Alden Boon

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son: How Jimmy Ong Restarted His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom



It was during this sobering moment that Jimmy resolved to change — no more lip service on wanting to change. This was it. He wanted to restart his life, make it count, inspire change, influence others and be a role model to others. When he goes, he hopes others would deliver tribute-based eulogies at his funeral, the same kind that Shaun received. “I looked at the door of the room I was housed in, and I said to myself, ‘When I walk out of that door, I’m going to turn my life around.”

The very thing that Jimmy gave up was his ego. “Because I was anxious to get back on my feet when my business was failing, I became a bad-tempered person. I’d fight with my ex-wife, gaining the upper hand a few times. But what did I win, really?” After he was released from lock-up, he changed the way he communicated with his ex-wife. Where once he would brusquely criticise his ex-wife when she came to him with problems regarding their daughter, saying “she’s your daughter, you should know what to do with her,” he instead asked how he could be of help. He also thanked his wife for having bought insurance for Shaun, without which the medical bills would have been insurmountable.

“One of the hardest things in life is to reconcile with people with whom you bear grudges. But once you do that, you unchain yourself from the bonds of negativity, and you will find that light has reentered your life.”

Not only that, he started making a habit out of doing one kind deed every day. To hold himself accountable, he would jot his activities in his diary, a habit that till today he still practises.

Giving up his ego was also the start to his realising another dream, though he could not have known its ripples at the time. A divorcee with a stigma of being a bankrupt; a corporate slave with no direction in life — he was hardly at the top of the dating food chain. Numerous dates he went on, mostly forgettable they were. In 2005, while on a flight, he met a woman named Tricia, and helped her with her luggage (his one kind deed that day). Later, upon reaching their destination, both of them were surprised to find that they were in the same train carriage that bore them to town. The two shared conversations, and instantly hit it off. Though he felt an attraction, he dared not think of pursuing her, for before him was a woman of eloquence, way out of his league.

But his chance came two weeks later when Tricia agreed to a date. He spent much time dressing himself up to look dapper. During the date, he allowed himself to be vulnerable, pouring his heart out about his life story. No embellishment of résumés, no glossing over any embarrassing detail of his chequered past, as one is wont to do on a first date. Tricia only sat quietly, listening, what she was thinking Jimmy had no inkling. “By the end of the date, I thought I had scared her away with my honesty and my past. But she wrote a text message to me, saying that her heart was heavy, and that she had prayed to God for me.” The two began seeing each other.

Embracing his new life

“Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.” – Ecclesiastes 11:5

Having been baptised as a Christian, Jimmy realised that everything he has gone through is an activity of God, even Shaun’s death. Each activity has led Jimmy to his current career as a life coach. He now transmutes pain into light. As someone who has survived many trials, his insights and advice resonate better with those facing their own adversities.

Finding God was the key to letting go of his grief. While Shaun was going through his treatments, his school — Saint Andrew’s Village — was undergoing renovation, and he was filled with anticipation to see the new building. “Whenever we were in the vicinity, even in pain, he’d tell us to wake him up so that he could catch a glimpse of the progress.” Years after Shaun’s death, Jimmy would always yearn to see the building, as he felt Shaun’s presence. His new faith taught him that Shaun’s spirit was not tethered to any tangible thing in the physical world, but is enjoying heaven and all of its glory. “I know now that Shaun is in safe hands, and that we will meet again, someday.”

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son How Jimmy Ong Rebuilt His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom nedla

Today, he is happily married to Tricia, with two sons of their own. His coaching business has sprouted, revved by media coverage and positive word-of-mouth. The three promises he made to Shaun he has fulfilled. He kicked chain smoking by replacing it with a healthier alternative: running. To his late parents, he had played the part of a filial son. Where once he and Shaun had to sleep on the floor of a rental flat when he was out of a job, he is now able to put a roof over his family’s head. It would seem as if he has put his past behind him, even relegating the memories of Shaun to the deeper recesses of his mind.

But as any parent who has lost his or her child would know, the years may go by, the pain assuaged, but the full memory of the tribulation is always near. “Everything that I do today, from coaching others to giving thanks to God every day, is a tribute to Shaun. If not for him, I would never have been able to make breakthroughs in my life.”

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.