A Tribute to Our Mother

She was a woman of exceptional courage. She faced all of life’s challenges head on, fielding everything thrown at her with great tenacity, determination and always well-dressed and immaculately groomed while doing it. She lived life with a passion, always willing to try new experiences and learn new things.

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, so the saying goes. Well, our mother was given somewhat better ingredients than just lemons (being blessed with intelligence, good looks and personality) and she whipped up a fabulous feast, a sumptuous buffet spread of all the joys of life and we her family and her friends were all privileged to partake, nourished by her care and concern.

How could so much energy and life be packed into such a petite frame? What was the source of her indomitable spirit? I believe that it was her faith.

Hers was not a faith professed merely on the lips. Hers was a “true grit” faith lived out every single day of her life ever since she accepted the Lord as a teenager in school in Seremban, Malaysia. It was shaped and forged through her journey through all of life’s greatest joys and deepest disappointments. Her faith was what empowered her in her many battles with ill health. Suffering polio as a child which left her walking with a limp and a deformed knee, she nonetheless adapted her gait and could take the stairs at an impressive speed in her younger days. She defeated cancer more than 10 years ago and when handed a diagnosis of metastasis toward the end of her treatment, her faith in God’s plan for her was so unflinching that she rejected the advice of the best specialists in the Sloan-Kettering clinic and refused further treatment. Her decision terrified us, her loved ones, but she had no fear, only supreme confidence that the Lord would heal her in His way.

Hers was not a passive faith that is the close relative of fatalism. It was a faith of action and active prayer. She was not afraid of making decisions because she was not afraid of making mistakes, even if she did not like to admit that she did sometimes make mistakes. She covered us all in prayer, every single day.

Hers was not a blind, unquestioning faith. We have heard her question God many, many times, why, when she has had to endure or when her loved ones and dear friends have had to suffer personal tragedies. Yet these questions have only strengthened her faith. No matter what she endured, she still had joy and a spirit of thankfulness.

Her strength and energy were often employed in support and defence of her loved ones. A woman of strong opinions, she was certainly not hesitant to voice them. She had no patience for hypocrites and bullies and dealt with them in her own inimitable way. But for all her forceful nature, she had immense compassion and a tender heart for those in need. She was generous with her material possessions but more importantly, generous with her time and spirit, always giving of herself to her friends and loved ones. She was a great enabler and encourager.

In recent years, she enjoyed her three grandsons Joshua, Kai and Michael enormously. She was the Great Protector against parental discipline, dispensing largesse in the form of keropok and soda pop. She had the natural ability to relate to them on their level, whether that was teddy bears and Thomas the Tank Engine or iPods and Apps.

She lived life to the fullest and appreciated the finer things in life – a good cup of cuppucino, a lip-smacking char kuay teow, beautiful clothes, music. Most of all, she enjoyed people, reaching out to them and connecting with them. She had the rare gift of being able to reach across the generation gap and her friends could be anyone aged from eight to eighty years old.

She was so full of life and energy that it is hard to believe that she is not with us anymore. We will miss her but she will always be a part of us. We are truly blessed.

Written by Mei Ling, Benjamin & Kenneth

Smelly people

Kai learned the word “smelly” from Naomi’s mum, and to our delight, applied it when Naomi brought him to the zoo – he applied it on the goats at the kids’ section, where they had a petting zoo or something, I dunno, I din go.

Then last week Naomi brought him to the zoo again (we bought a family pass so we got discounted tickets), and again he said, “smelly”, or more accurately, “schmeowwy”. Naomi looked around for goats, and didn’t see any, and so asked our darling baby son what animal he saw that he thought smelly.

“Schmeowwy People”, he said.

It’s Chap Goh Meh, but here’s a Christmas story

While workshopping Kumar’s show last week, Selena Tan brought up this gem of information on how the Japanese celebrate Christmas. I would’ve teased Naomi for not knowing this Japanese tradition but a) she doesn’t take too kindly to criticism about her lack of Japanese knowledge, b) it is a rather offbeat kind of tradition.

Before 1974, westerners in Japan who happened to be around during Christmas found it difficult to celebrate Christmas because turkeys were apparently hard to find in the shops (or elsewhere, for that matter), and so the closest thing a foreigner could pass off as a Christmas turkey dinner was a chicken dinner, and chicken dinners were easy to find at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets around the country.

So, in 1974 a clever marketing fella at KFC decided to sell the first KFC Christmas meal, consisting of fried chicken and a glass of wine. It was immensely popular, and for some reason, Japanese locals began to think that this was a bona fide tradition, and as the years went by, began passing it down to younger generations.

These days, KFC Christmas meals are ordered several months in advance, and if you think about it, Colonel Sanders could pass off as Santa Claus.

If you think that’s weird, @bubblevicious and @tetanus point out that the annual Chingay Parade has its tradition/roots in the government trying to appease the pyromanic masses’ discontent at the firecracker ban in 1973.

I have a friend who’s a knight. You got or not?

We attended Hossan’s “knighting” ceremony Friday night at the French ambassador’s residence. There was no pomp and very little ceremony, which suited us fine, although the newly minted Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres cut a dash in his Ted Baker suit bought off the rack for the occasion.

And when the French ambassador rattled off his achievements before the presentation, the flush of pride on everyone’s faces (Hossan’s family members included) turned to tortured stifled giggles when he got to “Asian Boys Vol.1, Mardi Gras and Top or Bottom.” Dunno lah. So childish, all of us. But good lah, that someone who’s bringing so much joy to our lives – and according to ST readers polled, is joint fifth top national icon – is being recognised in this manner.

Vive la vie! Baguette! Croissant!

How bad could a Monday Valentine’s Day be?

You’re probably all festival’d out since Christmas, and it’s only a couple of days since Chingay, and now, no matter what, there’s this thing called Valentine’s Day hanging over your heads.

It’s hanging over this dude’s head, and he gets all worked up and makes a video – and it’s quite apt that VD falls on a Monday for him: