On Jethro: We have no answers, only hope

by Gabriel Ong // February 6, 2021, 9:15 am

Jethro acs

Photo courtesy of the Puah family; screenshot from Google Maps.

Why is it always one of the good guys?

That was what came to mind when I heard about 15-year-old Jethro Puah, the boy who tragically died after an accident during a high-element activity at Safra Yishun.

By all accounts, Jethro was one of the good ones. “He was a loving son, an exemplary student, a caring friend and a class chairperson,” read the statement from his family to The Straits Times.

Jethro’s family talked about the “close bond” he had to his family, and how they would always spend time together.  

His aunt also lent sound to the beautiful picture painted of Jethro: “I remember him singing hymns so beautifully, and he had an excellent tenor voice. He also enjoyed playing the violin and guitar.”

This was a great kid gone too soon. Why God? It just sucks.

I spent a long time unsure of what to say or even think in response to this tragedy.

Whenever I’m in that place as a writer, I find that’s as good a time as any to go back to what I’ve been reading in the Word. And that’s what I did.

Walking through the Bible in one year with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel, I’ve been on the book of Job in the last few days.

And as I reflected on Job’s life in relation to Jethro’s accident, I have to say, I realise I’ve been reading through Job with a certain ease and sense of detachment.

Job is the quintessential story of bad things happening to a good person.

Bad things do happen to good people in this world.

Without going into too much detail, Job’s tests and trials are so over the top and so seemingly arbitrary that it’s easy to think, like I did in comfy Singapore, that such tragic things are beyond humans living today.

That is, until something like Jethro’s accident happens and we are again brought back to the stark reality that bad things do happen to good people in this world.

Randomly taken away. It could have been me, during that time my head was hit by a weighted log someone flipped over (I remember everything, Leon Low). It could have been someone we know or love dearly. 

Point is, bad things do happen to good people. And the worst part is that, when they do, most of the time there simply aren’t any good answers for why.

See you soon, Dad

We’ve all lost loved ones before. And from personal experience, when someone said goodbye a little too quickly before, what I wanted wasn’t answers. What I wanted (and needed) was hope. 

And I have reason to believe that that’s what Jethro’s family has. We’re not reading about them in the papers demanding explanations for what has happened.

Instead every word from them is tinged with love and hope: “We know this is not a goodbye, as we will see him again in our heavenly home.”

There was a bit of heaven in the boy even before he got there.

Like Jethro’s family, I was glad to have found such a hope. I don’t know how I would have gotten through my dark days without it.

What strikes me about Jethro’s life is how his departure leaves questions, but more than just that – great things to be said about the person he was and how he lived his life.

You could sense the pride in his family’s voice: “He lived such an impactful and fruitful life. Short as it may be, more importantly, it was very purposeful and completed.”

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There was a bit of heaven in the boy even before he got there.

Jethro inspires me to want to live a life like his. One that’s purposeful. One that I can say – at the end of my days – was completed well. 

I never knew the kid, but he seems like a guy who lived for his eulogy and not his resume. I’ll go out on a limb and say it, but in that heavenly home where Jethro is going, I don’t think he’s got any regrets.

But I suppose we can’t be 100% sure this side of eternity. In any case, when I get there myself, I’ll let him know what we all thought about him today.

Rest in peace, Jethro. You were a real one.


  1. Does seeing suffering leave you with more doubt or faith in God?
  2. Are you living for your eulogy or your resume?
  3. What does living a life with purpose look like to you?
About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.