each of our lifetimes, we would be fortunate to have met more than just a handful of truly inspirational people; people who set, with their lives, the standard for the most of us to aspire towards. They are lights that shine the way for the rest.
But even amongst such luminaries, there are some that excel. My friend, DM, is one of those. Think of all the virtues of a great man and DM had most of them. It was therefore a shock to learn that DM had suffered a heart attack last Saturday at 1.30 in the early hours of the morning and had passed on at the age of 53.
Over the week, we held a nightly wake until his two daughters were able to return from their studies overseas and finally had a funeral service last last Thursday. During this time, I had a lot of time to reflect on my friend and his life and I also had the opportunity to hear others share their memories of him.
So how will DM be remembered? I am having trouble writing this as I don’t know where to start in recalling all his virtues. Perhaps, it is best to start at the beginning.
DM was the youngest of 8 siblings. He grew up in a family beset with many problems. He married but his wife’s family was also full of problems and dysfunctional. DM became the sure rock that anchored both families, giving them a stability to build on and giving them the leadership, encouragement and love to get their lives sorted out. His sister shared that though DM was their youngest brother, he would become the father figure to both his and his wife’s families. As a result, both families are prospering.
He got a job at a local supermarket and through recognition of his honesty, hard work ethic and leadership qualities was promoted to a supervisor’s position which was well above his qualification level. As a supervisor, he was in charge of many migrant workers from East Malaysia. These East Malaysians have left their homes on the island of Borneo in search of jobs in the more developed cities of West Malaysia. Miles from home and often exploited by employers, they are at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
However, more than one of them shared how they found DM to be different from most West Malaysians they encountered. Despite being part of management, he made no distinction between himself and those he managed and treated each of them with great respect. He demonstrated a love for them that they could visibly feel and see. Driven by his love for them and his faith in Christ, he helped organise a weekly bible study and fellowship meeting for the East Malaysians at 10.30 pm on Wednesdays. The meeting was held late in the evening but it was suitable for the East Malaysian workers as their daily toil ends at 10 pm. His own modest home was open for all who needed a refuge. This work of love by DM and his wife has led to the establishment of a church for East Malaysians with a regular congregation of 80 pax and which has given fellowship to many other East Malaysian workers through the years.
DM and wife then felt led to attend a bible seminary and missionary school. In faith, they went to the U.S. for the training and God provided for all their family’s needs. Testimonies shared reflected how DM and his wife touched countless of lives in the U.S. as well.
On their return to Malaysia, they forsook a more comfortable life and found a humble place in what can be described as a frontier town near the jungles which are home to the Orang Asli or indigenous peoples of West Malaysia. It is from here that as a couple, they have served the Orang Asli in that region. This was a life of considerable hardship involving traveling long distances and sharing in the deprivations of the simple life of the Orang Asli in the jungle. At the wake and funeral, several of the Orang Asli shared how DM became to them many things. He was as father to some, counselor to others, financial advisor, teacher, medical assistant, nutritionist, micro-financier and friend. Like the East Malaysians before, the Orang Asli said that DM was one of them. In just a few short years, a number of churches have emerged with at least 100 lives won over for Christ.
My memory of him will always be that of a gentle man but with a core of steel; a leader – firm when he needs to be but always compassionate; soft-spoken and quiet; slow to anger; loving father and husband; a serious man but with a winning smile and a sense of humor. Power and grace.
I suppose, no man is perfect but DM does very well in almost every regard I can think of. DM was called back to be with God at a relatively young age but there is no doubt that he has left a strong legacy that will endure amongst all the lives that he has enriched.
Our thoughts are now with his wife and two daughters who have been left behind but DM has never neglected them either. His headship of the family and his constant unflinching love has made them all strong women and with God’s grace, they too will continue to prosper. Truly a life and legacy to be celebrated.