Category Archives: Personal Story


We all live in different life circumstances.  Some blossom early in their lives while others like me, took a longer time. In short, I was a mediocre student throughout my 10 years in St Anthony’s. I achieved no A, scored no sports medal and neither held any high position at all.

But I have something proud to show; a unblemished record of staying a true blue Anthonian for my entire schooling days till 1969.

And I got many blessings out this loyalty although not accolades for I did not make a mark in other pursuits.

Here’s how.

My first blessing is in receiving 10 best years of Christian brothers’ education that enriched my mind, body and soul for my future use. What made it better was the support of a lineup of exemplary teachers who modeled the Christian brothers’ way of growing people.

And my second one is the precious opportunity to live during the SAS Golden Era. And studied with towering giant students who put our school on the national and world maps through their brilliance in the academics, sports and leadership arenas.

Throughout these years, I remained a silent spectator, watching all these goings-on with envy. But somehow, I was soaking in all these Anthonian values and practices that finally showed up some many years like a slow and late bloomer.

Today I am a Master Certified Coach with my Coaching School that teaches leaders to be better leaders that uses the same Anthonian principles of Faith, Charity, Discipline, Integrity, Health, Relationship and Excellence.

I continue to use them whenever I can as I journey on in my mission to teach and share with my children, students, coaches and others.

So the Anthonian Way Of Life lives on for a late bloomer like me.

Many thanks to the Christian brothers and teachers for ‘raising me up to stand on mountains and to walk on stormy seas’! (Josh Goben)

Michael Heah, PhD, MCC, Class of ’69

Adios but Not Goodbye, Jee Kor Ma!

My 6 brothers and sisters called our late aunt, Jee Kor, or Second Aunty but we have always regarded her as ‘Jee Kor Ma’ or in English – ‘Motherly Aunt’. 

She was Jee Kor Ma or ‘Motherly Aunt’ to us because she was truly a mum to us who always treated us like her own children, very similar to her own very loving 5 children: Ah Kwang, Ah Ghim, Niramon, Jenny and Bunny.

For all the years in her long life, she consistently showered us this motherly love, although we were far separated by distance (we in Malaysia, and she in Thailand) and time as we could only get to meet once a while and that time was brief and short as we had duties back home to attend to.

All of us were always so very touched each time we get to meet her again. Her happiness in seeing us again was so extraordinary, very much like the biblical story of Mother Mary’s joy after finding her missing son, Jesus, in the temple.

During this brief time with her, she would drown us with her generous love – her gentle touch, her kind words and her curious questions about us, not forgetting the plentiful delicious Thai goodies she would stuffed into our bags for us to take home, as she was so afraid that we would go hungry without enough to eat.

Jee Kor Ma’s story of love for us is very much seen in her own family as well – very, very admirable for the selfless ways and sacrifices she made to bring up her 4 children at all costs, overcoming the suffering poverty that was inflicted on her when she came to Thailand from China some 80 years ago.

Today her children are very happy and successful people because of her.  It is because they get to follow her footsteps. They take on her values and qualities. Even her loving grandchildren and great grand children are showing much of her great traits. What a blessing!

While we are so sad to lose her, we are also very much at peace for we know she is now in heaven, a better place, a happier place with Jesus, and all her brothers and sisters as well those who had all gone before her.

She was the last Heah clan of her generation on earth, but now reunited with all of them again in Heaven.

So we will only say adios to you, Jee Kor Ma, but not good bye, for we will be united with you one day when God says it’s time too.

Till then, May the Lord Jesus always protect you and Rest in Eternal Peace, Jee Kor Ma, until we meet again!

Learning To Walk Again

Certain moments in our lives are very defining. They have the potential of making us take a hard look at our lives. My ‘certain moment’ was the time during my hip problem, the surgery that followed and the painful recovery time that I am still undergoing.   

I call this article ‘learning to walk again’ because it’s about this particular chapter of my life that has taught me never to take things for granted any more.   

You see, walking, running, jumping were activities  I took for granted. I never consciously attribute them as God’s gift for me. Never was I grateful that I was so mobile where in ‘happier times’ I could do so much – jogging for stretches, climbing up the hills around my area, playing football and basketball in the mud and rain, and so on.

Then unexpectedly, this very thing I took for granted became the very thing that was taken away from me. My mobility was severely hampered during the late stages of my hip pains. I couldn’t move a fraction of what I could do previously. It took another beating during the surgery and the recovery period that reduced me to a child who couldn’t walk to learning to walk again – in baby steps with a walker and now a walking stick. 

