THEY shared a 22-year friendship that began when they were 13-year-olds at Victoria School.
They went on to become teachers at Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) for nearly a decade and sat side by side in the staff room, where they often confided in each other.
But when TKPS teacher Ashiq Hashim, 35, returns for the new semester later this month, the desk to his left - once occupied by the late Mr Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed - will be empty.
SELFLESS, DEDICATED MAN
He was a young man who was selfless and dedicated, and to lose his life in such a way is really sad for us.
- Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim
Family, friends and colleagues bade a final farewell to Mr Ghazi yesterday.
The 35-year-old, who is remembered as a family man and a teacher with a great sense of humour, died on Mount Kinabalu after a 5.9-magnitude quake struck Sabah on June 5.
"He was like a brother. It will be different now that he is gone," said Mr Ashiq, who was among the last to leave Mr Ghazi's burial at Choa Chu Kang yesterday afternoon. "But I know he is now in a better place."
He leaves behind his wife Khalidal Huda Sukaimi, a teacher at East View Secondary School, and three children, the youngest just a year old.
Mr Ghazi's casket arrived at the Kampung Siglap Mosque at Marine Parade Road at about 3pm yesterday. Hugs were exchanged, and several mourners were seen wiping away tears.
Among those present were Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim. The body was later taken to the Pusara Aman Muslim cemetery.
Dr Yaacob fought tears as he said: "He was a young man who was selfless and dedicated, and to lose his life in such a way is really sad for us."
Dr Yaacob, who was one of the pallbearers who helped transfer the coffin from the mosque onto a waiting van, added: "No words can describe how the family is feeling."
Earlier in the day, the remains of Mr Ghazi and TKPS pupil Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar - the last two Singapore victims to be accounted for - arrived home from Sabah.
Seven pupils and two teachers from TKPS lost their lives, as did a Singaporean adventure guide accompanying them.
Navdeep, 13, was described by friends as a born leader who was well-liked by his peers.
Prior to the confirmation of his death, many held out hope that the boy would come home safe.
Pupil Jayden Francis, 12, who was on the same TKPS trip, said Navdeep, whom he had known for a year, "would crack jokes and make us laugh".
He added: "I will miss him."