Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mrs Lee has passed on.

I got home yesterday turned on my computer and saw the breaking news that Mrs Lee Kuan Yew has passed on. Mrs Lee has been seriously ill for some time having suffered a severe stroke several months ago so her death does not come as a shock to most Singaporeans. In the past few months, MM Lee and Dr. Lee Wei Ling have shared with Singaporeans some aspects of the personal lives of their family. MM Lee recently spoke of how he was trying to cope with his wife suffering, religion and death.

"But the one who has been hurting the most, and is yet carrying on stoically, is my father. "

- Dr. Lee Wei Ling

Dr. Lee wrote a poignant article (see below) about how pain of coping with Mrs. Lee's suffering.
At this moment, Singaporeans should put aside their political differences and offer their deepest condolences.


Difficult to accept a loved one's suffering
Feeling compassion with a detachment is wise, but tough when it comes to Mama
By Lee Wei Ling

I awoke with a start, a while ago, from a dream. I looked at my watch. It was 4am.

It was a dream worth remembering, so I decided to write it down immediately. If I had not done so, I would not have been able to remember it later.

In my dream, I seemed to be simultaneously at home and outdoors at some unfamiliar place. Suddenly, a monster appeared and attacked me. I struggled with the monster but it matched me strength for strength. I did not utter a sound, nor was I frightened. Instead, I wrestled silently with it.

Suddenly my mother appeared. She walked towards us, but did not say anything either. Instead, she made a dismissive gesture and the monster turned tail and ran away.

That would be Mama's way of tackling problems, I thought: no need for unnecessary words or actions; just do things quietly and effectively.

At that point, I woke up. I got up from the floor where I was sleeping and went into my mother's room to see how she was doing. She was sleeping peacefully. I am now back in my room recording what I can still remember of my dream - for a 'dream' indeed it was, as it cannot be classified as a nightmare.

For two years and three months already, my mother has been too weak to get out of bed. But in that brief moment in my dream, I saw her again as she had been - physically normal.

I wished I could have dreamt on, and after some time, together with Mama, vanquished the monster in the dream and then walked off together.

In dreams, everything seems possible. That my mother appeared magically in my dream did not surprise me - either while I was dreaming or when I awoke. This is because between Mama and me, there was always some form of telepathy.

Once, when I was staying with my brother Hsien Loong, my toothbrush was worn out and needed to be replaced. I hardly ever shop, so I did what I had always done before: I told Mama I needed a new toothbrush.

Since we were in different houses and I did not want to wake her if she was sleeping by calling her on the telephone, I e-mailed her: 'Ma, I need a toothbrush.'

She e-mailed back: 'I am telepathic. I just got a toothbrush for you. But one day, the commissariat will not be around. If you don't know the word 'commissariat' go look it up in the dictionary.'

She was correct: I did not know what the word meant. And since I did not know where the dictionary was kept in my brother's house, that evening at dinner, I asked him what the word meant.

He knew, of course. 'Commissariat', he explained, is a department in the army charged with providing provisions to soldiers.

Now Mama is no longer in a position to be my commissariat. Worse yet, she is bedbound and no longer able to read - a favourite activity of hers.

Mama had wide interests. She knew things that even many highly educated people would not know or be interested in, as would be obvious if one rummaged through her bookshelves, as I did recently.

There were several books on the flora and fauna of Singapore. There was a hardcover book of children's nursery rhymes, which she had used to read to her grandchildren. Of all her grandchildren, my albino nephew enjoyed reading the nursery rhymes with her the most.

There were several books on Buddhism and Hinduism. There was a King James version of the Bible printed in a large font so that she could read it even without her reading glasses. There were many books on the Indian caste system, and a book describing the ancient city of Harappa in the Indus valley. The city dates back about 4,600 years ago, and was an important trade centre in the ancient world.

Mama was interested in the Silk Route long before it became a fashionable subject of interest. She had a book chronicling the travels of a Victorian lady on the Silk Route.

There were six Malay kamus, or dictionaries. There was a book on Chinese customs and symbols. And of course, there were many books of poetry, including a collection of Rudyard Kipling's poems.

There were also books relating to the early days of Singapore, including The Battle For Merger, a collection of radio talks my father delivered in 1961, detailing the early history of the People's Action Party's struggles with the communists. It is now out of print.

There were many books, too, written by others about my father, including Lee Kuan Yew In His Own Words, excerpts of his speeches from 1959 to 1970, edited by S.J. Rodringuez.

Mama also had the kinds of books one would expect to find on the bookshelves of someone so cultured: among other things, The Tale Of Genji, Ruth Benedict's The Chrysanthemum And The Sword, Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto's The Daughter Of A Samurai, the novels of Jane Austen, and a book I enjoyed tremendously as a child, Anne Of Green Gables.

