Derek’s final resting place
How time flies. It has been over 6 months since Derek Cher passed on, and yesterday, the NCC boys (plus Zhenyao, who was from NPCC) went to say hi to our old buddy after a meal at Botak Jones.
His gravestone is pretty cool, with a warped cross and avant-garde stony texture. Unfortunately, his photo still isn’t up (“Someone isn’t working,” said one of us). And we still haven’t gotten round to getting him a dragonboat paddle.
While I was still there, the guys went to check out the other gravestones. It’s amazing the kind of oneupmanship that is going on at Lim Chu Kang.
The most hardcore was this grave with a tentage shelter, blinking bicycle lights and other cool embellishments. There was another with a stainless steel roof, much like a modern bus-stop. Another grave was filled with ceramic dogs, and another with the prettiest pebbles.
But back to Derek.
He’d have turned 30 tomorrow, and I was just thinking he was so much a part of our lives I didn’t really archive all the things we did together in my head. You know, it’s not like your first girlfriend where you’d remember in absolute detail the first date, the first quarrel…and so on.
With an old buddy, you remember faintly that he was always around, but you don’t really remember exactly what you did together that made you become firm friends. Especially in ACS when you have so many buddies from twelve long years of seeing the same dudes over and over again.
There was one memory that did pop up recently from the depths of my grey cells. We were participating in the NCC orienteering course. Basically this was a scaled down navigation exercise where we had to escape being detected by trainers. It was held somewhere in a forested area.
We were 15 then, and Derek was my partner for this particular course. When the course started, everyone started running into the forest. I tripped and fell, and landed smack on my chest and the wind was expelled from my lungs.
Derek was of course, way ahead, and he turned back and hissed: “Hey, what are you doing back there?” He was always fitter, but hey, this wasn’t my fault man.
I was turning blue in the face and couldn’t answer him at all. That was when I also saw the biggest fricking ant in my life (it measured about 3cm across) crawl across my hand. I struggled to get up and panted like mad as we continued on our way.
Coincidentally, we were both to end up as recce officers in NS, though in different batches and units. Still the same crap though – running away from “enemies” and going through lots of vegetation.
Then there are other scenes in my archive…Derek hanging out with the canoeing girls at the stone table before ACJC’s flag-raising…us lazing around on hot afternoons in the tiny NCC room…him studying in the ACJC void deck with Jerry and Dom…and of course, the infamous, but cannot-be-told “One Thousand Brothers” incident in the MacRitchie training shed.
It’s a struggle to dig up clear memories of him as I get older. In a few years, I wonder if all that’s left is the memory of the essence of who he was, rather than the events that shaped our experiences as friends.
Nevertheless, we’ll see you again one day, bro.
One of my last photos of Derek (far left), at Wenliang’s wedding