It was a story which tore the heart of a nation, and even the President and the Prime Minister sent words of condolence to the parents.
13-year old Nigel and his brother, 7-year old Donavan, had been killed in a traffic accident in Tampines on 28 January 2013.
The siblings were on a bicycle on their way home after school, with Donavan riding pillion. While crossing the junction at Tampines Avenue 9 and Tampines Street 45, a cement mixer struck them at around 5.40pm, instantly killing both brothers.
As details of the accident broke in the news, the public were shocked at the tragedy. When the parents of the boys arrived at the scene, they broke down in grief, and the mother collapsed at the sudden loss of both her sons.
It was pain beyond comprehension.
Singaporeans later turned up in their hundreds at the wake and funeral of Nigel and Donavan, paying their respects and offering words of support and comfort to Francis Yap and Suliani Ang, the parents of the brothers.
The anguish felt by the couple, who were in their 40s, was hard to imagine, and many wondered how they, especially Suliani, would be able to cope with the grief in the years ahead.
It was not easy, as the couple revealed in recent interviews, some 6 years after the accident.
“After the accident, my whole world fell into darkness,” Suliani says in an interview with Christian website Salt And Light.
“Before the accident, we lived on the fifth floor,” Francis says. “Whenever I came home from work and parked my car, my sons would look out of the window and shout, ‘Ah Pa! Ah Pa!’ and I would wave to them. Suddenly, these voices were gone. Every night after returning home from work, I would start crying. I really missed them and it was very difficult to move on.”
Memories of their sons were evident everywhere they went – whether it was in the Tampines home, or at the neighbourhood coffeeshop, or playground. So, in the latter part of 2013, the couple moved out of their flat to another one in Choa Chu Kang.
It was a chance to get some respite from the constant reminders of how they no longer have their sons around.
But it took time to rebuild their lives, and to have closure. They turned to their religion for help to understand and accept what had happened. Their faith community and members of the public were instrumental in this.
“God knew we needed people’s care,” says Francis. “So He sent us all different people — Chinese, Malay, Indian, even American – to comfort us and remind us that we were not alone.”
Now, years later, the pain remains, but the couple have found courage and strength to carry on.
“The pain will never get better,” Francis says. “But it’s about how you carry this pain to complete life’s journey.
“The way I see it, my children’s work on earth has been done. They have already completed their tasks here and have returned to heaven where they belong. My wife and I still need to be on earth to serve God. One day when our work is done, we will return to heaven too. We believe we’ll see our children again. This is only a temporary separation.”
Watch Francis and Suliani talk about their journey since that accident in 2013 which took the lives of their two beloved sons, and you will admire their fortitude in the face of such a trial.