I miss my friend who is 5 years older than me. I called him Engkong. That’s not his real name. In one ethnic group in Indonesia, the name refers to a grandfather. I called him that because culturally he was a little much older to be a friend to hang out with. That was a nickname I gave him which he received warmly. Nevertheless, Engkong had been a good friend of mine and to some degree had played the role of mentor during my early young adult life.
Engkong ignited in me a deep-seated admiration for the richness of the soul. I’m pretty sure if you talk to him you will find that he is not kind of person who’s trying to impress others with brilliant thoughts or eloquent words; though, in fact he has a perpetual restlessness that seems to always disrupt every comfort zone. He is a writer. By the time you read his writings, they will explain the down-to-earth attitude he had resulting from the perilous battles of mind and soul he fought disciplinarily. He ushered me into the world of noble concepts and abstraction that stimulated my imagination beyond the material world.
We worked together as colleagues in ministry. Both of us loved reading and writing. I showed him something I had written and he appreciated so much the way I perceived things. I felt secure with him. One day he stepped down from the column he wrote routinely for our in-house bulletin. He handed down to me the legacy to inspire readership that undoubtedly had been pleased by his writings. He and I are totally different in approaching something. That was one of my concerns when I started writing the column. He encouraged me to stay true to who I am; and he was there with me, giving advice and constructive feedback. To me he’d been a coach that could easily win the game himself, yet he wanted me to win it simply because he saw potential in me. Lately, as I’ve pondered about this, I realized he had a big heart even though people started forgetting him. He is not after the spotlight. To see others find their potential means the world to him. That’s his simple happiness.
I knew that he was going to move to a different town. He would no be longer around anymore. I anticipated there would be something missing when he left, but I couldn’t articulate it well. I was too green to understand what goodbye was. It was too hazy to me. So, when he said goodbye, I didn’t say any word. Perhaps Yann Martel from Life of Pi was right when he wrote, “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Engkong again. As the world keeps turning, changes are inevitable. I grew some white hair in my head, and last time I met Engkong I saw more wrinkles around his eyes. I haven’t seen him much since then. By the pond at Northside Park Wheaton, I couldn’t help thinking that very often we don’t properly give accolades to those who cause transformation in our lives because they were with us all the time and we take them for granted. Engkong left a deep impression that I want to pass on to others. Surely, it is not about the pain of neglecting to say goodbye. It is about sincerely seeking the best interest of others and about being a gift to others around.