Happy 57th Birthday! It's hard to imagine you as a fifty-seven-year-old grandmother of four. In my mind, you remained a beautiful and effortlessly elegant thirty-four years old.
It's been 23 years since you left us. I still think of you, every so often. Even more so now that I'm also a mother. I often wonder what advice you would give when I'm faced with a parenting dilemma. There are days when I hear myself saying the same things you used to tell us - things like eat your tomatoes, it gives you good skin, and that spring onion (chong) make you clever (chong ming).
I'm grown up now and know that you made those things up. But it feels good to repeat it to Lauren and Georgia. It feels like you're still here, being apart of us. And yes, those are the names I gave your granddaughters. I hope you like it.
The truth is, you never really left us. After you passed away, I used to see you everywhere. I swear I once saw you at the crowded bus stand opposite Kotaraya, on my way home from school. I tried to follow you but you boarded another bus and went away. Another time, I met you again when I was working part time during school holiday. You were my supervisor. She spoke exactly like you and I loved going to work just so that I can hear your voice. It was nice to hear your voice again.
I made many mistakes after you were gone. You would never have allowed me to quit school right after O Level to pursue modeling. I strayed. I must have disappointed. But the alternative route I took led me to Nick, my husband and the father of my children. He's great, mama. All those advice on men you gave me when I was still a child remained intact in my mind. I'm sure you would approve of Nick and love him as much as I do.
I remember very clearly how proud you were when I was the only student to get straight A's in my primary school. You were even more joyous when I got accepted into one of the top school in Kuala Lumpur. For the first two days, you taught me how to take the public bus to school and when I finished lessons for the day, you were there waiting for me with your beaming smile. I really enjoyed our 40 minutes rides into town, just you and me. Too bad by the third day, you had an asthma attack and was admitted to the hospital.
3 months later, you died.
There was so little left. So few clothes. So few pictures. So few of your handwritten lyrics left.
Since then, I've grown from a 13-year-old secondary student who was lost without her mother to a 36-year-old mother of two (soon to be 3) who knows all too well not to take life for granted. In dying, you showed me how fragile life can be and how little all the drama and material things matter in the end. The only thing that matters is now, the time we have with our loved ones.
Aunt Alice told me that I'm exactly like you. Aloof at times, practical, straight-forward and fiercely loyal. She said she had always looked up to you and knew she can depend on you. Ma, I want you to know that I'll always look out for Fong and Mun Seng. You told us that siblings are for life and we have to treasure each other. Don't worry Ma, when the phone rings, I'll be there for them in a heartbeat. I know they'll do the same for me.
Thank you, Ma.