When the late Karpal Singh passed away recently, we saw glowing tributes from friends and foe, indicating that he was highly respected and admired for his principles and huge contribution to the country.
However, I found it disconcerting that some of the tributes came from the very people that wanted to make life difficult for him every step of the way, going as far as trying to send him to jail.
To me something just does not add up. When he was alive, you want to do everything to thwart him, and when he dies you give effusive praise. Worse still, you use (or abuse) your power to deny the chosen venue for his memorial service.
Do you really mean what you say? Or are you just paying tribute to appear magnanimous. If some of those who opposed him were really sincere, why wait until his death to show him respect. Why not get him on board and really listen to his opinion when he was alive, even if you disagree.
But sometimes this also applies to us. I've seen situations where a parent, sibling, spouse or relative passes away, and the surviving family members or spouse voice regret that they did not really show their affection or appreciation.
When a person dies, we are all filled with the memories of the good times together and some the endearing traits of the departed person. All his weaknesses are forgotten.
A person usually has strengths and weaknesses. Some of his traits can be endearing and others irritating. When he (or she) passes away, his failings will no longer affect or annoy others. So it is normal for people to remember the departed more fondly, even though they had major issues with him when he was alive.
It would be much better, I believe, if we were to show our respect, appreciation, love or affection to the person when he is still alive. This would require real empathy and understanding. Going to the grave, and remembering a dearly departed is clearly worth something, but really you should be saying what you need to say when the person is breathing.
Sometimes this applies even to those no longer close to us. Much better to visit and talk to an old friend or acquaintance before he passes on, rather than going to the funeral and paying your last respects.
I too have my regrets. Some time back, one of my former mentors who I respect a lot and who had mutual respect towards me, passed away. After graduating from school, I seldom saw him. However I regret not meeting him before his death as I had a strong feeling that he wanted to see me.
Due to the nature of his illness, the family said that it was not in his best interest to visit him in the hospital. I should have gone anyway. In fact I should have gone to see him before he was in serious condition. Visiting his funeral and grave is just not the same. I made a vow never to repeat the same mistake again.
It's easy to say good things when someone dies, but it takes courage to give sincere praise and show respect to a living person. Especially so when the relationship is not so straightforward and full of ups and downs.