You & Your Family

Living with the reality of death

Oct 2009    

INITIALLY, WE WOULD GATHER at weddings. Then it would be at our children’s birthday parties. Now, we bump into old friends when there is a death, sometimes of a parent and sometimes of a mutual friend.

Such events invariably leave us feeling awkward, saddened with grief and even anxious for ourselves. We are also at a loss as to what to say to the bereaved; unsure how we can be of a comfort to them. We know that all the words we can muster offer little relief. Yet we persist in finding words to fill the void of silence.

I have also noticed well-wishers busying themselves around the bereaved. No doubt some of their activities are helpful to the grieving individual. At other times, such activities are all vain attempts to be helpful in the face of our helplessness.

As counsellors, we try to be sensitive to the different emotions losing a loved one brings. Shock at losing someone dear is sometimes expressed as denial of the loss or even by being emotionally numb. Once the reality of the loss is undeniable, waves of sadness, anxiety over the future and even anger follow. Counsellors also bear in mind that the process of recovery, or more correctly, of moving on, can take years. It is a slow healing process that cannot be hurried.

So how can we help grieving individuals? Paradoxically, we can help them by trying not to be too helpful. In our desire to help, we may hurt the other by our insensitivity. We should nevertheless provide assistance when needed and in the manner that is wanted. For example, the bereaved may require someone to ferry the children to school or provide simple meals.

We should also remember to be a friend long after the memorial service. This is one way we demonstrate our unstinting support to our friends. Finally, in the presence of the bereaved, the manner with which we conduct ourselves speaks volumes over the poverty of our words.

How do we ourselves respond to the passing of friends? Such losses often cause us to reflect on these relationships. We may find ourselves being rather selective in our memories. Old disappointments seem to pale under the glare of such tragedies. We are sometimes left wondering how things might have been if we did not miss those opportunities to strengthen bonds or seek reconciliation. Death, it seems, challenges us to view our lives in a new manner.

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Boys’ Brigade Asia faces challenges

THE BOYS’ BRIGADE ASIA (BB Asia) is facing the challenge of putting its administration, communication, strategic planning, development, extension work and training on an even keel. Financial and human resources are needed, without which BB Asia’s ministry will be hindered.

A full-time Executive Secretary has been employed, operating from home. Most of the time he is in the field, where a Development, Extension & Training Executive is most needed. Hence, there is need for additional staff to form a team to coordinate field and office work.

BB Asia was inaugurated in Johor Bahru on July 26, 2003 with Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong, Indonesia and ailand as the founding member countries. Member countries today are Brunei, Hongkong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and ailand. The Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade of the Philippines (Boys’ Wing) is an associate member.

After it was founded in Glasgow in 1883, the Boys’ Brigade (BB) came to Asia. Swatow, China, was the first Asian city to have a BB company formed in 1915.

With the migration of the Chinese to South-east Asia, among whom were many Christians, the BB came along and was established in Singapore in 1930. From there the BB crossed the Causeway into Johor Bahru in 1956. Up in the north the BB was established 10 years earlier in Penang after the end of the Japanese Occupation.

The establishment of the BB in Indonesia in 1982 was attributed to the missionary endeavour of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. e BB ministry has grown out of Medan and has spread to Jakarta, Surabaya, Semarang, Bandung, Blora and Aceh.

In the early 1990s, work in Manila started. However, it was a “false start” and it did not take off. In 2002, The Girls’ Brigade, however, initiated the formation of The Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade of the Philippines and a Boys’ Wing was started in Baguio and this Boys’ Wing is currently an associate member of BB Asia.

In the late 1990s, the BB in Singapore introduced The Boys’ Brigade to Myanmar. However, it did not take off as the officer who was based in Yangon returned to Singapore.

The current focus of the BB in Singapore is extension work in Cambodia. A Language Learning Centre was started in 2004 in Siem Reap and two missionary couples are manning it. Singapore’s involvement with Cambodia goes back to 1995. Four churches sponsored four companies with a membership of about 200. When civil war broke out there, Singapore ceased all activities and it was the BB Singapore Youth Expedition Project that re-established contact with Cambodia in 2001.

The BB in Malaysia focused extension work in ailand. It was in the 1993-94 period that the BB was founded in Bangkok. It then spread to Chonburi, Mahachai, Khon Kaen, Korat and Changrai.

The BB in Hongkong will celebrate its 50th anniversary next month. It has special focus on extension work in Macau, a work started in 1999 and now has several companies.

The Rev Richard Tok is the Associate Chaplain of Boys’ Brigade Asia.

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