This festive period has been a sombre one for me and my family. Just a week before the Chinese New Year, my beautiful mother passed on unexpectedly … leaving a huge hole in my father’s heart and in the lives of my sisters and me.
We were blessed with unstinting love and support from relatives and friends as we struggled with the shock of our sudden loss, even as we waded into the unknown territory of making funeral arrangements.
Now, just 10 days after her passing, much of what we went through remains somewhat fuzzy. But the clearest thing that stood out, for me, was the shining, indestructible love that rose above everything we went, and are still going, through:
My father’s unashamedly, undeniably, soul-deep love for his beloved “girl”, and hers for him.
The love of friends and relatives who came to the wake – quite a few despite their age and own ill health; and many, more than once – just to stand by her casket and quietly weep, because our loss was their loss too.
And it opened my eyes further to how one person can, and does, make a difference in the lives of many.
My Cantonese mother went through a lot when she married my father at the age of 20 – uprooting herself from her family and all that she knew in the small town of Kampar in Malaysia, to come to Singapore. She learned to adjust to the unfamiliar ways of an extended Peranakan family and, in the following years, brought up 3 daughters while taking care of her in-laws and the extended family home.
When I remember how naive and clueless I still was at that age, I marvel at her courage and fortitude. And I am in awe of the force of the love that she and my father shared. Because only now do I understand that it was true love that powered them through thick and thin, and kept them devoted to one another for all 58 years of their marriage.
Through it all, their love never wavered. And the most wonderful thing about that love was that there was more than enough to go around.
At her wake and funeral, besides my son and my sister’s daughter, several other young adults came to pay their respects and to mourn the loss of Por Por or “Grandma”, as they called her. Among them were two Korean young men who had lived next door to them for several years when they were boys, Malay neighbours, children and grandchildren of friends and distant relatives. Every one of them had their own personal, cherished memories of her.
I have always respected my mother for her feisty spirit, kind heart and strength of character. But it was only then that I realised what a truly glorious beacon she was.
There are many lessons that my mother taught me, and I would like to share some of the best ones with you:
If you want love, first open your own heart wide and love others – because love always comes back to you.
If you wish for abundance, then be generous – for if you begrudge others, why should you expect the universe not to stint on you?
If you want joy, learn to laugh – first AT yourself, and then WITH others. True laughter is untainted by malice.
Don’t be afraid to fight – but only in defence of yourself and what you believe is right. Never initiate one just to prove yourself, because you only show yourself up.
Finally, and this is from me: If you want to be remembered with love, if you want to bring light into darkness, BE love. BE light. You can’t fake it. Even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long; let alone a lifetime.
So how does one become love and light? Refer to the lessons my mother taught me.
I love you, Mum.