Ask any journalism graduate and they will probably admit to having a newspaper column as part of their life goals. I never thought it possible to achieve that before I hit 30.
Someone I know and love very much, did, however. Unfortunately, he is no longer here today as he had returned to his Creator on Dec 5, 2015. I want to dedicate my first article to my late cousin, Tunku Abdul Jalil Sultan Ibrahim of Johor, the Prince of Hearts.
Upon returning from England four years ago, after graduating from journalism school, Almarhum Tunku Jalil insisted that I should have my own column.
Having very little confidence at that time, I told him that I had just returned home and was out of touch; I’d rather not go down the lane of being an obnoxious millennial, deluded into thinking she had seen the world after having spent merely three years abroad. I told him I would reconsider it after some work experience.
Lived a little, I did. I was also a few months into my first job when my cousin was diagnosed with stage 3 liver cancer.
I was in denial throughout most of his battle with the disease. Even when it was made clear that his chances of survival were unlikely, I held onto the possibility of a miracle and convinced myself he would magically defeat the savage illness that was aggressively taking over his body.
It’s been a year and four months since Almarhum Tunku Jalil left us, and as I continue to navigate through young adulthood, I often look back at his life as a blueprint for mine. The legacy he left and his attitude towards life was only possible for someone who possessed the wisdom of a person facing death and a heart that was always ready to give more than it received.
Not long after his cancer diagnosis, Almarhum Tunku Jalil embarked on a mission to support others who shared the same fate as him.
Whenever his health permitted, he visited cancer wards and gave words of strength to those who were weak and frail from the effects of chemotherapy.
The word “therapy” is quite misleading; anyone who has ever known anyone with cancer would know that chemotherapy often destroys a patient as rapidly as the disease itself does.
Almarhum Tunku Jalil had a big heart; he was very sensitive to the needs of those around him.
When he visited food stalls by the roads, he would often buy more than he needed to help their sales. He was generous towards his staff, often making sure they were living comfortably and that their children were showered with goodies.
He felt indebted to aid those who did not have what he did. It was no surprise that after a year of living with cancer, the Tunku Laksamana Johor Cancer Foundation (TLJC) was established.
TLJC Foundation’s mission is to spread awareness on cancer and give financial aid to patients from low-income families.
Towards his final months, it would have still appeared as if he had no shortage of motivation to continue his fight, but alas, he was only human.
There were days he truly felt defeated. Absolutely, defeated. But he picked himself up again and chose to set his grievances aside to instil hope and joy in other patients at the oncology ward. If he could not help himself; he would help others.
Almarhum Tunku Jalil was the kind to cheer everyone around him on because he wanted to see them achieve their dreams.
Seeing people happy gave him a sense of purpose and I truly believe he fought as hard as he could because of that. He refused to see his family and friends saddened by his rapidly deteriorating health. Even when he was in agony, he felt responsible to make his loved ones feel at ease.
A compassionate prince, he was. I highly doubt he knew just how much he had impacted the lives of others, starting from his family. When I went through phases of extreme self-doubt as a teen — even as an adult — he would ensure that I could do anything I wanted to.
He believed in me more than I ever could in myself.
It is remarkable just how much you can learn from someone who is battling a chronic illness and have to come to terms with their mortality.
I often find it ironic how those blessed with health and vitality often waste their lives away, when death is an imminent reality, no matter what your age is. How many of us have had friends or relatives who died “too soon” and “so unexpectedly”?
I believe there is a Jalil in all of us. We all want to “fight like Jalil”. He was living proof that people never forget how you made them feel, even if it was over one brief encounter.
Almarhum Tunku Jalil’s life and demise taught me that you can still achieve a lot in a relatively short period of time. As the saying goes: it doesn’t matter how you start the race, but what matters is how you finish it.
,b>Raja Sarina is a freelance writer, a blogger at www.dearsarina.com and is currently studying Arabic. She is a millennial trying to make a difference, starting with herself