Monday, May 09, 2005


I like reading eulogies. Not that I have a death wish but simply many times there is much beauty in the crafting of the words. Many times it is a diligent reflection of what someone really means to us.

Many would say eulogies are simply too contrived and too late. But I think , it is better late than never. Life is never perfect.

I am not a Singaporean.

But I read the newspapers from Singapore. Their former President, Mr. Wee Kim Wee died and among the many eulogies delivered, these two touched a chord in my heart.

"Dear Mrs Wee,

This week feels like a long twilight.

It is something we do not know in Singapore, where light soars or sets quickly.

But this lingering neither-light sets the heart unease.

Mrs Wee, I write to you as a neighbour in our kueh-sized community, in this the time of your enormous grief.

We miss your late husband.

We cannot miss him as much as you, but the fraction is woeful enough.

I share this void with a lengthy cord of neighbours.

You have seen the lines at the Istana - people who came to glimpse your husband's face one last time, seeing him like they never have before.

Not all of us could pay our respects.

Many of us mourn in silence or share our feelings for him among friends.

We remember the man who invited all to your home - a table set for hawker and homemaker, newsmaker and king-makers alike.

He loved his fellow Singaporeans.

He lived the life we pledged daily as children to live each day.

Mrs Wee, when you ask yourself who can now talk to you in the same way as your loving companion of half-a-century, we will ask ourselves another question:
Who will now remind us of the good side of Singapore?

Look at him.

For 50 years, Mr Wee lent himself to the service of troubled partners.

From the days of the kerosene stove and charcoal kindling, to the modern birth of the handphone, you witnessed your husband dedicated to the blistered cause, ever willing to mend, to stitch back the rift among neighbours.

You shared with us till the late hour your husband's time, your husband's strength, your own gentle patience.

You listened with your gracious smile when he spoke to others at length, as he liked to do.

One can be a good man by one's own merits. But it takes two to make a great man. You were the other half.

Much has been written about your husband, but less uttered about you.

You were the nurse to the doctor. You could have built a protective wall around your man.

Instead, you built a bridge.

Today, we have not forgotten you.

Your husband held a key to every family's door. So much was he loved by so many.

Mrs Wee, as your neighbour, let me say this twilight will pass, morning will come.

You have a football field full of great-grandchildren to see you through, to remind you, each in his or her own way, of your loving man.

And they will find strength and joy in your presence.

He is gone.

We have you.

Then one of his grand-daughters delivered this eulogy:

Here was a man who loved life and lived it to the fullest.

A man who put himself up as a shining example - in life and in death.

My grandpa wasn't fuddy-duddy. He was fun.

He collected snuff bottles and coins, she disclosed, travelled the world, played sports, planted fruit tress and especially 'loved the smell and taste' of hazelnut coffee, ice-cream and chocolates.

How much?

There was a secret stash.

So much that whenever his grandchildren dropped by at his workplace, he would give them a cheeky wink, open his drawer and fish out 'a secret stash of Hawaiian macadamia nut chocolates.

A secret he kept under lock and key, away from his disapproving but well-intentioned wife.

A sweet man with a sweet tooth.

His favourite ice-cream flavour? Rum and raisin.

My most vivid memory is the evening jaunts to the neighbourhood Baskin-Robbins ice-cream parlour in Japan when grandpa was Ambassador there.

I was just 10 and on holiday. But grandpa indulged me and himself every day for a whole two weeks.

He taught me that in order to understand the present, we have to plan for the future, but we must not forget the past.

I also learned that we can all go on learning till our last breath on this planet.

Every day is a new day.

You loved

This was perhaps grandpa's greatest legacy.

His love for humanity dwarfed only by his immeasureable love for his wife of 69 years.

She was 'the rock of his life'.

His last thoughts were for her. They were holding hands when he finally went to sleep this Monday morning.

He loved her so much he kept a special list of her favourite songs, lovingly typewritten and kept safely in a folder, 'ready to be whipped out at any time'.


Husbands who are here today, do you have a list of your wife's top 10 favourite songs in a special folder?

That's a lesson you can take from my grandfather.

A lesson in love.

I thank my grandfather from the bottom of my heart, for showing what it really means to love another person.

The stories of his life are to me, all stories about love.

It was an unconditional love that crossed creed and colour - and even species.

Horses. Dogs. Cats. Fish. Chickens. Terrapins.

Before starting on his dinner, he would always ask: Has the dog eaten yet?'

'And the first thing he did after finishing dinner would be to feed his goldfish and then his terrapins.'

When he once had give up six turkeys - which he'd gotten as a gift - to the Singapore Zoo, he was so concerned they might be fed to the crocodiles that he insisted the zoo send him a 'written report' each time one died, listing the 'cause of death'.

What a man.

What love.

Have we ever wondered what others what others would say about us after we died?