Much has been written about well-loved Singapore actor Aloysius Pang.
And the conversations following his death from severe injuries while undergoing military training in New Zealand has brought the best out of some Singaporeans, and the worst, too.
Plenty of Singaporeans banded together to show support for Pang’s family. The public outpouring of grief was intense, with thousands – cutting across ethnicity, religion, age and gender – showing up in Macpherson where the wake was held to offer their respects and condolences.
Members of the public followed behind family and friends, or lined the road, during the passage of the hearse to Mandai Crematorium, which was shown live on mainstream media.
Even those who did not turn up at the wake found other ways to show their support. Like the 73-year-old taxi driver who gave free rides to four celebrities, including Pang’s girlfriend Jayley Woo, to the crematorium and back so they could send Pang off.
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Actress Belinda Lee posted about the deed on Instagram and according to her, the driver said it was a privilege to do something for Pang.
“It’s amazing how sometimes strangers are more willing to extend a helping hand during a difficult time like this,” added Lee in the post.
There was also the illustrator who created a pair of drawings that depicted Pang and Woo happily married.
Woo had posted on Instagram that she didn’t have the fortune of becoming his wife in this lifetime. It was also subsequently revealed that Pang had been saving up to settle down with Woo in a few years’ time.
Perhaps touched by their story, the illustrator, Autumn Ying, created the drawings on her own accord. And it was a gesture that was appreciated by Woo, who posted an insta-story of the drawings to thank Ying for allowing her to visualise the wedding she was denied.
While there was genuine kindness displayed amid the grief, there were those who appeared to milk this instance of human tragedy for personal gain.
One political figure who initially offered his deepest condolences to Pang’s family was later called out for politicising the actor’s death.
Netizens were quick to comment. One said: “I don’t know about you (guys), but really? Using the death of someone to push a political agenda? Especially when there are so many factors in the first place? Wow, just wow.”
There’s a time and place for everything. But making use of someone’s death, especially when the person’s family and friends are still in shock and grieving, to further your own agenda? No. Just no.
There was also the man who used Pang’s death to emphasise the importance of being insured. But he quickly realised his folly, and issued an apology. But by then, the damage had already been done.
Then, there were also netizens who took offence at how people were grieving over losing Pang.
Soh Peishi, an influencer, was criticised after she was captured in a photo laughing while at the wake. And the comments were nasty.
Not only was she berated for laughing at a wake, her family was also admonished for not teaching her manners. And there were those who insisted she should have held her laughter in.
One commenter said: “I don’t know what kind of manners she was taught (at) home to laugh at a joke during a funeral.” Another added: “It’s so rude to smile at a funeral. Especially when she’s in the eye of the public. Maybe young girls don’t know how to act now.”
But who’s to judge what is the right way to grieve? Everyone has their own way to cope with a loss.
Personally, I’ve never been to a wake where some laughter isn’t heard. In fact, the wakes I’ve been to tend to be as loud as they can be as we shared our memories of the deceased, including the funny episodes of the life we were celebrating.
And I’m not the only one, judging from the comments of those who came to Soh’s defence.
A funeral director who wrote a moving tribute to the late actor wasn’t spared either. Angjolie Mei wrote that while she had never met Pang previously, she was touched by the messages and tributes that had been left for him.
She didn’t divulge any details about the state in which Pang’s body was in and she was vague about his final journey, perhaps out of respect for the family. Yet, some took exception to it. They questioned her ethics, even claiming that Mei was making use of the occasion to promote her business.
The fact that Mei was merely posting on her own social media account made the criticisms seem overboard. So many people made their own personal tribute to Pang. So why shouldn’t Mei be allowed to do the same?
Death often places us in a delicate situation, and whatever we say or do during this time should reflect an attitude of respect to the deceased and the bereaved.
Grief is a complex, and uniquely personal, emotion. Even those who have suffered a tragedy themselves can no more guide others on ways to cope.
So, perhaps the best thing we can do for others in their hour of need is to allow them to express their grief freely, and respect the ways in which they choose to mourn. That is, after all, the kindest way to support them.