Mama didn't just collect these books, she read them.

It is now 5.30am. I popped into her room again a while ago and she was still sleeping. I comforted myself that at least when she was sleeping, she was unaware of her unfortunate situation.

Now I am trying to go back to sleep myself, but I cannot do so - not because of the dream but because of Mama's unhappy predicament. It is acutely felt by her three children, my two sisters-in-law, and my cousin Kwa Kim Li, who is my mother's favourite niece. But the one who has been hurting the most, and is yet carrying on stoically, is my father.

It is easy when thinking in the abstract, to conclude that being born, growing old, falling sick and eventually dying is what happens to all of us. I accept these facts with no resentment that life is unkind. I have had more than my fair share of bad luck, but I never resented it, for I think suffering built up my resilience.

But I find it difficult to accept my mother's suffering. The Buddhist principle of feeling compassion but with detachment is wise, but it is not an attitude that I find humanly possible to adopt when it comes to Mama. I cannot see her suffering with detachment.

But there is nothing I can do to get her back to where she was before she suffered a massive stroke on May 12, 2008. She has been suffering since then, and so has my father. But that is life, and we all plod on, fulfilling our duties as best we can. Indeed by focusing my mind on my duties, I manage to temporarily block Mama's suffering from my consciousness.

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute. Send your comments to


Anonymous said...

Yes indeed condolences to MM Lee and his family.

At the same time,it is my sincere wish that he should let go and concentrate on his personal mental state of health.

it is perhaps time that the entire PAP leadership which means MM Lee and son,do a critical examination of how they have been doing to the citizens of Singapore first,then the entire mankind if that happens to be their mission,but Singapore citizens first.

Mrs Lee,RIP!because it is all over!

Anonymous said...

I can't help feeling that this has been all planned and rehearsed, like those parliament debates.

Maybe, the fengshui master has also been consulted too, on the best time to unplug.

Seriously, if it had been 20 years ago .. I would have felt great sadness. The Lee family lost my respect.

I felt more for Ms Tan.

Anonymous said...

I offer no condolences.

I remember the harshness and brutality in which LKY had treated his political opponents, most of whom were innocent and non-violent; Vincent Cheng, Chia Tye Poh, JBJ, Chee SJ, and the list goes on.

Kwa Gek Choo was LKY's confidante, and it wouldn't be surprising if she advised her husband to use such methods in order to cement his own rule.

Now, on her deathbed and passing, they want us to forget all that she had done or instigated, and play up the compassionate part by writing a few artcles or showing videos of her playing with her kids?

I won't celebrate her death. But neither would I offer condolences.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Lee was the behind-the-scenes- architect of many of the policies for which we are now paying dearly, including the appointment of the incompetent eldest to become the PM of Singapore. My biggest gripe is that the family law firm Lee and Lee, under Mrs Lee's management and ownership enriched themselves at the expense of the poor and middle class of Singapore got so rich by making all HDB conveyancing go thru their company. This was outright corruption which I will never forget. I do not know Mrs Lee and I do not want to offer hollow condolences as I can only remember her for this one very sour "legacy".

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this, but her death should be a big reminder that things such as power do not last forever and that death is just as close to us as our vein is to our skin!!

respect begets condolences said...

to anon 08.03,08.39, 09.30
I share your sentiments.

MM Lee and his familee have lost my respect and for that, can expect no condolences from me.

Having said that, I cannot recall Mrs Lee doing any kind of charity work...except providing "wonderful" conveyancing service for many decades to HDB buyers.

The fortune she amassed (all legal mind you) could have been utilised to set up a foundation that supports children's home, old folks home, needy families, etc.

Being smarter than LKY, Mrs Lee should have been examplary to the hubby, 3 children and numerous grandchildren. What the Heck! even to daughter-in-law Ho Ching.

bufallo bill said...

It is a sad commentary on our politics that LKY is reaping recrimination from folk in this hour of his wife's death. Not offering condolences to a dead lady's family is unpleasant. But this is the result of reducing political debate to that of a street fight: "cul de sac", "knuckle dusters", "I am my own hatchet man".

I hope the future leaders of the ruling party will be gentlemanly in their language and actions. One can be tough without being thuggish and vindictive.

I remember John Major in his eulogy of John Smith, the labor party leader. Smith was described by Major as an opponent and never the enemy. I hope that this kind of decency will characterise our poltics in the post LKY era.

Anonymous said...

Let bygone be bygone...Mrs Lee, RIP.

Anonymous said...

For 2 1/2 years, Mrs Lee has been on life support. Even her daughter wrote on the press that in support of letting her mother go and not cause any further suffering.

NO ONE dared to pull the plug on Mrs Lee without the consent of the old man.

