In loving memory of
my dearest Ah Ma
1924 – 2011
Time never flew by so fast before – literally a blink of an eye and 5 days have passed. These five days have been the most painful period in my life till date, one that I have been dreading for years and now that it has happened, one that I will never ever forget for the rest of my life.
Ah Ma passed away peacefully on Monday night. To many others, it’s probably just another death somewhere in this world. After all, every single day, there will be someone who will leave this world, leave their families and friends, and carry on their journey. But to me, it’s different, totally different.
Since the day I was born, Ah Ma raised me up, took care of me, bathed me when I was a kid, cooked for me, and disciplined me – moulding me into the me I am today (or at least the good values and characteristics – besides my parents of course). I recall the times when I was attending kindergarten, and Ah Ma would wait patiently outside the classroom for me to finish class, and walk me back to Kim Tian. Occasionally, we would detour to the market, buy a little bit of snacks (or breakfast), and continued back home.
Needless to say, I was extremely close to Ah Ma, having spent every week day there, only to return home when dad and mum came back from work and had dinner with the rest of the extended family. She saw through my tricks, mischievous deeds, scolded me, or even protected me when need be. On days when we were early from kindergarten, I would accompany her to the market to buy groceries for the daily cooking. I went with her so much that the fishmongers and butchers at the market all recognized me! And in a hilarious incident recounted to me by my aunt, I once asked Ah Ma to hand over her entire money pouch to the fishmonger instead of slowly finding the correct change to pay him! (she used the old kind of money storage, wrapping the notes and coins in a handkerchief instead of carrying a purse). It was from there that I learnt a bit about choosing groceries, from selecting fruits and vegetables to checking whether the fishes are freshly caught or have been placed there for a long period of time.
The three cousins (back then) in Singapore wishing Ah Ma on Mother’s Day.
Her first visit to our new house at Parry!
She saw me through every single birthday I celebrated – this one back in 1994 when I was 6.
Right up till 2002 when I was 14.
Ah Ma was a devoted mother, and a wonderful grandmother. With time to spare, her daily routine consisted of napping at occasional times (other than the times I was too noisy for her to sleep) at her favourite spot near the kitchen entrance, and busying herself with the preparation of food for cooking. Her cooking was next to perfect, and I remember the inquisitive and curious me climbing around, meddling with some of the food ingredients when she started preparing, much to her amusement (and sometimes, annoyance, yes). I would mince the meat too much, play around with fish slices, press sea cucumbers flat, or just hang around watching her cook or getting nagged and chided by her.
On regular Fridays, I would make it a point to stay over at Ah Ma’s house together with my fourth and sixth aunts, watching TV with them, and sleeping in the same room as Ah Ma. She would spend half an hour or more in the master toilet undoing her hair, which she so nicely tied up into buns right at the start of each morning, before turning in (of which I’d have dozed off into dreamland while waiting for her). It was these simple pleasures and memories that took up most of what I remembered during my childhood.
As time passed, I reached Secondary 2 (2002), and Ah Ma fell down at home, ending up not as mobile as before. Due to her inconvenience, she moved to my uncle’s at Jurong, and unfortunately, suffered her second stroke in 2003 (if I didn’t remember wrongly). She was admitted to Alexandra Hospital, where at one point the doctors told us to prepare for the worst.
Miraculously and fortunately, Ah Ma pulled through, and remained with us. She was discharged and went back to Jurong, but that fateful incident left her bedridden.
For 8 years or so, Ah Ma lay on the bed, and was taken care of by my devoted aunt and the maid, relying solely on them to change her diapers, massage her limbs and backs, and feed her through her feeding tube. During her initial years, she was able to move her arms slightly and open her eyes occasionally, getting a glimpse of what was happening around her. But soon after, Ah Ma grew weaker and weaker, and subsequently lost the ability to open her eyes.
I guess it’s in human nature to take things for granted and not appreciate them when they are by our side, only to regret when something happens. For 14 years or so of my life, Ah Ma stayed by me, took care of me, and was my dearest besides my parents and my paternal grandmother. I didn’t think this day would come so fast, but it did.
On that fateful Monday night, we rushed to Jurong upon hearing that Ah Ma was having difficulties breathing. Our attempts to soothe her were successful initially, and by massaging and patting her back, we managed to calm her down. However, calmness may not necessarily mean good, as we soon discovered that Ah Ma wasn’t responding. Calls to 995 and repeated CPR by the paramedics didn’t work.
Ah Ma had left us. Peacefully in her sleep.
The next few days were a fuzzy blur. Arrangement of the funeral wake, proceedings and the small logistical matters needed to settle prior to Ah Ma’s final journey. 5 days flew by, and soon, we followed her lying in rest at the back of a hearse out of Jurong towards Choa Chu Kang, where we bade her farewell and wished her well as she went on her journey to the heavens.
It was a painful week, and will continue to be for a long time to come, but I am glad that Ah Ma is finally set free of her disabilities. She is finally comfortable and free after so many years of suffering and immobility. I pray she will rest in peace, and watch over us in every single endeavour we undertake.
My greatest regret of my life, is not being able to thank her in person for all that she has done for me. Among all my cousins of this generation, I spent the most time with Ah Ma, saw her through her daily chores and life for that good 14 years. It is indeed true that we tend not to treasure what we have until it’s gone, and it took me 23 years until the day Ah Ma lay in her casket that I knelt down beside her and thanked her.
To all reading this out there, cherish your loved ones, before it’s too late or you’ll never get the chance to do so ever.
As for me, I dedicate this post to one of the world’s greatest grandmother (besides my paternal grandmother, but that’s another story for another time). I thank her for all she has done, and for making me what I am today.
Ah Ma celebrating Chinese New Year with us back in 2001.
Thank you Ah Ma. I love you.