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Tue, Nov 17, 2009
The New Paper
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Those alive are real victims of suicide
by Low Ching Ling

CALL me unsympathetic, but suicide is a selfish and cowardly act.

You kill yourself, your problems are over. But who has to pick up the pieces? Those who love you.

Thankfully, I haven’t had to go through the pain of losing a loved one this way. And hopefully, I’ll never have to.

But I’ve seen how suicide can crush those who are left behind.

Several years ago, my neighbours’ teenage daughter leapt to her death. Life was never the same for her parents; they stopped smiling, turned into recluses and, soon after, moved away.

But if there’s anything more selfish and cowardly than taking your own life, it is to drag the people you love down into your depths of despair.

When I read how Ng Chee Kiang killed his two young children and then himself last weekend, it was a chilling reminder of two similar tragedies that took place a few years ago.

In October 2005, I covered the coroner’s inquests into two murder-cum-suicide cases.

In the first case, Yap Cheng Chui plunged from the 25th storey of an HDB block with her young daughters. The girls were bound to their mother’s wrists with red string.

How could a mother, no matter how desperate, bring herself to end the lives of her flesh and blood in such a horrifying manner, I thought.

Yap led a painful and troubled life, and felt she had nothing to live for.

But her daughters – just 3 and 2 – had barely begun their lives before they were callously snuffed out. They didn’t deserve to die.

The other case was no less tragic.

The wife and two children, aged 11 and 3, of Simon Lee Kok Hwa, a gambling addict, were found dead after he plunged to his death.

The coroner did not rule out the possibility that Lee’s wife had a hand in killing the children. But whether his wife was complicit, there was no doubt that two innocent young lives had been cruelly ended.

It wasn’t just the horror of these acts that is seared into my memory.

I remember the pain on the tear-stained faces of the family members of Yap and Lee, and the anguish in their choked voices as they recalled their tragic loss.

Yap’s father said he would break down whenever he thought of his daughter and grandchildren.

He and his wife put away pictures and burnt clothes, toys and newspaper reports about the case. The physical reminders were gone, but the pain will remain with them forever.

For those who take their own lives, their troubles may die with them. But the loved ones whom they leave behind end up with a lifetime of grief.

And these people, to me, are the real victims of suicide.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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