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Missed

I've been creating the website for Teachers' Day for the last few years. It's a site to celebrate Teachers' Day in Singapore, which falls on the 1st of September. We'd normally invite the public to write short notes to the teachers who have touched their lives in one way or another.
As part of system testing, I'd always write to Mr. Ng, who taught me English Literature in secondary school. I've not been able to find Mr. Ng, not on Google or Facebook, not on MOE's internal staff directory. I hoped that he'd eventually read my short messages and get back to me.
Because he was a really special teacher to me.
When all other teachers were exasperated beyond belief at my disinclination (to put it mildly) towards the doing of assigned homework, Mr. Ng took time to converse with me, person to person. I loved literature, but always found writing down answers on a piece of paper the most inefficient way to expand the mind. It was during my many conversations with Mr. Ng that I found a fellow journeyman who hadn't lost the awe and wonder that came with reading wonderfully written lines. We spoke about Shakespeare and about life; and he never did ask me to hand in his homework.
It is an intimate relationship when you know someone by the pieces of text they hold dearest in their hearts. Mr. Ng's favourite poem was "Convergence of the twain" by Thomas Hardy. Its cadence and the build up towards the impending collision between the Titanic and the iceberg appealed to him, he said.
It strikes me deeply that I'll never have the chance to tell him how wonderful he was to me.
This year, like the other years, I built the Teachers' Day website and launched my first dedication message via Twitter. I received an email hours later from a friend, who also happened to be many years my junior in secondary school, asking whether or not I had known that Mr. Ng had passed on a few years back.
The finality of it all sunk in. I was at a wedding dinner when I read the email, and everything went about in a blur. The one thought that kept coming back was: "I missed it." I should have said thanks earlier. I should have spent more time with the people that matter. I shouldn't have procrastinated.
Like the poem, we all see this coming, for all our relationships. It's what you do between the first line and the last line that matters.

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