Ten Or Less

by Jowell Tan



On his deathbed, my Grandpa said It’s not a proper funeral if none of my friends can come. Put me in the oven and pull me back up when it’s over. We’ll do it properly then. So we had him cremated and placed in his columbarium niche. Just me, Mum, and his brother Uncle Tim. We called up everyone we knew and said We know it’s a little unusual, we just want everyone to be able to come. He wanted it that way. Then we hunkered down and waited for this whole situation to fix itself up so we could do a proper wake.


While we waited, the number of deaths went up. Uncle Seng, my grandfather’s best friend, was the first in their gang to go. Other Uncles soon followed. For some it was the virus, for others it was just old age. Our attendee list shrank.


Finally even Uncle Tim couldn't hold on anymore. On his deathbed, he gave a little chuckle. We were waiting to say a proper goodbye, but it looks like I’ll be saying hello first. We laughed through our tears. Uncle Tim got his own niche at the columbarium, just one level down from Grandpa. We imagined the two brothers drinking up in Heaven, and Grandpa saying That shit is still going on?! Unbelievable.


When the restrictions were finally lifted, we booked a small room at the columbarium. We took Grandpa’s urn out of its niche, gave it a nice sheen, and held the wake. We did it properly, the way we would’ve done it if he’d died then. Called the priest down to give the last rites and everything.


Just me and Mum, the two of us, in that columbarium room with the priest chanting the rites. The words echoing off the walls and the empty chairs. Then we placed the urn back, gave the niche a new marble cover. And that was that.


At the end, he came out one last time to the same group of people that was there when he left. Well, minus Uncle Tim.

Author Bio 

Born, bred, and based in Singapore, Jowell Tan writes prose & poetry after hours for fun and emotional release. His nights consist of writing, rewriting, watching Youtube videos to avoid writing, and finally, writing again. Please say hello to him on Twitter / Instagram at @jwlltn.


He thanks you for your time.

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