At this time now, every step I make is precious, an achievement.  I am now so very thankful to the One up there for giving me a second chance. I feel so thankful too to Angeline’s loving tender care during this whole episode.  I’m also thankful to well wishes from my friends, their gifts, their visits and their prayers. 

Adding them up together, they all are helping me to walk well again. 

Thank You!

Wedding Speech: Speaking From Our Hearts

 A very good evening to all.

In my profession, I make a lot of speeches to all kinds of audiences, but never yet to an audience of this demographics.  In our social lives together, we have heard many, many wedding speeches, but have never made one ourselves.  And in our very small family unit, I have not done one yet, till today.

So under such circumstances, this is my maiden wedding speech today.  (Honestly, I had to be coached by my dear wife on what to say, how to say and how long it should be).

So let me begin by saying to our loving son, Hil, and our first daughter in law, Dan, that we are overjoyed with their new marital status as lifetime husband and wife.

Your wedding ceremony today was most touching and romantic, like the love story of Romeo and Juliet, tho’ not in Verona, Italy but in this beautiful Yarra Valley in Melbourne.

It shows your good taste, creativity and resourcefulness in making this a most memorable occasion for us.  It was exceptionally well organized and artfully choreographed, fitting of a bestselling love movie.  How I wish I can watch this once again on Netflix.

Now, to this very close group of guests, I won’t want to bore you with stuff that you already know about both of them; simply because you wouldn’t be here today if you hadn’t known them, not just well, but very well.

Everyone here, family members included, were subjected to a very strict selection criterion: “How really close are you to both of them”?   It really showed how much they want to have the closest people in their lives on their wedding day.

So based on this: few were chosen, many were axed.   Among the axed ones are all uncles and aunties, cousins, nephews and parents’ good friends from both the divide.

You will know what I mean if you care to look around you.  You will see only a small handful of grey hair people here.  But if you can’t notice this, it’s because most of us had our hair dyed or set for this occasion.   But you can still see them by their winkles which can’t be taken away.

Notwithstanding this, It is certainly a very refreshing, vibrant and rejuvenating time for us, to be in the company of the young generation here who are 1/2,  or more than 1/2 our age.

This is indeed is a New Age Wedding. The rules are different. Parents are required to play by their rules.  In return, we need not give nor do anything  (except giving this speech).  A good trade off indeed!

In hierarchical terms, there are only 2 bosses here today, namely, Hil and Dan. They are the only C suite guys.  No others.  Everyone else is equal, a kind of autocratic Communist system like in the words of George Orwell in his book ‘Animal Farm’ where he says that in this farm ‘all are equal, except some are more equal than others’.

This New Age wedding is fundamentally different from traditional ones as they are usually more populated by guests from their parents’ side.  (Frankly speaking in many of such weddings, we aren’t sure whether the parents are remarrying, or their children are marrying!).  This is the state of affairs because parents are the ones who foot the bulk of the bills.  So, they (instead of their marrying children) are the bosses mostly.

But for this one, it’s the reverse.  The wedded couple’s guests totally nudge out their parents’ guests!  Why, because they foot all the bills. So they are the bosses, we are the guests, (or subordinates) who obediently follow their instructions.  We just have to say, ‘Aye boss, anything you say!

(Now with jokes aside), we truly admire them for being completely 100% hands on in managing this very important and major project.  This 2-person team make up the frontline and back office people.

They handle everything: from wedding concept, the planning, the financing, the fine execution from guests’ selection, logistics, accommodation, ceremony, getting the kind service of Fr Michael, the priest, the mass service, meals, entertainment, including the walking down the aisle, writing their marriage vows, exchanging of rings to finally becoming husband and wife.   Truly, this says a lot about their attributes and capabilities.

Hats off to them!

There’s a saying that when choosing your lifetime partner, it’s advisable to look at the other partner’s mother for an answer.  (I don’t know why not the father!).

Dan, your love for Hil for what he is, is because of one very important person in his life, Angeline – his mum or your mum-in-law now.  She has given you a complete package.  A complete replica of her in him. 

You have to always be grateful for this, forever.

Her outlook, her values, her discipline, her generous love, overflowing kindness, tender care, great humility, no nonsense ways, high sense of responsibility, a pile of secret food recipes, impeccable tidiness and cleanliness, strong faith in God, are some of the precious pieces of gold in the treasure trove she’s passing over to you.

