In Loving Memory

I know it's a bit weird to have posted up a happy post on the Krabi trip before this. I just felt compelled to complete the trip before I start on this entry.

Ah Ma's demise happened all too sudden.

Too soon, God has taken my beloved grandmother from us. She first suffered from pain in her legs, and walking became a bit of a chore, about three months ago. Then soon after, she started to have thoughts that is not in place. Like declaring her home is not hers. She would start to say things like her time is coming soon, whether her will is in order but most of the time we would brush her off, saying she would live long. Things like that.

Then about a month and a half ago, she was hospitalized. She had a stroke and there's nothing much the doctors can do for her. I visited her once during this period. It was such a pain for me to see her in that condition. Swallowing was immensely tough for her. She only had a few spoonfuls of food we fed her. She was practically just skin and bones. At this point, she could only manage one or two words. Sometimes they were barely discernible. Seeing her like this broke my heart.

Ah Ma was discharged from the hospital a week later. I heard from Mom that Ah Ma was smiling and all pleased when she got back home. Tua Yi and Ji Yi are such great people to help and take care of Ah Ma during these times. Ah Ma was bedridden, all of us were extremely worried for her. Not being able to talk to her on the phone did little to console us. A doctor came to Ah Ma's house also and all he could say was to keep her comfortable...

Then early Tuesday morning, 7th September. I was getting ready for work when I received a phone call from Ah Ma's house number. I was instantly scared. There has to be extremely grave news for any of my aunts to call at this hour.

Ji Yi was sobbing uncontrollably on the phone. Ah Ma is gone.






I still recall her during our Chinese New Year celebration early this year. She was still shuffling about in the kitchen, in her mua. Fussing over all of her children and grandchildren, making sure that we had enough to eat. She would always ask me to get some fruits, papaya, apples, something, and ask me to cut them up after dinner. I would always reply I'm full, maybe later. She would then get up herself, get the fruits out and cut them up. I was always such a nuisance.

Even when I was young, Ah Ma has taken care of me so much. I used to have a lot of problems with my skin. I was practically sensitive or allergic to everything, grass, fur, carpet, lace. And I had these spock marks all over. My family and relatives used to tease me of my ci puat, noh puat and the diamonds I possess. Ah Ma would boil this type of tea, then while the tea is still warm, rub the tea leaves against my legs and clean my diamonds with the tea. Such tenderness and patience in her.

I remember back then when I was just 5 or 6. Ah Ma would practically coat my face with bedak sejuk, home made of course, till all three of us siblings look like ghosts. Then Ah Kong would bring us all to the Jubli Perak park where we would all shamelessly run and scream around in our white masks.

She would then often ask me if I wanted to spend the night at her place. When I was younger, I simply loved to sleep over. I would even follow Ah Ma to her tai chi practices, and then to the morning market afterwards. Ah Ma makes one of the killer kopi O I have ever tasted. But as I got older, I began rejecting her offers for me to spend the night :(

Oh, Ah Ma sometimes talks in her sleep hehe.

Ah Ma is always so giving. She never asked for anything in return. Even if she would require help, she would ask in such a hesitating manner. She never wanted to burden anyone, not even her own son.

Even the manner she left the world was quiet and calm... so befitting of her nature. Not wanting to cause much trouble. I regret that I didn't spend more time with her, bring her out to her favorite dim sum shop. I have a feeling that she always looks forward to these breakfast sessions with her grandchildren. She's definitely the socialite. Such an easy person to talk to. She could break into a conversation with the cashier, the lady selling vegetables at the market, the Malay lady queuing up to pay at the counter.

Ah Ma is such a darling little vain thing. She is always taking care of her appearance. At her age, she still looks so youthful with her sweet smile that makes you want to smile with her. And her soft and supple skin. While she was hospitalized, the nurse would question her how did she get her skin to remain youthful.

Even on a short trip to a shop, Ah Ma would take the trouble to change into something nice and brush her hair. That's one of the reasons why she always looks presentable in pictures that we took of her. Her hair is so soft and fluffy hehe. And at her age, still not entirely white!

I will miss her indignant expressions, her little heated arguments with Tua Yi, her questions on what we would like to eat, what soup we wanted her to boil for us... How I miss seeing those pearl earrings of hers dangling on her stretched lobes :) And her jade bracelet which she is always lovingly holding on to. I will miss seeing her sitting at her favorite dark wooden chair in the living room. I will miss seeing her expression while taking the first spoonful of her favorite sweet dessert.

I will miss seeing her fussing over her old dog, Rainy and even Pickles when she would often say "Cau!". I will miss her laughter as Pickles scuffles around between her legs. I will miss her occasional sarcastic remarks... I will miss seeing Ah Ma sitting on the white swing outside in the garden. I will most dearly miss holding on to Ah Ma and supporting her while she makes an effort going up stairs.

Great food has always been synonymous with Ah Ma. There is a looong list of dishes that I have always adored. I always look forward to those festive days, the start of the hungry ghost, Ah Kong's birthday.... times when I get to enjoy the best jiu hu char wrapped in oa chai with Ah Ma's very own sambal belacan, tu tor th'ng accompanied with the spiciest sliced han cio kia, dried pineapple curry, the most delicious sambal petai, so fragrant and cooked to perfection, and how can I not list perut ikan as one of my very favorites. The mackerel fish stuffed with chili? I could flood the house with drool. Oh! And the great fish curries with bendi. Mmm....

Ah Ma is, without a doubt a great cook. She makes her sambal from scratch. Rolling and pounding them on the pestle and mortar. Well, until she couldn't handle the weight of those heavy cookwares anymore. No other cook or restaurant can ever produce the same dish to Ah Ma's high standard of cooking. The list would go on and on, and I will forever live with the regret that I never got the chance to learn all these wonderful skills from Ah Ma.

I will always have this mental image of Ah Ma in the kitchen, throwing all sorts of ingredients into the pot, sticking a ladle into the pot and tasting, and adding this and that to suit her taste buds. No matter how simple her cooking is, they taste great nevertheless. They are the definition of home-cooked food.

So many things I wish I have spoken, thousands of apologies I wish I had uttered, but there's no turning back now.

Ah Ma, you have filled our lives with so much meaning and purpose. You will always hold a dear place in my heart. Words cannot express how much I love and care for you. I promise I will be a better person.

May you find peace and a have moved on to a greater place of being.


1 comment:

The Georgian Adventure - Hike to Chalaadi Glacier

Our third, and last hike in Svaneti. There are so many more places to hike and explore around Georgia, it was a hard decision to premature...