Monday, October 3, 2011


I read a most touching story in the papers yesterday. Written by Dr Lee Wei Ling, it is a story about eternal love, of what it is like for a husband to lose a dearly beloved wife, of a man having to face life without his kindred spirit. It's a very personal story made very public in the Sunday Times. I am aware Straits Times articles are accessible only to subscribers but no harm giving it a shot at this link. (Pic: Sunday Times)

Some excerpts from the article "Love Does Indeed Spring Eternal":

"The May 12 stroke was more extensive, and involved more brain regions controlling movement than her first stroke on Oct 25, 2003.

Now, in October 2008, Papa knew that if Mama survived she would never be able to walk independently. But he felt that so long as she knew she was an important part of his life, she would still find life worth living.
He told her: 'We have been together for most of our lives. You cannot leave me alone now. I will make your life worth living in spite of your physical handicap.'

She replied: 'That is a big promise.'
Papa said: 'Have I ever let you down?'
Before we brought her home for the final time, Papa arranged for her to stop at the Istana, to see her favourite spots in the grounds. We wheeled her to where she had planted sweet-smelling flowers such as the Sukudangan and the Chempaka. Then we wheeled her to the swimming pool, where she had swum daily.

Still, unknown to me, Papa had sensed that she could easily rebleed. He told us later that they had both discussed death. They had concluded that the one who died first would be the lucky one. The one remaining would suffer loneliness and grief.
When Papa travelled, she would stay awake at night waiting for his phone call. When I began travelling with him, he usually would tell her on the phone: 'Bye dear, I am passing the phone to Ling.' Those were the times when I could hear her actively trying to vocalise.

When Mama passed away, I was at her bedside, watching her fade as her respiration became more shallow and feeble until it finally stopped. I did not try cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It would have been futile to have done so and cruel.

A few days later, I noticed that Papa had moved from his usual place at the dining table so as to face a wall, on which were placed photographs of Mama and himself in their old age. He tried various arrangements of the photos for a week before he was satisfied.

Source: Channelnewsasia
He also moved back to the bedroom he had shared with Mama for decades before her final illness. At the foot of his bed were another three photographs of Mama and himself.

The health of men often deteriorates after they lose their wives. The security officers and I watched Papa getting more frail every day. His facial features were grim, perhaps to mask his sadness and grief.

Physically, we all eventually succumb. Papa is also mortal. But he is psychologically stronger than most people. Life has to carry on, and he will keep going so long as he can contribute to Singapore.
As I was halfway through writing this article, I went out of my room for a drink of water and saw a note from Papa addressed to all three of his children. It read:

'For reasons of sentiment, I would like part of my ashes to be mixed up with Mama's, and both her ashes and mine put side by side in the columbarium. We were joined in life and I would like our ashes to be joined after this life.'"

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute. Her father is Lee Kuan Yew, former PM of Singapore.

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