When I left the house today it felt odd to not hear her say the things she always told us in her teochew translated english , “Don’t do stupid thing”, “study hard”, “don’t make bad friend!” “got comb hair?” “dinner come home!”.
Justin and i would continually tease each other by mimicking Mama when we locked the gate. I guess she wanted us to be good kids, we were always kids in her eyes. Making french toast, telling me to “GOSLEEP!” while i was doing my work at 4am, waking me up when i sleep in, yes at 25.
I looked through the photo albums which she kept (if grandma had facebook, she would need 3 accounts for all the friends and photos of them she had). I knew which photo she wanted to place in front of the coffin. It was one where she sat in front of the newly renovated kitchen, in one of her many favorite dresses, it was twelve years ago, I remember that because i took it for her; Nikon fFM2, 24mm, tripod mounted, fluorescent light + daylight from the windows.
Even more clearly, i knew what she wanted to use it for, at 13, i couldn’t imagine someone so close leaving me, at 25, i don’t think i still can now.
The photo was nice, it wasn’t well taken but she had that healthy appearance that began to fade away when her dementia got worse. She enlarged, then framed it and kept it in her cupboard all this while. I only understood why she wanted it after her passing, it was how she wanted us to remember her, the stronger happier Mama, proud of her grandchildren.
She always would use us to “show off” to her friends. I remember her dragging me to one of those dinners at some Teochew establishment (good steamed pomfret made for the awkward generation gap at the table). The kind where grandparents would go because someone among her group of friends won the minor fortune in a lottery. Halfheartedly i would sit by your side and get my head rubbed while they said “ooo so clever!”.
Over time those same friends of her’s left her too, but those who were still around, who could still come for her funeral, remembered who i was. They brought their children along too, the same kids who went through the same headrubbing / ooosoclever / verynicepomfretrestaurant experience as me. She was an amazing friend to so many people, she didn’t have to worry if no one came for her funeral (which she lamented alot when she got older).
Everyone loved your cooking, remembered how you would always visit them with things. You were a great person, I guess it works in reverse now, i’m so proud of you Mama.
When she got older and couldn’t cook, we would take turns to make dinner for her, porridge, picked vegetables, fermented bean curds and a simple soup. I’ll treasure those times where we would would eat at the dinner table when she didn’t drift away. Then share fruit while we watched animal planet, the channel she never knew how to get to but loved so much, a channel I rather her watch instead of those over dramatic Taiwanese sob stories.
I realised that its the simple things we did that i’ll miss. Changing the batteries for her terrifying alarm clock, giving her the late night medications, hearing her say good morning in that european accent i never figured where she picked up.
She would be happy if she saw how we handled the often religiously confused chinese funeral some modern Singaporean families go through ( accepted Christ yet relatives want the Buddhist rites and then further confused with Taoist ones and then compounded by various traditions and money making undertakers).
She would be proud how Mum and Dad kept everything in order, how the brother and i handled everything else. Along with that, up there, where she is, diabetes and dementia don’t exist . Those voices in her head are gone and she can have all the sweet kueh kuehs and ice cream she wants now.
I don’t handle death well, when she left us so suddenly it was really hard, but we’re okay now, not good, but okay and i guess okay is good enough for now. It was selfish for us to keep her with us, knowing that with her mental illness she was suffering while she faded away each day. Now that she’s in His hands, we know she’s at peace.
We miss you but we also know your in a better place now.