It’s been six days since my brother passed away – he was buried on Sunday, 2 March 2008. We now have the pain and grief to deal with – however, amazing stories about my brother have surfaced ever since.
Let me share now about my brother, Handy Sugiharto Tanusondjaja. He might not have received many awards and might not have multiple degrees. It might have taken him longer to finish his Accounting degree, and he might not have as much money and wealth as some of his siblings – but one thing is for sure, he was much treasured and loved by the people around him.
My brother passed away on Thursday, 28 February and from then on until his burial, many people came to the wake – from the acquaintances and relatives of his siblings, to the veggie seller who opened his business in the field in front of Handy’s house. Everybody shared a little piece of him that even we, his family, knew little about. Handy was known as somebody who was always willing to help – from repairing a mobile phone that dropped into a swimming pool, to fixing electrical outlets. Around the house, he cooked, he drove his children to school, whilst also managing his little ‘mom-and-pop’ shop. He was also somebody who came to church to do his scheduled ministry, even when he was still feeling weak because of his heart condition. Of the many people who filled the hall that was used for the wake, there were his neighbours, the youths who used to hang around his shop, his old uni mates, his church mates, and even, as mentioned previously, the veggie seller and the porridge seller from the housing complex.
Handy was born on 29 June 1974 – another boy to complete a family of five daughters, and three sons. He got married in 2002 to Sisilia Sianne – after which they received three children: Michelle Aurelia Tanusondjaja (on 19 May 2003), Sheren Aurelia Tanusondjaja (on 13 June 2004), and Kenneth Nathanael Tanusondjaja (on 11 December 2006).
At the end of 2007, he complained that he wasn’t feeling well – and the x-ray result showed that he had an enlarged heart. Apparently, he had had the onset of a cardiac problem for many years, even when he was still courting his wife – he would complain to her that he had pins and needles on his shoulder.
A couple of days before he passed away, he complained that his hands and feet felt cold – his shortness of breath had also worsened. Yet, he would still help his sisters, drove his children to school, and shopped for his household needs in the morning, as well as buying the can of paint that played a part in his death. He wanted to decorate his shop for a competition that was organised by a local cigarette brand.
We suspected that he had a cardiac arrest when he smelled the fume from the paint and fell down. His wife found him face-down on a pool of silvery paint that covered his face and chest. In panic, after she cradled him in her arms, he drew two short breaths and then lay limp. She called my first sister, who then in turns called my older brother who rushed to the scene. My sister in law also tried to resuscitate my brother, to no avail. A mysterious lady also offered her assistance to drive my brother’s body and my nephew along with my sister to the hospital. A policeman also assisted to guard the entourage so the car could navigate through the traffic safely and quickly.
The doctor pronounced him dead on arrival – which began a sad yet uplifting finale to his short life. On the night that he passed away, his wife had a dream in which my brother appeared in her dream. He asked her to go home together, which his wife replied ‘No Han, I want to stay here to look after the children until they all grow up’. My brother then replied, ‘In that case, I’ll go home first then. I’m happy here with Jesus’. My brother and his wife often stayed in his in-laws’ house, and it was quite normal for him to ask his wife to go home with him.
A lady at the wake also had a vision of him looking down from heaven to see his body – he was crying and asking God what this all meant because he couldn’t understand a thing. The next vision that she had was of him standing near the coffin, looking handsome and much healthier to the condition that he was in before he passed away, with many gifts on his arms, laughing away.
I am very proud of having him as my brother – his life has become a great story to everybody who was touched by him. We are only two years apart by birth – I used to resent the fact of having similar clothes to him and for having many people asking us whether we were twins. We had many quarrels when we were children – he would face the fight face on, whilst I would approach it by stealth. It was true to our nature – he was the one good with his hands, whilst I was the brainy one. I had the privilege of studying overseas and pursuing a life that I wanted, whilst he had to struggle to finance and support his young family.
Handy was much loved and admired – and many people still came to my parents’ house to pay their respect. Like a jigsaw puzzle with many beautiful pieces, everybody brought their little piece to complete a picture of somebody who went the extra mile to help anybody without ever asking anything back in return.