Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A very overdue farewell

Alex, Julien, Justin & Janet for my 25th birthdayJustin Tan Seng Kooi
12 June 1972- 03 October 2010
friend, brother, son, lover, boss, colleague, astronomer, engineer, visionary, giver

I met with Janet and See Ming, I had not seen Janet since I left Malaysia in 2005, after long embraces and complementing each other on how well we looked and how well we were, we sat for coffee and See Ming excitedly prompted me to tell them 'everything I remembered about Justin!' I kindda guessed he'd make the main focus of our conversation but somehow the memories half faded by the years, still fresh from the grief - all came rushing together and stumbled messily upon one another in my head and I could not seem to be able to mutter any one story!

Justin was a good - no - a great friend. He was the kind of man you meet once in your life and they instantly touch your life. I met Justin in October 2000. I came out of Xavier's office, he was going to give me the Marketing job - See Ming had just left them, he called upon Jet to get me into the job and introduced me to Justin who was going to be my boss. He looked scruffy, he had big hair, torn jeans and his all-time favourite white tee-shirt and a big grin on his face. He always grinned that big cheeky smile like a kid. Fast forward a couple of months and I got a bit more into my role and worked a bit closer to Justin, Mark and Mickey. At the time Alex was doing a lot of due diligence and worked late every night, so I had nothing better to do than hang around the office, have dinner, get back to work, but never quite working, more like hanging out, listening to Justin boucing some business ideas and other BS while strumming his guitar.

Justin always surprised me at his outlook on life and his approach to people and matters. He never took anything quite seriously but at the same time made everything and everyone seem like it was the most important thing or person in the world - that was a gift all on its own. His mind was as tidy as his appearance and office was messy. He compartementalised his life: friends - work - hobbies, it took a bit to get to know him and his friends and his hobbies outside of work.

Two of my favorite memories of Justin are:

He liked his work, he disliked meetings - they were a waste of valuable work time, and as such he disliked going to PIKOM - I think it was every Tuesdays, he'd always look for excuses not to attend the meetings. But little by little he'd be missing more often than usual, I remember asking Emily, his PA at the time where he was going all the time, she said he had some business at Pikom - that arose amusing suspicion, Justin was very private so I would not even think of asking him directly, a couple of weeks later and Sam went to a function with Justin and reported back that Janet and him had been flirting openly all night. Haha! Janet was PIKOM secretary, it all made sense! It would only be a few weeks later that he'd be admitting to it and another month later before he introduced Janet and I. Turned out Janet was indeed as fantastic as he was and that they'd be making the wonderful couple they were.

Justin had a bike, I had my kancil, so when we went out for drinks, I'd be driving. One night, he took me on a wild goose chase around KL, he needed to pick up a friend somewhere. When I saw the friend I could not help but notice that his friend was even scruffier than he was if that was ever possible! We went to a rat infested street in KL for teh tarik and mee goreng. Turns out the friend was quite interesting too as were all the people Justin surrounded himself with. Later, Justin asked me to stop behind what looked like a terrible motel - he went in and I stayed chatting with the man (I can remember his face, but not his name or what we talked about). Justin came back out and the man bid us goodnight and went on our way. As we drove away, I asked Justin who he was. Nothing prepared me to what I was about to learn about Justin... The man was an ex drug addict, just out of rehab, he had no job, no money and no place to go. Justin was his 'big brother', visiting him regularly at the rehab, so he was still looking our for him, he gave him money, and arranged for a place to stay at a brothel while he found himself a job. I knew Justin was very generous but I had no remote idea What a selfless man he truly was.

Another one of his passion was astronomy, and some of the most fun arguments we had was me trying to argue that the universe had some sort of influence on our lives and that there was something greater than life but Justin disagreed - Mr No-Nonsense. More fun arguments came out from his philosophy, he had views on relationships that I could not understand. It was only years later that some the things he said started making sense. He was my 'quit smoking buddy', we put on weight and dieted and started smoking again together. We had some cool debates about life, people, relationships, dreams versus reality and commitments.

Justin had something to do with me leaving Malaysia. He became CEO, became empowered into a role he did not want, had to step up to the challenge, turned Extol into a new dynamic and efficient model, had the chance to implement a new structure and vision, but had no time for friends. Combined with a couple of other reasons, I knew I'd miss the times we spent together and thought that if I was away - at least we'd have a good reason not to be hanging out. Still, he always kept a special place in my heart and I was always looking forward to seeing him again when visiting Malaysia.

To date, and in spite of the love I have for the men in my life, Justin is possibly one of the most extra-ordinary man I have ever met and I am lucky enough to be surrounded by some very wonderful people indeed. I shall always look up to him for the simplicity of his brilliant mind and his beautiful heart and his childish grin and laughter. I hope he knew. Miss you dearly Just.

5 comments:

nbrsspot.blogspot.com said...

Wow that is a man you rarely hear about esp in the states.. i am happy to hear you had him in your life for a short time and everyone else around him did too.

S.M. Elliott said...

That is a beautiful tribute.

by Kitem said...

ca m'a fait pleurer, comme souvent quand je vois combien Janet est mnalheureuse ou n'importe quel autre commentaire sur lui, pouf, les larmes viennent toutes seules, Je sais combien il a compte pour toi dans la vie. Elle est super cette photo avec Justin, Julien, Alex et Janet.

Going-Solo said...

thank you very much sweetheart for putting your memories down in words, to share.

as painful as it potentially be, reading what people remember of him, I cannot resist but to want to `archive' as much as I can, to then consume the stories/memories little by little in my own time.

it was so good to meet with you. you know where to find me k :)

Keep well sweet :D

Unknown said...

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