Farewell ‘Gentle Guru’ Matthew Warrier

Age is just a number. Life and aging are the greatest gifts that we could possibly ever have.

— Cicely Tyson, American actress

When I turned 70 last June, I thought it was game-up!

Yes, the Bible says that the Almighty has given mankind three-score and 10 years, and anything after that is a bonus.

Earlier this month, we lost a dear friend who had migrated to Perth — St Joseph’s teacher Matthew Warrier, who was 83.

He was the son-in-law of Johnny Owen, a Melanau-Eurasian Council Negri member who voted for the cession of Sarawak to Great Britain in 1946.

I had been in touch with Matthew for more than 40 years and even called on the family in Australia when Johnny was still alive.

When he visited Kuching several years ago, I took him to the home of an old St Joseph’s schoolmate and friend, Tan Sri Dr George Chan, and he appeared to be hale and hearty.

Of late, I had been communicating with Matthew and his neighbour, author Veronon Porritt, the prolific writer of Sarawak Confrontation of the 1960s, and the former gave me the impression he was as fit as a fiddle.

In early February, another who migrated to Perth, Jerome Goh, told us that Matthew had suddenly passed away. He died after a diabetic seizure at 4am on Feb 6.

Little did I know, Matthew had diabetes and had survived several seizures over the years.

Earlier in the month, we lost national rugby player Anthony Besar to illness and on Feb 16, another national player Tan Soo Chong.

Both Anthony and Soo Chong were dear friends, and well below 70 years of age!

In this respect, as healthy as we think we are, we are closer to the grave than we think we are!
As for me, I have survived four serious motorcycle accidents — two self-inflicted when I drove into a car at top speed and then into a drain, and two separate incidents, motorists rammed into my machine.

In one of the accidents, I was fortunate that a timber tycoon, Datuk Amar Hamid Sepawi, paid RM10,000 to have a pin put into my right shoulder at a private hospital.

But the fourth accident was the most interesting because I broke the ‘head’ or proximal end of the right humerus (arm) bone that forms the ball of the ball-and-socket shoulder joint.

The young doctor who examined me in a panicky voice said I had broken the humerus in four parts and showed me the X-ray as proof.

He said, “You must have an operation immediately or your right arm will be paralysed.”

But since news organisations don’t pay the bill for serious accidents and RM10,000 was way beyond what I could afford, I bought an arm sling and went to see a doctor at Timberland.

He told me, “If you can bear the pain, it will heal.”

And true enough, after a week, an X-ray showed the cracks had cemented and the arm healed by itself.

Now I live one day at a time but with the Covid-19 virus at large, how worse can the situation get?

On the other hand, looking at the good side of longevity, Tun Dr Mahathir will turn 96 on July 10. 

I also know two centenarians, top cop Tan Sri J J Raj and former Sarawak governor Tun Pehin Sri Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng, who will both turn 100 on July 27 and Aug 27 respectively.

Sarawak governor Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his former deputy chief minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan will both turn 86 on May 20 and Sept 24 respectively.

Matthew Warrier was an exemplary teacher, kind and loving, and adored by his students.

Among them, the likes of Alex Ling, Adenan Satem, Jerome Goh, Joseph Au, Dennis Hon, Amin Satem and Dr George Chan.

In his eulogy to Matthew, Cambridge University lawyer Alex Ling wrote, “It is axiomatic that in life, we all have to face our final curtains, sometimes, somehow and in somewhere. We never know: The undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveler returns.”

Live and let live, sooner or later, all of us would take turns to leave each other, looking to meet at the reunion in the next spiritual world.

 “Death was created to save the living and make all men equal.”

May God bless you Cikgu Matthew as you journey to the far and beyond!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.