i have often pondered this question, just not as seriously.
the only people i know who have died is lau chek (ahgong's younger brother) and lau sim (lau chek's wife). i was young and didn't remember much, except that they always used a hook on a long pole to get us rambutan from the tree in their garden and gave us angpau during CNY.
i also remembered when lau chek got a stroke and lost his speech i felt sorry for him.
but ahgong! ahgong is different.
when i was little and dad was starting his company i stayed at Sri Gading sometimes. every night before bed i would ask ahma to wake me when she did in the morning because yes, i cannot bear to have ahma awake for a minute without me by her side.
in the morning it would be chilly and foggy - that was before SG was developed - and ahgong would be squatting outside the house beside the swing, smoking cigarettes and reading the papers. while ahma fixed breakfast of Milo and cream crackers i would sit on the swing for a while, not talking to ahgong except greeting him because i was a bit scared of him.
sometimes i would ask him to stop smoking because my teacher said it's bad. to which he would invariably reply, it's doctor's orders. CONFUSING my little brain! i had to clarify and re-clarify with both parents and teachers on whether smoking was really bad? is it still bad when it's under doctor's orders? are you absolutely certain no doctor would prescribe cigarettes?
one day Fann and i discovered a framed photo of ahgong receiving a medal from somebody we thought we were the coolest.
he used to be the penghulu, we learned. and we swelled with pride at being the penghulu's grandchildren.
#totally imagined myself as some tribal princess ala Pocahontas or Tenko
as we grew up, sometimes dad and mum would arrange for us kids to catch the bus home ourselves after staying in the countryside. ahgong would volunteer to chaperone us. this was his way of expressing affection, i guess.
after moving to Pandan Perdana, sometimes ahgong (usually ahma) would come stay with us kids while our parents travelled for work. once he cooked this amazingly delicious scallop and bitter gourd soup which was so sweet it's unreal. (it was also my first time seeing people cook in moderation - usually soup at home is a gigantic pot which just lasts and lasts.)
another food he can make is bubur chacha. he would always ask us kids, 'do you want to eat bubur chacha?' which is another new thing to me. because i always assumed bubur chacha is a bought food, not a home-cooked food.
on weekend mornings he would wake us bright and early to ask us what we wanted for breakfast from the morning market. i would always feel so torn because i still wanted to sleep but at the same time i wanted to pick the perfect weekend breakfast food. sometimes i picked egg tart, at others one of those glutinous rice balls coated with white flour with a sugar-and-crushed-peanuts filling. (whoa my sweet tooth was there all along.) sometimes when i was feeling particularly picky i would force myself out of bed and go to the market with him to make my selection in person.
in SG, as i grew up and no longer found Milo and cream crackers as palatable as roti, sometimes ahgong would go out to buy roti in the morning for our breakfast. mum usually preferred going to the store for fresh ones but i didn't mind eating slightly cold ones, because i felt ahgong was showing his care for us by buying us breakfast. and also i am afraid that if i didn't eat it it would hurt his feelings.