By Pastor John Williams

 

We should not be looking out for perfect men but rather for good men. There are but a “Few Good Men” and hence it is easy to pick one out. I first met Uncle (as Datuk John Kuruvilla is affectionately and respectfully addressed by me) in 1992 when I took up residence in Sungai Petani and became his neighbour. A week or so after moving in I was invited to dinner at his home and sampled auntie’s delicious Kerala cuisine lovingly cooked. Thus began a relationship that has blossomed and grown to the point that I am now honoured by being included in this book produced by his children.

What was it that created this bond? It must have initially been chemistry that drew our hearts together. As it is with close and dear friends one usually finds it difficult to pin point the exact moment when the acquaintance became friendship and the knitting together of hearts took place. It just evolved and grew and became deeply rooted.

Uncle was deeply respectful of clergymen and hence despite the huge gap in age between him and me and that I was from a different denomination made little difference to him and he always respectfully addresses me as pastor even as I call him ‘Uncle’. A humble man who though a sticker for protocol never insisted on being called Datuk. It is thought that a title confers greatness to a person but I would rather think that is a person that confers greatness to a title! Uncle is such a person. What is it about him that I consider good and great?

There is a Jewish saying that one will only know the true character of a man after he has had a drink. When slightly intoxicated, does this bring out the worst or the best in him? A teabag is said to display its true colours when dipped in hot water. I have never known Uncle to drink and hence never seen him intoxicated. But I know from the stories that he has told me, that he has, like a teabag, been dipped in hot water many times.

He survived an accident with a shortened leg but he was never less of a man. He went through financial crises but emerged stronger. He had gained and lost property but was never diminished. I would say that it is because Uncle realised the transient nature of health, wealth and earthly reputation conferred by man, that he emerged intact. It is not wealth, health or earthly acquisitions that make a man great or even good. Uncle realised this.  His losses helped him to realise the truly important things in life. And what were these things?

 

First, his attitude towards the lack in his life

Uncle once commented to me that he lacked the ability to preach and lead a church like his son Abraham did. But he went on to say that his gifts and calling lie in different areas. Uncle was not unaware of his lack but he was not one to count that which is missing. King Solomon’s proverb about “what’s missing cannot be counted” was a hallmark of his life. He realised his gift and served the church well, in fact outstandingly as a lay person. As a result he remained a happy and contented person and hence was gracious and kind to others. It takes a man who can look at the lack in his life, wish he could be different but chose instead to realistically evaluate his gifts and blossom in what he has rather than lament what he has not that is a basic ingredient of a good man. Uncle is such a man.

 

Second, he possessed the kind heart of a father

Uncle believed that he must give his children the best education. He made enormous sacrifices in order to achieve this. He had to be away from his family for extended periods of time out of sheer necessity. And when it appeared that a child was not doing as well and practical wisdom demanded that his support be withdrawn-Uncle would have none of it. His constant refrain was “he is my son, I must help him (succeed). And this he did and his unshakeable conviction and  steadfast adherence to it has borne rich dividends. He is willing to give those that fail a second chance. That was his commitment to his children. He loved not only when they succeeded but even when one failed. He kept believing, kept supporting and in that he demonstrates the heart of Father God.

 

Third, like vintage wine he grew better with age

Retirement is a word one would not find in Uncle’s vocabulary. He was until very recently still a working man. Obviously men created in the Mahathir era work well into their eighties! Uncle was of course a contemporary of the former Prime Minister.  He was active in the senior citizens club of Sungai Petani. He was involved in drug rehabilitation. He worked on as a pharmacist well into his eighties. He still drove until recently. He always found time to laugh. He had a great sense of humour. He was able to see through the hollowness of others and laugh it off rather than despise! That kept his heart pure. I remember sitting next to him at a funeral service. Seated next to him was a Christian from a denomination that felt they alone were of the true faith. I whispered to him how wrong that view was. He replied, “That’s what I think too” and broke into laughter. No malice, no scorn, just a laughter (not a mocking one either) as to how narrow our views can be. He never really grew “old”. He remains always young at heart-something rare in a person of any age! His humour kept him young and his equilibrium was maintained in even the most trying of circumstances.