And it’s for you both thereon, to pass them to your children and the future generation to come.

As you know, Angeline’s words are few. She’s good only in the doing.  So I’m saying all this for her on this occasion as there’s no better place, no better moment than this moment.  Angeline, my dearest wife, mum and mum-in-law deserves this tribute on this very, very special occasion.

Frankly, Hil is not the only beneficiary of her love.  Jeremy too.  And me is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of them all for we have been together, officially for 31 years, (and unofficially for 41 years).

My oversized figure says a lot about the feeding and babysitting I have been getting from her all these years.  Thank you, my dear sweetheart!

It’s time for me to end here, wishing Hil and Dan the very best in their lives together.

While this marriage is going to be a very beautiful journey, be mindful of the long and winding road ahead as well.  But certainly nothing can shake your marriage an inch as long as both of you are strengthened by true love for each other, grounded on good life values, display of gratitude for your parents (and the good people in your life), and most of all, having strong faith in God.

Thank you for listening to my maiden wedding speech.   And to all here (and not here), May God bless all of you.

Let’s enjoy the lovely time together!


A Man Of All Seasons 

You won’t miss Richard Hoy in a crowd. This tall, handsome, macho, sociable, confident, healthy looking, white bearded gentleman catches most eyes.  I guess it’s his built, personality, charms and mannerisms that attract attention to him. 

The uniqueness of this gentleman is his all roundedness where his external front matches his inner self well.  Here’s a man with some of the finest qualities.  Probably the one that stands out best is his life philosophy of ‘putting more life into his years’, instead of ‘more years into his life’. 

Because of this I had the great honor of having him as my coach student in order to become a Professional Certified Coach some 8 years ago at the age of 70!

Where many would have already packed up their bags, Richard lives every minute of his life with grace.  He has many other pursuits; learning is one, holidaying is the other, having a good time partying yet another and not forgetting the fact that he is running an insurance agency as well.  All these make him so complete.

Today at 78, Richard is still rearing to go.  Indeed, he’s unstoppable.  If anyone of us wants to look for a role model, you can find one right within our immediate circle!

We hear so many stories about success but few about fulfilment.  Richard certainly has both.

That’s why I regard him as a ‘man of all seasons’. 



I still received ‘love letters’ every year from Swee Choo until last year when she was diagnosed with cancer. Every year, this dear friend and old colleague of mine never missed a year to send lovely love letters, a nice soft and crunchy biscuits that we savor during Chinese New Year. This chain of love letters went on for more than 10 to 15 years, even after I left Reliance where we both lived separate lives –she in retirement and I as a Corporate Coach in my own company.  

When many would have regarded me as irrelevant or of no use to them when I resigned from my position of power, this special lady still remembered me for what I am, and not what I could do for her.

Her tin of ‘love letters’ every year before CNY, were expression of a different kind of love- a special, close relationship, kindness and most of all, her gratitude for being her friend when I was her superior when she was a tour manager then. Somehow, she would get it delivered every year, no matter what even though she was in Melaka when I was in Kuala Lumpur. On one occasion, she even took the trouble to attend my birthday here when she was not in the best state of health.

Last week, Swee Choo left us at the age of 77. She may be gone, but her humility, kindness and gratitude will forever be etched in my heart, not only me, but my family and the hundreds of people and fellow tour managers who had a chance to experience her special friendship.

Like it is said, we all have friends or acquaintances, but very few true friends. Swee Choo is definitely one of the few in my world. Indeed, it is so hard to find genuine friends like her.  We all have our hard way of finding out, knowing who is still around you when you are down or when you are of no use to them.

Only true friends stay with you through thick and thin. They have no expectations on others; only memories that never left them no matter for how long.  No wonder, she was a star when she was with her passengers on her Europe tours. They adored her for her demeanor and most of her, her down-to-earth simplicity, and heart of gold.

May the Lord always protect her in His arms …. and I am looking forward to meeting you, Swee Choo, again when my time comes.  

What Does Attending 3 Funerals In A Row Means To Me?

This April month seems like a strong reminder to me that life is so fragile but more importantly is, how prepared are we for this final moment on this earth.  