Doesnt anyone find it coincidental that just after the old man's fall and while being hospitalised for a so-called "chest infection", Mrs Lee is finally "allowed" to go?

Amongst the possible scenarios, these 2 make sense to me:

A. The old man, knows his time finally up. He is aware of his weak constitution and so he gave the green light to allow his wife to go slightly before him. Of course, for political reasons, he'd control the press to try to paint an image of him being fit and able even to hold meetings. When it comes to the local news, we all know how much we can trust our garhmen's mouthpiece.

B. The old man got a taste of his own medicine. He's finally seen how much suffering a sick person can have esp after his fall and his stint in the hospital for chest infection. Now he has had a glimpse of how much suffering his comatosed wife has been made to endure over the last 2 1/2 years in the name of love. This episode may have been an awakening for him - a call for him to be less selfish partner.

In any case, I wish to extend my condolences to the Lee family.

Anonymous said...

Sorry i don't give a shit. Let's move on!

Anonymous said...

Oh some whisperings that it was "pillow talk" that made LKY chose Wooden over Tony Tan as PM, Wooden's wife, a lawyer, being most pally with LKY's wife. Tony left the cabinet in a huff, only to be brought back later when LHL was diagnosed with cancer.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Lee, by herself, probably would not have mattered much to Singaporeans. She was not a politician and had never make any political statement. However, the MM and his Daughter might have wanted Mrs Lee to be remembered by coming out with news regarding Mrs Lee recently. This may have misfired and resulted in the vitriols in cyberspace and the vituperatives, nationwide.
It is reasonable to believe that Mrs Lee nee Mdm Kwa Geok Choo had assisted and or even mentored her husband in his political adventures and life long carreer. This has created a history and or record in the worldwide web and a eternal memory is born.
The most unfortunate aspect of the history/record is that there are more negatives than benign contents.
Whatever, Rest in Peace Mrs Lee.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Mrs Lee can really rest in peace if she knew how much suffering she and her husband have brought upon a large segment of poor Singaporeans.

LKY cried talking about his wife's illness years ago, but has he ever cried for Singaporeans who suffer under his policies?

My observation in the past 20 years is that he only cares about his own family. That is why he is still trying hard to cling on to power.

More sufferring are awaiting Singaporeans by his "6.5 million" population policy, Casino, F1, etc.

Sorry, I don't think LKY needs anyone's condolences, as some said, it is just hollow condolences as LKY is such an arrogant person that he may feel insulted if you think you are stronger than him to offer such condolences.

Both husband and wife have lived a life of glory, splandour, high position and great wealth, courtesy of all Singaporeans. Those who think we should forget about what they have done and offer condolences are, at best, exercising petty kindness.

Anonymous said...

The first 6 pages of the Sunday Times was devoted to Mrs Lee, even the late Goh Keng Swee don´t have that privileges.

Anonymous said...

good riddance to bad rubbish

rot in hell, Kwa! And take your husband with you!

Anonymous said...

she is just a wife of a city mayor who insisted to call himself pm, right?
everyone has to die so everyone has to learn to let go ...

Anonymous said...

We should put aside our political differences and offer condolences to this vile woman who was the main driving force in converting a democratic Singapore into their famiLEE fiefdom? I don't think so!

PAP's mainstream media prostitutes are already going full steam using her demise to promote and sell sob stories about the famiLEE. GE is around the corner and PAP is using this opportunity to win sympathy votes.

So no need to be nice to the famiLEE scums, they are so power hungry and evil, they calculate everything right down to when to pull the plug on the dead gecko to perpetuate their one famiLEE rule.

Anonymous said...

aiyo, speak no evil of the dead, even if the dead had been evil...

what comes around goes around. the past two weeks have been such an intriguing period - three prominent deaths already. singaporeans shld look forward to a refreshing change of times soon.

Anonymous said...

I also do not agree with the jailing of opposition politicians, ISA, our affordable medical services, no crush load MRTs, my son cannot go to NUS law school, my friend's straight 'A's RJC son cannot go to NUS medical school, etc. She is already dead. If nothing else, let's respect death. For karma will catch up with all of us. May the family finally find peace and solace in this time of grief. dt

Anonymous said...


chan said...

well, seems like there is a lot of ppl who like to hide in the shadows and smear a dead person.
she had done more for the country than all of you added together. If you ppl think you can do more, quit typing and do some actual work for the country. Hypocrites who knows no shame. No wonder the oppositions are losing. R u ppl trying to ruin the opposite's next GE again??? or r u actually the oppositions??? There is a reason why they always win, and it is because of ppl like you!!! giving them a bad name.

lim said...

Whether she is good or not, I am in no position to say..

But I hope the oppositions get to form the govt soon, and only then we shall see how much good/bad stuff they have done..

ah loong said...

