Causes Week 2016: A friend in need - even in the afterlife

Mr Lim founded Afterlife Memorial Service in late 2012 after he helped with the funeral arrangements of a man in his 80s and a 10-year-old boy.
Mr Lim founded Afterlife Memorial Service in late 2012 after he helped with the funeral arrangements of a man in his 80s and a 10-year-old boy.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Afterlife Memorial Service founder takes care of seniors who lack family support and also organises their funerals

For the past four years, 77-year-old Lim Hang Chung has been a friend to the needy and dying by providing them with free funeral services.

He is the founder of Afterlife Memorial Service (AMS), which organises funeral arrangements for the disadvantaged and befriends the elderly who lack family support.

"I often read about people dying at home without any next of kin to care for them. My heart goes out to them," said Mr Lim, whose organisation has helped close to 100 people.

Last month, he became a winner of the President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards, which recognises those who have done well in giving back to the community.

AMS receives more than 10 inquiries for funeral services a month, said Mr Lim. About 60 per cent of its cases are ad hoc ones. Apart from responding to such cases, the group is also helping more than 200 members aged 65 and above, who may have financial difficulty and little to no family support.

PEACE OF MIND

Many elderly worry that no one will help them with their funeral arrangements after they die. They are less troubled knowing that we are around.

MR LIM HANG CHUNG

"Every year, we spend about $500 to $600 per person, taking them on outings and shopping," said Mr Lim.

"Many elderly worry that no one will help them with their funeral arrangements after they die. They are less troubled knowing that we are around," he added.

Mr Lawrence Lim, 55, general secretary of Cheng Hong Welfare Service Society, which handles AMS, said: "The expenses for a simple funeral are not that high.

"Before they leave us, they would be much happier if someone were with them."

Each funeral procedure costs up to about $3,000.

AMS started in late 2012, after Mr Lim Hang Chung helped with the funeral arrangements of two people - a man in his 80s and a 10-year-old boy.

The elderly man had asked if staff at a temple could handle his last rites if he died one day. Not long after, he was hospitalised after a fall. The man recovered but had mobility issues.

The AMS founder, who had been at the helm of the temple, would occasionally visit him.

Mr Lim recalled: "He took my hand tightly and said I was his only friend. No one visited him besides his nephew and myself."

"He was discharged from hospital after a while and fell down again at home. We only found out he had fallen and died at his home about two days after it had happened," added Mr Lim, who carried out the older man's last wishes.

The other case occurred around Chinese New Year when a man asked for help after his 10-year-old son had died, and he had spent his life savings on the medical bills.

"After these two cases, I told my friends and (Lawrence) that I thought we should do an Afterlife Memorial Service," he said.

AMS works with around six funeral companies now, taking into consideration the religious requirements and not differentiating between race or age.

Often, Cheng Hong chairman Lim Hang Chung, who is a businessman outside his work, continues to handle inquiries personally.

For some people, such as a 54-year-old man with terminal cancer, a wish in his final days could be as simple as taking a bite of the steamed buns he craved but could not stomach.

Mr Lim bought him the food he liked and continued visiting him in the intensive care unit, feeding him lunch at one point.

Mr Lim said: "He was very moved, but could not continue eating. He said that when he died, he would watch over me from the afterlife.

"It is not about whether he watches over me, but about the emotions that one conveys to another. I cry often when I think about these things."

Cheng Hong is not the only group to do pro bono funerals. Companies such as Direct Funeral Services also provides an average of eight pro bono funeral services every month. 

The founder of Love and Unity Volunteers Establishment (Luve), which cares for socially isolated and needy elderly in Bukit Merah, also handles funerals of those who die with no next-of-kin.

AMS hopes to spread word of its services to those elderly who may need it. Every week, it reaches out to residents living in one-room flats, conducting talks and roadshows.

"I want to help people by trying my best to know them and finding out their last wishes," said Mr Lim. "After we complete the services, I feel satisfied."

  • Afterlife Memorial Service 24-hour Hotline: 6100-6991
  • To donate to Cheng Hong, go to https://www.giving.sg/ cheng-hong-welfare-service-society
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'A friend in need - even in the afterlife'. Print Edition | Subscribe