Father and son had a difficult relationship, and even in death, there was little love lost between Mr Ong Teck Eng and his son.
Asked how he was feeling about collecting his son Mr Ken Ong Wei Poh's body at the mortuary, the 70-year-old said: "I'm only doing this because if I don't, who else would do it?"
Mr Ken Ong, 37, was believed to have attacked his wife, Madam Koh Siang Hua, 39, in their Yuan Ching Road condominium last Friday morning.
He was believed to have turned the knife on himself after the horrific attack. The couple were taken to the National University Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
The elder Mr Ong, who was in hospital for 10 days for a chest infection since Jan 21, did not know about the attack until a police officer turned up at his bedside on Friday. He was discharged on Saturday.
He also had no idea that his son was married until reporters asked about his daughter-in-law.
"We're father and son only in name. You can't even say we were friends, because you'd at least tell your friend you are getting married," he told The New Paper in a mixture of Hokkien and Mandarin.
"You can say we were strangers."
Undertaker Roland Tay, who provided his services for free after hearing about the case, helped Mr Ong with funeral and cremation arrangements yesterday.
The founder of Direct Funeral Services picked up Mr Ong from his Toa Payoh flat to take him to the mortuary at Outram Road.
Dressed in a buttoned-down shirt and black trousers with a black cap, Mr Ong, a former pork seller, was already waiting when Mr Tay showed up shortly after 10am at the two-room rental flat in Lorong 5 Toa Payoh where he lives alone.
Before leaving for the mortuary, he invited TNP into his home, apologising for not cleaning up because he no longer has the strength to do so.
Making his way to Mr Tay's car, Mr Ong had a slow but steady gait, pausing occasionally to catch his breath.
Along the way to the mortuary, a friend called Mr Ong on his mobile phone to ask where he was.
"I've gone to collect Ah Pui (Hokkien for "fatty")," he said, referring to his son's rotund figure.
"How would I know what time I'll be back home? If he takes me with him, I'm never coming back."
His ill health has given him a grim outlook on life, Mr Ong said.
He is supposed to take more than a dozen different pills every day for his heart condition, and he is often short of breath, wheezing when he speaks too much.
But he doesn't believe in taking the prescribed medicine because he "doesn't feel the effects".
"There are good days and bad, so I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. I just take things one day at a time," he said, declaring that his one-cigarette-pack-a-day habit was here to stay.
His wife walked out on him when his son was just two years old, so Mr Ong and his mother raised the boy - whom his described as "a little fatty who liked playing handheld games and eating" - in a Lorong Ah Soo flat.
They later moved to Ang Mo Kio, but that flat had to be sold when Mr Ong racked up gambling debts.
For the past two decades or so, he's been living in the Toa Payoh flat, with short stays in a clan association at Lorong Ah Soo and a Buddhist temple in Jurong West.
Father and son lived together for about 10 years in Toa Payoh, but the pair hardly spoke to each other.
"Sometimes, if one of us bought food to eat, we would ask what the other was having. That's all," he recalled.
"Towards the end of living together, he moved into the room, so I just slept in the living room on a mattress." When asked why his son moved out, his eyes glazed over.
"Why does anyone move out? Why don't you ask God?" he shot back.
Pressed on further details about his personal life, Mr Ong got agitated, calling the details "inconsequential".
But he revealed that he has lost touch with his ex-wife, and his son's relationship with her was "even worse than mine".
The last time he had seen his son alive was "a few years ago", when Mr Ong was living in the clan association.
"He came with a woman who was driving a car. My son carried a small child and came out of the car to give me a few hundred dollars, that was the end of it," he said.
Later in the afternoon at Mandai Crematorium, Mr Ong cut a lonely figure as he sat outside Service Hall 1.
Throughout the last rites, he sat ramrod straight, watching impassively.
Even as workers opened the coffin for him to take a last look at his son, Mr Ong took a cursory glance and nodded for them to replace the cover.
In the viewing room, he stood perfectly still before the glass panel, hands clasped in prayer as he watched his son's coffin being pushed into a furnace.
When the doors to the furnace closed, he turned to the reporters who had gathered, his eyes glassy.
"Ken looked very peaceful," he said. "But such is life. You live, you die. It's just a matter of when."
Asked what went through his mind while sending his only child on his final journey, Mr Ong said: "Take care of yourself."
This article was first published on Feb 02, 2015.
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