Goodbye, Mr Ghazi
TKPS teacher who died in Sabah quake laid to rest
As male family members lowered her husband's body into the ground, Madam Khalidal Huda Sukaimi struggled to keep her composure.
Just hours earlier, the remains of her husband, Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, were brought home from Malaysia, along with those of his pupil, Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar.
Mr Ghazi, 35, died on Mount Kinabalu after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on June 5.
He leaves behind his wife and three children, the youngest just a year old.
His and Navdeep's remains were the last to be brought back as Malaysian authorities needed to complete forensic tests. Both had been listed as missing for five days following the quake.
But on June 10, their remains - the last two Singapore victims to be accounted for - were identified by Malaysian authorities through their fingerprints and personal belongings.
The Kinabalu disaster claimed the lives of 18 people, including 10 Singaporeans - seven pupils and two teachers from TKPS, as well as a Singapore adventure guide who was accompanying the group.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr Ghazi's body was taken to the Kampung Siglap Mosque in Marine Parade where hundreds of students, colleagues, family and friends gathered to bid him a final goodbye before last rites were performed.
Also at the prayers were Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Hawazi Daipi.
Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communication and Information, and Mr Hawazi were among the pallbearers who carried Mr Ghazi's coffin out of the mosque at about 5pm.
It was then taken to the Pusara Aman Muslim cemetery at Lim Chu Kang for burial.
Speaking to the media after the hearse had left, a visibly emotional Dr Yaacob choked up, calling it "a sad moment".
"Clearly it's a painful moment for his family members and us as a community," he said, adding that in the month of Ramadan, this should be an occasion to rally the community and nation together to move forward from the tragedy.
Mr Heng, who also spoke to the media, thanked the Malaysian authorities for expediting the process of bringing home the remains, allowing the families to get some form of closure.
His ministry will continue to provide support to those who lost loved ones in the earthquake.
As for the TKPS pupils, they will go back to school when term starts so they can resume their normal routine and continue the healing process, he said.
At the cemetery in Lim Chu Kang, more than 100 mourners showed up to see Mr Ghazi on his final journey. Many had grim expressions while others wiped away silent tears, watching as Mr Ghazi was laid to rest.
As the grave was being filled with earth, Madam Khalidal, a secondary school teacher, turned away to collect herself. She returned soon after for the prayers, mouthing the words through trembling lips, pausing occasionally to wipe away another tear.
With the final blessings uttered against the backdrop of a setting sun, Madam Khalidal whispered a last goodbye, hands held up in prayer, eyes shut against the fading light.