A father’s heroic act

In loving memory: their father's portrait in their living room.
In loving memory: their father’s portrait in their living room.

Father’s Day is coming soon. While a lot of others looking forward to celebrate the special occasion, some can only recall their memories of their fathers.

Most people would greet Father’s Day with smiles and cheers but for 24-year-old Aaron Lau and his two younger sisters, the advent of such an anniversary always brings tears to their eyes and that also comes with a swell of pride in their hearts.

That is because their father, who is also my foster father, who died three years ago is always a hero to them. For Aaron, although the heroism of his father is not written in any national record, it has been entrenched in his psyche and would be a memory for as long as he lives. What act could be more heroic than one that saved others by sacrificing his own life?

It all happened on the third day of Chinese New Year in 2010 on a beautiful afternoon when Aaron’s family went for a picnic at Lundu Pandan Beach Resort, in Kuching city, in the State of Sarawak, Malaysia.

During that same time, Aaron was with his friends at Damai Beach Resort.

Back in Lundu, his 46-year-old father Albert Lau, his mother Rita Teng, 48, as well as his sisters Alice Lau, 23, and Agnes Lau aged 20 went for a swim at the beach.

The tide was low and water quite calm. Several other people were playing in the water as well.

“I guess the time was between 2pm and 3pm. The smooth sand reached far out into the sea. It looked beautiful and tempting and we all happily strolled out and had a lot of fun together,” recalled Alice.

She said the tide then somehow rose very quickly and waves rushed in and cut off their access back to shore. Panicked, they waded into the water and tried to swim home when suddenly a big wave came and dragged them further out into the sea.

Agnes managed to make it to safety and called out for help while trying to think of ways to help the rest.

Meanwhile, their father was fighting more waves that developed and it looked like he was more concerned about saving Alice and their mother.

After he managed to push Alice to safety he was left very exhausted but still tried his best to hold up their mother and prevented her from drowning. A moment later, he seemed to pass out while their mother still clung to his body.

Their mother who could not swim hung on tightly to their father and did not realise he had lost consciousness because he was facing the water.

By the time they were pulled up onto a boat by some villagers, they found that Aaron’s father was already lifeless.

“I didn’t realise that I was eventually using a dead body as a life float,” said Aaron’s mother with a shiver in her voice in an effort to fight back from breaking down.

They all came to a conclusion that Aaron’s father had tried to save everyone else’s life before he even thought of himself. That was why he was finally left with no energy to save his own life.

Aaron revealed that his father actually had a heart problem, which was why he tired easily. He said he was stunned to receive the tragic news at about 3.30pm.

“That was the saddest two hours journey all the way from Kuching city to Lundu Hospital,” he said. “I was hoping it was all just a bad dream and willed myself to wake up from the nightmare.”

But he could not escape from reality when he finally saw his father’s bloated body at the hospital’s mortuary.

Aaron said the sorrowful episode always played like a recurring bad dream to the surviving family members. As for Aaron, that particular phone call haunted him to this day. “Even the image of his funeral at St Joseph’s church is always like it happened only yesterday,” he said.

He added that it was so unreal that he had just seen him lively in the morning and was gone forever in the afternoon.

“Each Chinese New Year now is so different without our father,” said Aaron. “What more to say when it comes to Father’s Day. We miss his jokes and his laughter. He was the one who used to make the home very lively because he was quite a talkative man and he liked to tell us moral value stories,” he said.

Aaron said his father would be 50 years old today if he were still around. Their father was at that time the sole breadwinner for the family which was why his departure was extremely painful to them, he said.

Aaron eventually found a job in Singapore and he is now the main income earner to help pay for the house and support his mother and two younger sisters.

His sister Alice had also found a job while the younger Agnes is still studying.

Aaron said his father had appeared in his dreams when he was working in Singapore.

“My father appeared calm and smiling and he didn’t say anything. He just slowly disappeared,” he said.

As for his sister Alice, she said her father appeared in her dreams on July 17, 2011 and sang an English song containing messages that he was in peace and calm, as if trying to tell them that they should not be too saddened by his departure.

“I remember the date because the moment I was woken up by the dream, I immediately recorded in it my Facebook,” she said.

I am glad that I am still have my father and I am looking forward to celebrate the day with him.

I love my foster father as much as I love my dad too and the memories of him shall be in me till the day I leave this world.

I hope my foster brother and sisters, and their mother will continue to stay strong and be successful in their endeavours.


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