Sunday, October 03, 2010

A death observed

Perhaps Singapore has already been expecting this for some time now, but the news nevertheless shocked and saddened many of us, going by news and views on the internet. I first read the announcement over Yahoo's Fit to Post, and the way the headline was phrased stunned me for a moment: "Mrs Lee Kuan Yew dead at 89". I looked closer and somewhat relieved to note that it was MM Lee's wife, not MM. Why relieved? Dead is never a happy thing. It means you will never see this person in the flesh anymore, never feel the strange comfort, familiarity and assurance when that someone is around. And if that person has been your constant companion throughout your life, it is that much more difficult to bear. If that is your mother, your grief will be doubly great - the loss of the person who gave birth to you, and who raised you, and the same grief you must feel for her companion who is left to carry on life's journey.

Coincidentally, this 2nd October is also my 17th wedding anniversary, which, of course, is far from the 61 years that Mr and Mrs Lee spent together.

Yet in this case, there is relief because it also marked the end of whatever suffering Mrs Lee would have endured for the last 2 years. I do not know her personally, and have never met her, yet we, Singaporeans, seem to know her from the many pictures of her in the press over her long life as the person always beside MM Lee. Yet for all the exposure, she always kept her life private, unlike wives of some national leaders who just cannot keep themselves out of the news, and in the process, attracting gossip of one sort or another. Maybe the press in Singapore is strict and the government frowns on gossipy news, especially when it comes to MM Lee, but that does no detract from the fact that we hear so little about Mdm Lee's life in spite of her visibility.

As a Singaporean, and one who grew up on the island during much of the time that MM Lee was the Prime Minister, let me convey my condolences to MM Lee and his family on this sad occasion. And may I wish MM the strength to bear in this difficult period.

God bless.

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