The Goat that was a Tiger! Sharon Lee, Foster City, California.
This is the best I can do as I think fondly of Koh Gay. Thank you Alvin for introducing me to him. Thank you Alvin for showing us how to have a great time. Although my meetings with Koh Gay were few but those times were very meaningful. I also know how much frustrations you had to endure when KG has his demons. But I am sure KG also had to deal 100 x more too. Yes I was crying when I wrote this - still sad as I think about him.
Tall, shy, sensitive, generous, big-hearted, quiet and... surprising. He was a tiger who liked to keep to the back of the pack, happy to follow, but was quick in stepping forward to help his friends whenever the need arose.
I love this photo of Koh Gay because, even in his midst of a serious conversation, his smile was often infectious. And this photo also reminds me of his love for kids and his desire to be a positive influence on them.
Billy the Goat
I first met Koh Gay when I visited my big brother Alvin in Eugene, Oregon, while he was studying in the United States - we were all in our twenties - and Koh Gay was rooming with Alvin. When I came into the apartment, Alvin said, “Billy, meet my sister Sharon”. So I initially knew Koh Gay as “Billy”, and the name stuck with me.
We did crazy, fun things together. One fond memory I have is of cooking green apple fried rice and, though Alvin said “Eweeeuuuu”, Billy ate it all anyway, out of politeness. On another occasion, we took a drive in a Grand Am (an American “muscle” car) and Alvin did a spin… HAHAHA what a blast! We all had so much fun: Billy was laughing freely (he had a quick wit), and was giving it to Alvin - it was fun to see the 2 boys interact, poking fun at one another. Yes, Billy was a serious person, but he could make any situation fun!
One day, many years later, Billy looked at me and said, “Sharon, my name is Koh Gay” I looked at him, surprised, and replied, “But I have always called you Billy, and the name suits you!” I saw that he was getting annoyed. His eyes narrowed, and he frowned a little, and said, “ ‘Billy’ means ‘Billy Goat’.” OOOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhhh….. That tells me a lot. Dang! A hundred things ran through my mind.
Imagine a gentle tiger being reduced to a Billy goat? I never thought it that way. He was more than that! Maybe people treated him differently because of his mental illness? And he became more sensitive to his situation.
I felt then, and feel now, like crying. Life can be so unfair at times.
Big Heart Hero
It was a privilege to meet Koh Gay in those early days, and even a greater privilege to know him later in his life. He was acutely aware that his mind was fighting against him, and yet he still continued committing his time to kids in need and striving to help others achieve their goals.
I once asked him, “Koh Gay, how is your mom?” He responded in his draggy way, “I’m looking for a maid to look after my mom who has dementia. Do you know anyone?” I immediately got that he was feeling a little overwhelmed by his own health challenges while also taking care of his ailing Mom. I knew what he was struggling with because I myself was a caregiver for many years - it took a lot out of me, both physically and mentally. Wow, a caring son! My respect for Koh Gay skyrocketed!
Where is God in the Picture?
Koh Gay exemplified the teachings of Jesus on love, despite his internal demons (1st Corinthians 13)* - he faced lonely struggles every day and yet persisted in helping others. He put the needs of others first, and his own needs last.
Could it be that Koh Gay was the reflection of God Himself? My conversations with Koh Gay were often about helping kids, or his concern for his family, and his love of his fellow citizens. I never once heard him say anything selfish.
* 1st Corinthians 13: 4-8
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
Lessons to Take Away
To me, the lesson I learnt from Koy Gay is that no matter what state a person is in, look further and beyond. Do not judge the book by its cover as there maybe surprises to be seen and learn from. People change over time, so be quick to learn the positive things. Be kind to others, suffer silently, and be comforted that God is with you all the way. Humility is the key to seeing God. This is what our beloved friend Chang Koh Gay was all about.
One thing that comforts me when I reflect on the reality that I will never see him again in this life - sigh - is that I believe God wanted him up in Heaven, nearer to Himself. Koh Gay has borne his “cross” long enough and is ready for something better.
And, one day, I will see him again. We will renew our friendship. I look forward to enjoying meals with him, joking with him, reminiscing with him. With Billy the Goat, I mean Tiger!