Attending 3 funerals, and losing 3 people you know in just  two weeks leaves a strong impact on me. It was a bit too much to bear really. Sadness in losing them is one, fear of this eventuality that will happen to me or my very closed ones is next, and anxiety is the other as in my Christian teaching it says that ‘God will come like a thief in the night, striking at the least unexpected moment’.  So when will it be my turn? 

Well, as much as we strengthen ourselves in all aspects of our well being to deal with death – be it courage, resilience, acceptance and letting go off attachments, facing death in our own home front is a totally different matter. In an eulogy by Anne Tee, (who’s also a coach who lost her youthful husband so suddenly),  she told everyone there at the wake that ‘I often advised my friends to take consolation  if someone dies from  a sudden heart attack as it’s the easiest and best way to die’. But she admitted tearfully that when this same thing happened to her husband, she just couldn’t bear it. She now knows that there is no escape from sorrow when it comes to death. Hearing her account was a most revealing moment of what death can do to us. 

I have been thinking very hard on how to deal with this inevitable fate of death. In a way we are all cornered, there’s no way out. So comes the coaching question, “What is the best of no best thing to do”?  This got me to this conclusion that the most mitigating measures we can do are mainly 2. One is to never take our loved ones for granted and to treat them well like as if we are having them around us for the last time.  Treat them well, be selfless to them. Two is to be always prepared for it both spiritually and emotionally. On the spiritual side, it is to be close to God in our prayers and deeds. Emotionally, it is to live purposefully, doing whatever we enjoy and not forgetting to leave something behind for others, called it, your footstep, or legacy or a just good memory.  

So as long as we are still around, consider this living for the day as living on borrowed time that God is still giving us. The least we can do is to stay positive and happy but this won’t be enough if we forget to profusely thank and be grateful to Him for this bonus.  


Of ‘Chap Fun’ and ‘Economy Rice’

There’s really a lot of good in a ‘Chap Fun’ dish or commonly called ‘Economy Rice’.  I notice that more and more food outlets are offering this dish to cater to the increasing number of busy people or rather to the increasing number of budget conscious eaters in these challenging times.    

I owe a lot to this dish for it had helped me to survive in my early working years.  I really like it to this day for there is good value for money with its plentiful dishes to choose from including some really delicious ones at reasonable prices!  

While I’m very positive about this dish as a culinary choice, I detest it when people and organisations make the ‘Chap Fun’ way of eating as their way of life.  It is evident in so many ways: clustered workplaces, quick fix solutions, short-cutting processes, thoughtless way of making decisions, and low quality output, to name a few examples. The results is dismal: poor outputs, careless mistakes, and even poor attitude towards work or life.  

Here lies the paradox – while I am fond of ‘Chap Fun’ as a dish, I will try not to apply it in my personal and professional life lest it causes me to subscribe to a low quality life of carelessness, irresponsibility and crudeness.    

My value system propels me to believe that a certain measure of quality is needed from us, human beings, to make a statement or send a message about who we are. Not only will it help us to gain respect from others and increase our personal influence, but it is also a form of good personal self-care that we should bestow on ourselves for a holistic life and well-being.    

Like the saying goes, ‘a clustered desk often reflects a clustered mind’ as well.  

So, when I work with people, I will be watchful of those who try to apply the ‘Chap Fun’ method in their dealings with me.  I really have a low tolerance for such people.  

But when ‘Chap Fun’ comes in a ‘gastronomical’ context, I have an addictive urge to go for it. My body language will reveal how I yearn for it!    

So, this is one of my life’s greatest paradoxes.  


A Room At the Bottom of the Stairs

If you have been a fan of Eddie Rabbit and his famous song called ‘A room at the top of the stairs’, you will strike a chord with this blog title, as is the direct opposite of the title of this famous song some 20 years ago.

However, even if you are not a fan of Eddie Rabbit, you would agree with me that the room at the top is better than the one below, isn’t it? The one above connotes enjoying the space and fresh air while the one below is constrained by space and free flow of fresh air, including the sense of being “neglected”.

I know of at least 2 married couples whose other half have been relegated to this lower status of a room beneath the stairs so to speak; yet to the public eye, they are perceived to be happily living together! Indeed, they are seen going out for dinners, even holidaying together.

I can’t fathom the making of this matrimonial decision where one is given the privilege of sleeping in the master room while the other is banished to live like a maid in the maid’s room!  Is this about cruelty, selfishness, disrespect or what?  Whatever is the reason, this utter disregard for human dignity and human rights to a spouse is very difficult for me to understand, much less to forgive.

