I was profoundly sad when told of the news that my cousin brother had passed on after a long illness, at the age of 54. He was destined to be what his nickname described.
Early generations of Chinese were fond of giving nicknames that ranged from the funny to the ridiculous. The nicknames were commonly derived from the Chinese zodiac, namely, the ox (Ah Gu), the pig (Ah De), the dog (Ah Gao), the dragon (Ah Long), the monkey (Lao Gao), and so forth. Others included Ah Xiao ( the Mad), Ah Gong (the Stupid) and Dua Bui (Fatty). But my cousin brother wasn't named after any of these. He was nicknamed 'Her Chor' which literally means 'trash fish'.
Throughout his life, he had been a failure, not only financially, but also as a husband and father. He was the black sheep, so to speak. I realized that he was, to put it cruelly, 'trash', he was destined to be trash as his nickname implies.
Could he have been different were he not given that nickname? He was a man with a glib tongue, even at a young age, a fast learner, a multi-linguist, a leader; somehow along life's path, he was led inexorably down the road of self-destruction. Was it destiny or was it a path wrongly chosen?
He died unfulfilled, unloved, a pauper.
Anyway, I was moved to sadness to see him reduced to ashes and bone fragments at an incinerator at Fairy Park, Pagoh.
A sobering thought came to me: we are just a grain of sand; our death is insignificant.