Wednesday, September 18, 2019

How I arranged for my father's wake.

A good friend reminded me that I have to undergo six stages of grief. Right now, I have no idea which stage I am - I still feel sad and would tear a little when I think of my dad, but the best way forward would be to keep writing and sharing. In fact, I will be back at working on my next preview tomorrow.

I am very grateful for the well wishers who were very supportive of this blog as well as social media presence.

Right now I would just like to explain some thoughts regarding how I organized my father's wake with the hope that this provides at least one data point for blog readers.

Me and my mum we recalled into the hospital at 3am in the morning. After some paperwork, we selected Direct Funeral Services to manage the wake because legendary undertaker Roland Tay is very distant relative of ours. To my surprise, Roland Tay was the first person to pick up my call at 4am in the morning and sent a director to our location to get everything settled.

The most crucial decision is that my father's wake will not involve any religious elements.

This is consistent with his and my lifelong beliefs.

When I was young, my dad always thought I should go a mission school and study the Christian Bible. But his philosophy towards religion was purely functional - I should become closer to Christians because I can cultivate valuable business relationships and networks in the future. As a twelve year old, I protested. I was bullied quite badly by ACS kids in my estate and told my dad that he would not appreciate the repeated calls for school donations. I also knew that without all the shiny toys I would not be able to fit along the mission schools in Bukit Timah road. There was also the witch hunt conducted by fundamentalist Christian teachers against D&D players in the 1980s.

I inherited my dad's attitude towards religion.

Even as my dad did not care about rites, most of the time I burned paper during the seventh month with my mum, for vague reasons like good health and 4D winnings. I burnt paper because I wanted to be close to my mum, and because I'm Chinese.

If you are a cynical relative, you might conclude that me and my dad worshiped money. But I think it is a lot more sophisticated than that. I followed this famous evangelist before he went to jail and devoured his sermons on postmodernism because it was so mesmerizing and relevant to me. To me, this guy is not a man of God - This guy is a hedge fund manager who figured out how arbitrage your very soul. For that same reason, I spent a lot of time watching him on God TV while outsourcing jobs in India - it felt good seeing another Singaporean while working in Bangalore.

So it's not negotiable that my dad will have a free thinker's wake. If I had an imaginary fundamentalist Christian brother who pressured my dad to convert on his death bed, I cannot understand who will take bigger offence - me or actual Christians who find my dad hanging outside their GCBs in Heaven, riding his Ducati Daytona motorbike and wielding his shotgun.

And what a good decision a "free thinker's" wake turned out to be.

Direct Funeral Services conducted an event that gave my dad dignity sans all the noise, incense and (to me) pointless hymns/sermons. Initially, I thought relatives would silently disapprove our godless decision but many uncles and aunties all said that they wanted something similar.

The actual framing of the event is a marvel. It is priced and packaged as a Christian package minus religious elements. During the wake, some vestige of Chinese culture were adhered to, like red strings were placed on the tables.

After the 3-day affair, my dad was cremated at Mandai and buried at sea the following day.

The entire proceedings cost about $10,500 including the sea burial. The newspaper article cost $2,500. Total collections of "white gold" offset around 2/3 of my expenses.

My father was a paragon of frugality. I hope he would have been proud of how consistent I was in containing the costs, all this while producing an event that sent him off in dignity.

For readers who do not profess to any religion, you might consider having $20,000 standing by to deal with funeral expenses. There should be plenty remaining to deal with matters after the wake such as probate matters.

I was extremely lucky because I am an only child - there was no fundamentalist Christian elder brother I had to fight to get my way for my father's wake, but if you do, please get this matter settled while your parent is still alive. Ask them what their wishes are.

Otherwise the guy who pays the most will get to dictate the terms - this is the Singapore way.


  1. Condolences on your loss. Keep your health up!

  2. Deep condolences for your loss.

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