It really saddens me to come to know of such despicable cases. Frankly, for me to stay positive always is tough no matter how upbeat I am about life and people.  Jolts like this one remind me of the stark reality that our world still has people who are out of their mind, or are simply heartless. Coming to terms with it and putting up a front that I know about it is difficult especially when I know these couples well.  It is very tough indeed.

Being a married person myself, I fully sympathise with the sadness, misery and shame of the person who has to go through life ‘living at the bottom of the stairs’.   Can you imagine when one party breaks the most fundamental matrimonial vow of living together in harmony and equality? Where’s the little love left, where’s the trying our best to stay together for better or for worse?

Such ill-treatment breaks all decent rules of living. To me, it is equal to maiming someone badly and left to die but am still unable to die. So they just hang on, till when, only God knows.

I offer no advice in this blog for this weird phenomenon as I am totally blown off my mind to stay sound on suggesting what’s next.  However, my intention is to bring to light that such hard truth can happen.  So stay mindful and feel for the other party.  I appeal to my readers to never ever think of doing this to another person.  Spread the word around too.  You must always remember that we all have a sacred duty and a conscience to have a heart.  If we can’t do this, then the least we can do is to bear with one another out of pure compassion and respect.

Life is too short for anyone to leash out such cruelty to another human being, worse still if this person is the other half whom they have committed to each other.

Always remember ‘what goes around, comes around’.

65 and Still Learning

Another year has whizzed past me; I turned 65 years old about 3 weeks ago.

While getting older every year is mandatory and a known fact of life, every one of these birthday anniversaries of mine carry its own uniqueness, even significance and a learning lesson as well.

When I was young, my birthday was a non-event as my parents were too poor to celebrate for me and all the other 6 children.  I used to feel somewhat sad but not deprived (when I compared my birthday event with my classmates and friends) as there was this inner voice that told me ‘to be patient and strong’ because some day I would get all the celebrations I want.  This is true for now I could have whatever kind of birthday celebrations I want, and for my loved ones as well.  I learned one great lesson in life – be patient.

Celebrating birthdays came about only when I was in UK in the 70s when my foster mum and ex-boss, the late Sister Thomas Chan would personally cooked for me a few dishes on all my 3 birthdays in a row when I was working under her.  Here I learned the lessons of kindness, gratitude and love from someone who didn’t have to but wanted to.

Since then my birthdays were always celebrated in different context and measures as well; some were big affairs, and some were small ones.  They carried different meanings, leaving behind sweet memories and different lessons as well.

I remember there was one time when I woke up in Melbourne on my birthday and had the whole bunch of ex-employees in KL singing the birthday song for me in Facebook. This not only touched me but I learned the lesson that we should always try to do good things to earn trust and respect from people.

My recent 65th birthday also unfolded a new lesson of life for me. In a way I was glad that this one was totally celebrated with some special like-minded old friends of mine, and the family was not in this equation at all!

It was an event out of default rather than planned for.  My whole family was in Melbourne at that time to support my younger son, Jeremy, who has made a very big stride in his life for getting enrolled in college there!  We are so glad for him.  A big birthday present for me in many ways!

So, on the other side of the planet, I became  a ‘temporary bachelor’ during this stretch of time that included my birthday. I had a choice: to celebrate it all alone because no one was around, or I could reverse the circumstances by having a party with some close social friends. Which I did.  It became very meaningful and eventful as well.

The first part of this special day was celebrated with some very nice ex-working colleagues in a traditional birthday lunch in a very fine Thai restaurant.  It was one of the best Thai lunch I ever had.  I felt so touched again to have this lunch with them for so many years without fail, as a boss and also now not as a boss. I learned this lesson that one should keep and treasure good friendship with special friends.

The second part was a ‘wild bachelor party’ with some special like-minded temporary bachelors who were without their spouses.  It was a convergence of some good and different friends coming together whom I knew and became close at different phases of my life.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in our natural ways without any pretense.  This one taught me the lesson that I need to invest in getting closer in friendship and relationship with good friends to spice up our aging life (or else suffer in loneliness); more so when I am getting older!

We all have our learning moments as we pass through the different stages of our lives.  We may grow older, but never to lose out in enjoying and learning from life especially in very special moments.

In my case, my birthdays are also my ‘classroom’ for learning about myself, my life and the special people who celebrates it with me!