 

Fourth, he is generous and hospitable

Uncle loved to host luncheon and dinners for his family. He loved playing host and footing the bill. He was generous. He also was thoughtful to contribute towards the needs of pastors and often a cheque will accompany a card and/or a letter. It was always addressed to “Dear Pastor”. King Solomon promised that those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

 

Fifth, he values people

I am always impressed when I visit Uncle in Kuala Lumpur. After he moved away permanently from Sungai Petani we saw each other less often. Soon after I too moved away and relocated in a different place. Occasionally I would visit him in the Petaling Jaya home of Abraham his son. When I arrived at the gate, there was Uncle all dressed up right down to his shoes and socks, looking dapper as usual sitting on the veranda ready to take me in his loving embrace.

Often when I preach and tell people about God the Father and how He eagerly awaits us when we come into His presence, I use this picture of Uncle on the veranda. They never fail to be moved! In this he portrays the heart of God the Father-loving, welcoming and showing us how valuable we to Him.

 

Sixth, his faith in God

Uncle knows God personally. I remember sharing this at his golden wedding anniversary when I was given the honour of delivering the sermon. For Uncle, it was the God equation that made the difference in his life, his marriage, his trials, his journeying here on earth.

I began by saying that we should not be looking out for perfect men but for good men. I lamented that there are but few “Good Men”. But there are fewer still men that can be labelled God’s men. Such a man is not perfect for a perfect man needs no God. A man of the earth however, knows God’s holiness, his own weaknesses and celebrates God’s grace. Uncle is truly a man of God and because of this most chiefly, he can be described as a good man whom God has made great as He did to King David. Below is a poem I wrote that embodies Uncle’s heart and spirit. Happy 90th Birthday, Uncle!

I'd Call You Dad If I Could

A Poem

 

 

Growing old

Yet forever young

Zest for life

Undiminished

Times, Seasons, all change

And threaten to change us

You remain constant

Zeal unabated

If I should fail

And I expect I will

And the world shouts

Give up on him!

I know you would say

Give him a chance

He's my son!

But what if this means

Sacrifice?

Extra finances?

Loans?

Rebukes?

Give him a chance

He's my son.

When you are old

And home is all that can be told

You write me letters

Send me cheques

When we live apart

And I say

I'll come visit

You will be all dressed up

Seated on the porch

Waiting

I feel valued

Loved

Longed for

Anticipated

You make me feel that.

I grow old too

And struggle with that.

Shall I celebrate

My half century?

When 80 came knocking

You greeted it with glee

Wine, dine, celebrate

Life!

So I am not afraid to age

You show me

Age like wine

Gains vintage

You celebrate

Music, dance, food & wine

Family, friends,

Politicians, Mr. Ambassador

All celebrate with you.

When I grieve

As I sometimes do

A break in

A death

A loss

A crisis

Your long distance call

Your visit to my home

You presence with me at the station

You are there for me

A funeral

A jingoistic sermon

A serious disposition

Then a comment

A laugh

Perspective restored

Not taken in

The narrow

The bigoted

The posturing

For how can the unreal

Unmask the real?

You tell me stories

Of

Success

Failures

Trials

Struggles

Challenges

Sorrows

I feel its ok to be human

You celebrate

And reward

Success

More importantly

You accept

Failure

You won't write me off

You value me not for my

Successes

But because

I am your son!

You rejoice when failures

Become successes

Not giving yourself credit

But in seeing a life

Succeed.

When I think of you

What do I think of

Most?

Zest

For life

Joy

In family

Ease

In living right

Patience

In sorrow

Humility

In learning from those younger

 

Dignity

In dress

In decorum

In deed

A life

Lived

Fully,

Well,

Shared,

Joyous amidst sorrow,

Not embittered,

Not regretting,

Not counting that which

Cannot be counted,

In

Love

Laughter

Thankfully

Because of faith

In

God

A

Faith

Passed on

A

Life

Lived

Knowing

Its

Potential,

Limitations,

Joys

Sorrows,

Hopes,

Fears,

Successes,

Failures,

Yet never defeated, drowned, dejected

Because

Of

God

&

Grace

Your legacy

That's why

I'd call you

DAD!

 

 

From John, your fourth 'son'

Whom you respectfully address as

Pastor


 

 

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