@chan, 13:18
you are right, she did more for 'Singapore Inc'. and you left out for the 'familee' too.

Not just all of us put together in this website, but all the PAP members and supporters put together also lah!

Please try not to understate her contributions next time, okay?
she probably holds the all time record for revenue generated through conveyancing.

don't take my word for it chan, ask any old time lawyers, but please do it very discreetly, ok?
if you can, ask LKY himself when he is in a better mood.

by the way chan, care to guesstimate Mdm Kwa's networth to the nearest 100$M ?
care to describe for us any of Mdm Kwa's contribution to charity ?

Anonymous said...

How would you know she's done more
than the rest of us? Are you privy
to the family's matters or did you
arrived at this conclusion based on reports from our MSMs?
Was she charitable or patron of any charitable organs? Not that I know of.
She could have advised her husband not to treat his political opponents so badly and the fact that he went his way to destroy most of them shows she didn't or was even an accessory.
Actually, she's not particarly well-liked if you knew some of the people who worked for her.

Alan Wong said...

To put it in another way, not only was he thuggish and vindictive, he was also selfish in his own way by depriving Singapore of many wonderful ideas that many unselfish ones could have offered and contributed to make this country a better place if he had cared to listen.

God knows how many good men that he might have put away for good or had been discouraged by his power crazy ideologies ?

And who knows maybe we would not have end up in this kind of 'dog-eat-dog' country where the highest bidder takes it all and our leaders & their cronies are having their best of their worlds enjoying the best luxuries that money can buy while the poor has to fend for themselves day by day.

Sorry, I have no feelings for their family.

Anonymous said...

One less bitch and another 82 to go (if you count LKY in the bitch list that is one extra BIG "B" and we'd classify him as an utter coward hiding behind ISD, SPF and other alphabetical thugs of Singapore to achieve his "ungentlemanly" wonder he beget nothing but dumbwit and half baked gay (come out of the closet pinky boy, instead of wearing pink shirt and insinuate your Ho Jinx to get a kink from that transvestite...) and half brained offspring's). Nothing notable to call that Lee & Lee bitch who recycled same piece of shit paper over 20 years through HDB (all LEEgal monies....has anyone ever met a lawyer from that bitch firm when you transacted your pigeon hole crap of shit from HDB? conveyancing my ass) and swindled hundreds of millions, if not billions over 2 decades....

Condolences my ass....bitch and other Pimp And Prostitute Bitches....go and cry....don't think that power is absolute......almighty has an answer for all your misdeeds in the coming days.....piss on your grave

reading the main stream shitty times, gives me creeps and jivers...hello, toilet paper publishing Tan.....atleast once in your life a man and publish the truth as-is

World has changed....

Governing Singapore
is all yesteryear stories...

Note this...what's happening with that despot famiLEE is a private has become too irreLEEvant for ordinary singaporeans and don't make this into a state affair.. 2 generations of unborn singapore citizens curse would go with her into nether world and RIP is a hollow word to offer at this point...

As the old man with beard says: Repent for the sins in your lifetime and there may be salvation else utter damnation....insh..amen

Anonymous said...

Lucky Tan wrote this post at 2:18, he was'nt resting at tat hour. Understandable, it was big news over a not so important person, a certain Mrs Lee. How come it was big news ? Few knows why. However,
reading Anon 4/10/10 18:30, one gets to understand why. It's such a sad thing to read the comment. It hurts deep, a person that had hardly participated in any political activity becomes such a hot subject after passing on at a ripe old age. And it is extremely rare for people who led a life of plenty and expired at a ripe old age to get bitter maledictions instead of condolences from the citizenry. Wat went wrong ? Tat it can cause such vituperatives.

Anonymous said...

What anon @ 18.30 4/10 wrote is the brutal truth...straight from the heart !

Sentiments and condolences are best reserved for the underdogs in society, and as someone rightly mentioned...not hollow gestures.

How many will actually shed a tear and attend the wake of those elderly folks collecting card boxes and cans, should they pass on ?

Do you think Mrs Lee believed LKY when he said, 'there are no beggars in Singapore'?

By the way, Olivia Lum of Hyflux was never the richest woman in Singapore....but she is now.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if we should be so harsh on Mrs Lee.

Don't get me wrong, I feel that certain things have not been done right. I take issues with many policies.

However, in fairness to Mrs Lee, she may have tried to taper MM's somewhat tyrannical behaviour. Perhaps we should not be too quick to judge her.

Worse, we should not impose our issues with the establishment onto her. She is, after all a person and the Lee family, just like any other, is entitled to grieve.

Let the woman rest.

Anonymous said...

Getting rich through legal means. Not contributing massively to charity. Wait, is there a problem with that? Kindly enlighten the clueless.

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