When I found out that Mrs Lee Kuan Yew (Madam Kwa Geok Choo) had passed away yesterday, there was this uncontrollable wave of sadness that passed through me. The wife of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had passed away peacefully in her sleep at their Oxley Road home at about 5.40 pm. Unfortunately, MM Lee was in hospital at that time, although reports said he did rush home for a while after news of his wife’s death.
I’ve never met Mrs Lee personally, but have read numerous articles and memoirs about her, especially those published by MM in his publications throughout the years. It is indeed true that saying goodbye isn’t easy, and the fact that you’ve never met the person before but yet know and acknowledge that he or she has been that important somewhere, sometime, proves to be even more significant.
Scores of sympathy and condolences poured into Facebook and Twitter within hours of her passing, most notably from one of my fellow course mate Shi Xiong, who posted on his Facebook: 国母，再见了!(Goodbye, my country’s mother). This struck me particularly, as I’ve never thought deeply about her being hailed as Singapore’s founding mother. Now looking back on the past and reading her featured articles on The Sunday Times today, I realized the significance of this title.
I particularly admire the Lees in their way of life, from their educational period in Raffles where they competed with each other for the Queens Scholarship, past their secret marriage while overseas, and subsequently their official banquet back in Singapore. Razor TV featured a video of which in one segment Mrs Lee was quoted replying “from black hair to no hair”, referring to her relationship with MM. Similar to the many cases in life we always come across, this is an example of a lady being the pillar of strength for the man she loves, and the man who helped build Singapore up. Their love story is indeed one for us to learn from and admire.
Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew [Photo: The Straits Times]
President Nathan wrote in his tribute to Mrs Lee that for one to know Mrs Lee’s greatness, “one has to listen to what has not been said of her until now“. It’s indeed true that “her stoic presence next to Mr Lee Kuan Yew during times of turbulence and tension” has really made an impact in the way Singapore is shaped today.
To the family of the late Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, my deepest condolences to you in this period of grief. You’ve lost a great family member, and Singapore has lost a great mother.
Rest in peace, Mrs Lee.