It is very sad that Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wife of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, has passed away, especially for those who love her dearly.
They must be devastated, because no matter how slim the chance of recovery, no one is fully prepared or accepting when it comes to the death of a much loved spouse, parent or child.
It is also sad that Mrs Lee was in something of a coma for two years.
For those of us gadding about, two years may pass like the twinkle of an eye. But for someone in the twilight between sleeping and awake, two years could be a very long, lonely time indeed, not counting other discomforts.
Still, in line with the thinking of the late Balaji Sadasivan — he was reported to have said the illness which in the end killed him was the only real tribulation he had suffered in his whole life — I would like to suggest, respectfully, that the last two years of Mrs Lee were the only bad patch in all of her 89 years.
Be4 May 2008, she led what could be deemed a charmed life that had rightly caused many to eat their hearts out, especially intelligent, educated, ambitious women of her generation — or any generation for that matter.
She had it all: brains, striking looks, a good man –who became a very important man –who remained deeply in love with her thru six decades and more, children who have done her proud, a posse of grand-children who ensure her genes will remain in posterity; plenty of worldly goods and worldly experiences (travel, food, meeting with important and interesting people) that you and I can only dream about. And of course active longevity which all of us can hope for but not everyone can attain.
She had people who loved her aplenty outside her family too. In the days since her passing, the people of Singapore, many of them considered to be the “little people” — such as the fruit seller, the tailor, the articled clerk etc — have come forward to speak about her with fondness and warmth. And most particularly they spoke about her kind, considerate and accessible nature. She spoke softly and carried no big stick.
And in passing away before her husband, she achieved what the Cantonses saying describes as the better death for a married woman.
Passing away before your husband, you remain a fresh bloom. Passing away after your husband, you are like tea dregs.
So, in death as in life, Mrs Lee has been dealt the better hand.
What a blessed life! What a blessing she’s been to her husband, her family and through them, to Singapore.
Rest in peace!