Mar 23rd 2015 - A day of mourning.
Our founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away yesterday morning at 318am Singapore time. Deep down, I knew this was coming. I knew he was too old and frail to come out of his critical condition. I knew that whoever had been on a ventilator at that age would not survive.
But when the news actually reached us an hour later at 425pm (425am in Singapore) yesterday here in Pennsylvania, it hit me hard. My heart sank.
I don't know him personally , but growing up in Singapore I remember seeing him in the news. I remember that he makes great speeches and people would stay up to listen to his National Day Rallies which can go on till late. He was a great orator and he would hold our attention with his anecdotes based on his experiences and passion for his homeland.
All the tributes in the world would not do justice to what Mr Lee had done for us. He dedicated his entire life to building Singapore from a tiny British outpost to a global financial hub. He is the only leader who has transformed a country from third world status to first world status in one generation. A feat unmatched by no other leader.
I speak for all mothers with young children here when I say that my girls are safe when they step out of my house in Singapore. I dare not let my girls go out on their own here in Pennsylvania- only God knows what is lurking behind every corner here - psycho Gunmen? Rapists? or Muggers? But in Singapore, I know it is safe for women of all ages to step out, take public transport and return home late at night. That secure safe feeling - I can't get anywhere. I have lived in Stockholm, London and now in Pennsylvania and I only get that feeling in Singapore. I owe this security to Mr Lee.
While reading about Mr Lee in Wikipedia (much to my family's angst that I am reading into Mr Lee too much - how can it ever be too much?) I came across this incident,
'During the Japanese occupation in 1942, Lee was asked by a Japanese guard to join a group of segregated Chinese men. Sensing that something was amiss, he asked for permission to go back home to collect his clothes first, and the Japanese guard agreed. It turned out that those who were segregated were taken to the beach to be shot as part of the Sook Ching massacre in Singapore. '
Just imagine if Mr Lee had not trusted his gut feel? Oh what a loss to us as a nation it would have been?
As I read all the tributes today morning (while fighting back tears) in FB and the ST news online, I noticed that he had deteriorated physically after his wife (Mrs Kwa Geok Choo) had passed on in 2010. You can see the startling change in his facial contours in the pictures below. He had stopped smiling to the camera and held a grim image.
As we mourn the loss of a great leader, we read a very touching note from his daughter thinking him as an ordinary man, a family man, a father, a husband.
LKY's daughter Lee Wei Ling wrote:
"The health of men often deteriorates after they lose their wives. The security officers and I watched Papa getting more frail every day. His facial features were grim, perhaps to mask his sadness and grief. I took one day at a time and persuaded him not to undertake any arduous trips to America or Europe. China and Japan were near enough and manageable. I was pleased to get him out of the house.
By July this year, Papa’s health had stabilised and even begun to improve gradually. I reminded myself of the analogy I used for him – titanium. Titanium is light but strong. It can bend a little, but it will not snap unless it is under overwhelming force.
Physically, we all eventually succumb. Papa is also mortal. But he is psychologically stronger than most people. Life has to carry on, and he will keep going so long as he can contribute to Singapore.
As I was halfway through writing this article, I went out of my room for a drink of water and saw a note from Papa addressed to all three of his children. It read:
“For reasons of sentiment, I would like part of my ashes to be mixed up with Mama’s, and both her ashes and mine put side by side in the columbarium. We were joined in life and I would like our ashes to be joined after this life.”
Heart warming touching words...
Our dear Mr Lee, thank you for all your contributions to Singapore. Living abroad now, I appreciate Singapore even more and I am proud to say I am a Singaporean because of you. Please look after us Singaporeans from above because we still need your guiding hand time to time. We will miss you but I am happy you are finally reunited with your wife.
May you and Mrs Lee stroll through the grounds of Istana (his official residence in Singapore) again, hand in hand, as you did many times before.
Rest in peace Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
(Its already the fourth day after Mr Lee's passing - Thursday Mar 26th and I am still unable to hold my tears when I read or watch touching poignant reflections of Mr Lee. I am deeply saddened that he isn't around anymore and it will take some time to heal. 'Why this sudden grief for Mr Lee? Where were all these feelings when he was still alive?' my husband asks - rather frustrated with my incessant talk about Mr Lee. How can I answer that?)
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...