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She was born to a small Teochew village in China in the beginning of autumn 1930. Less than a year later, her parents traded four seasons for the tropics when they brought her to Malaya. She grew up in a shop-house above a multi-purpose grocery store in Kuala Lumpur where she met her first love. His family owned the shop downstairs as well as a chain of other shops scattered around town. Back then, Kuala Lumpur was a growing city with many Chinese business men. Many have no choice but to walk, some rode the trishaw, others cycled and only three families owned a car. His family was one of them.

During the Japanese occupation, she hid in a gunnysack in the grocery shop as Japanese soldiers search each floor, capturing the men and killing the women. One pregnant lady had her stomach sliced through cleanly with a bayonet, leaving her child free-falling between her legs, umbilical chord still attached. A loud thud hit the wooden flooring above followed by what sounded like someone emptying out a bag of watermelons. Some smashed to the ground while others rolled.

Her marriage to the shopkeeper’s son was anything but happy. Besides being a heavy drinker and a womanizer, he was also diabetic. Every morning, she would fix him a shot of insulin on his thigh before he set off to work. After much ‘entertaining’ business, he would return home pissed drunk and totally incapable of holding a normal conversation without raising his voice. She was not too patient either, as a teacher, raising her voice was part of her job requirement. When she was too tired of his misdemeanour, she became her own private eye and found him with an arm around another woman. Armed with her sewing scissors, she reached for the woman’s hair. But that was only to scare her husband, who then sheepishly followed her home.

She was always fighting something. She fought for her husband when he was too tired to fight for her, she fought for her four children when he died and left them with only $2000, she fought for her son when he was mentally ill, she fought for her own mother when she became bed-ridden and she fought for her own life when she was diagnosed with her first cancer. But on Saturday morning, she was too tired to fight for herself. After feeding her water from a syringe, I saw her chest rise and fall and rise and fall and rise and fall and slowing down and down and down and finally still.

And then there were tears in her eyes. She finally found the peace she was fighting for.

My family gave her a Buddhist funeral although she accepted Jesus without their knowledge. So last night we burnt her a mansion with four maids, two Mercedes, a mahjong set, an Astrg dish (decoder, remote control and flat-screen TV included), a handphone (without 3G, that would be too complicated for her), gold and silver mountains and loads of cash. It was engulfed in a flame that was almost 10’ high and then fell into a million pieces from the sky like glowing golden snowflakes, disappearing as they reach the ground. I hope my memory of her will not be like that, burning fast dying young. I want it to last as long as I live because that is the only living part of her left with me.

And I miss her so much.


This is one of my favourite pictures of her


She loved sewing


At a school, with a very spiffy bag


Four years after she became my grandma, Thailand


I’d like to thank those who visited, called and smsed. I’m sorry that I didn’t reply some of your messages, but I really appreciate your thoughts and kind words.

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2 comments

  1. Patriot L.

    Deepest condolences.

  2. junkit

    that is an amazing post. in my mind i am hoping that she is feeling alright, somewhere…………jun

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