"I was at the centre of her life."

My heart is heavy with sorrow and pain

by Derrick A Paulo
SINGAPORE - Her last wish she shared with her husband was that their children place their ashes together. As they were in life.

And a life lived "full of meaning and warmth" was celebrated yesterday by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, in his last farewell to his wife, after spending 63 years in each other's company.

His was the first eulogy at his wife's funeral service yesterday. His was a telling of their love story.

From when he was seen as a less-than-desirable son-in-law with no steady job or profession, through the turbulent years of Singapore's road to independence, to the stroke-afflicted last two years of her life, Mr Lee revisited their times together, as he said they used to do in their "quiet moments".

"We had been most fortunate. At critical turning points in our lives, fortune favoured us," he said.

It also required a lifetime of adjustment and accommodation.

"We knew that we could not stay starry-eyed lovers all our lives; that life was an ongoing challenge with new problems to resolve and manage," said Mr Lee.

They never argued, though, over the upbringing of their children, nor over financial matters. "Our earnings and assets were jointly held. We were each other's confidant."

After her second stroke on May 12, 2008, Mr Lee encouraged and cheered her on.

"When I kissed her on her cheek, she told me not to come too close to her in case I caught her pneumonia. I assured her that the doctors did not think that was likely because I was active. When given some peaches in hospital, she asked the maid to take one home for my lunch," he said.

"I was at the centre of her life."

When there was another bleed in her brain a month later, "there was not much more that medicine and surgery could do except to keep her comfortable".

The last two years of Mrs Lee's life were the most difficult, said Mr Lee. But it gave him and their children time to "come to terms with the inevitable".

"I brought her home on July 3, 2008. The doctors expected her to last a few weeks. She lived till Oct 2, two years and three months," said Mr Lee, who paid tribute to a "magnificent team" of doctors, surgeons, therapists and nurses, whose names were attached to his eulogy.

He also thanked Mrs Lee's former women security officers.

"She would banter with (them) and correct their English grammer and pronunciation in a friendly and cheerful way," Mr Lee said.

Just as he recounted their journey together, he related his memories of his wife.

"She had simple pleasures. We would walk around the Istana gardens in the evening, and I hit golf balls to relax. Later, when we had grandchildren, she would take them to feed the fish and the swans in the Istana ponds. Then we would swim," he said.

"She surrounded the swimming pool with free flowering scented flowers and derived great pleasure smelling them as she swam. She knew each flower by its popular and botanical names. She had an enormous capacity for words."

A voracious reader and the better student, an uncanny judge of character and a warm, considerate person - she was all this and more to Mr Lee, who said his grief at her passing "cannot be expressed in words".

"Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life. She devoted herself to me and our children. She was always there when I needed her," he said.

"I should find solace at her 89 years of her life well lived. But at this moment of the final parting, my heart is heavy with sorrow and pain."


Post a Comment

Please drop me a line: