Plaque: A tribute to mum

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Paying tribute to Mom on Mother's day: An Intriguing Idea ...

The second Sunday of May is celebrated as Mother's Day. Today is Mother's Day and during this Mother's Day, I had earlier came across an intriguing idea which I would like to share with my family and relatives.

Some time ago, I was reading up on Corazon Aquino to see her connection to the Confederate marching song-The Yellow Rose of Texas (Yellow was the color of her party); I came across her famous address to the joint house of congress following her ascendancy to the Presidency of the Philippines. I remember her speech because I used it for a paper on rhetorical criticism decades before but this was the first time I watch her in video, thanks to Youtube. Previously, I was only able to watch part of her speech on TV and to read her entire speech in print. Anyway, I enjoyed the speech that brought back memories of the tensed and eventful days during 1986 when I followed the travails of that tragic country that saw the ultimate fall of Marcos. I later surfed the other videos and it slowly dawn on me that some of the photos of Cory Aquino do rather resembled mum... Then other details of her life came to me and I started to do a little research. For example, her great-grand father came from China over a century ago to seek his fortunes in the Philippines. He was originally from Hongjian village which was near to Xiamen in Fujian province. Cory Aquino went on a state visit to China in 1988 during which she dropped into her ancestral home village and seek out her distance relatives.

Mum's ancestors, as we know; came from Putian (Paternal) and Hockchia or Fuqing (Maternal) which was also not that far from Xiamen. The other similarities are that mum and Cory were both born in 1933 and they both experienced Japanese occupation during World War II. Finally, they both were stricken with cancers although mum's was breast while Cory's was colon. In fact, mum also share a common experience with Cory in that she also visited The US Congress back in1986 when she along with my sister and myself visited Washington D.C. We were given the security clearance to observe the Senate Chamber via the visitors gallery. Cory and mum both also shared the character of unassuming traits, humility, decency, kindliness, etc. The thing is... perhaps they might be of common ancestry? If we take the theory that if we go far back enough, we all ultimately share a common ancestry; so this is not something impossible if mom and cory in fact shared common ancestors generations ago. After all, scholars are in agreement that the human specie ultimately came from the "Eden" of Africa long long ago... Anyway, this is not really a serious thought but its just that I admired and respected both of these women who did much good during their lives although Cory's stage was of a national and also international scale while mom role loomed large within our family.

Note: Mum was wearing a wig in this photo.

Below was the historic speech by President Aquino to the Joint Houses of the Congress.

Here's looking at you, Mum: Music Videos of Kwan Kim Kee

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eulogy for Mom from almost 10 years ago still rings true

Mom's favorite portrait of herself
1933 - 2001

I wrote a heartfelt eulogy for mom shortly after her passing; it was posted to a site at Yahoo's geocities that was unfortunately taken off after a few years. Fortunately I found a hard copy and decided to post it below; however, I gradually realized that this was not my final version as some things were left out. Such as I mentioned we prayed for a miracle from the Miracle Worker and how my mother was persuaded to seek a last ditch treatment at a cancer research hospital but it was to avail. I also quoted a famous verse from Matthew 11:28 to rationalized how in a sort of way, Christ had ultimately fulfilled his poignant promise to help in her sufferings: "Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

The death of a loved one is certainly one of most heart rending experience a person can go through. A letter of condolence by Lincoln to a girl whose father (whom Lincoln knew personally) recently fell in battle during the Civil War was a interesting display of the deep personal understandings Lincoln had in experiencing deaths of loved ones:


December, 23, 1862

DEAR FANNY:--It is with deep regret that I learn of the death of your kind and brave father, and especially that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours sorrow comes to all, and to the young it comes with bittered agony because it takes them unawares.

The older have learned ever to expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress, perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say, and you need only to believe it to feel better at once. The memory of your dear father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad, sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend,


Here then is my incomplete version of my eulogy to mom:


My 69-year-old mother-Kwan Kim Kee passed away on the 4th of December 2001. The days before and after my mother died were surreal ones in which we shopped for a casket and a plot of burial ground. It was difficult to contemplate the fact that our mother was gone forever. Our mother whom had devoted her life and made infinite sacrifices to ensure the welfare of our family was no longer with us and I can understand more profoundly the heartfelt words of Nehru when he said that the death of Gandhi was as if a light had gone out. My mother was the indispensable bedrock of our family; and we must somehow learn to live anew without her.

My mother was the second eldest daughter of my grandparents who came from China and lived hard lives both in China and Malaysia. Her childhood and youth was full of hardships and the incessant struggles continued after her marriage. Even after my mother achieved a measure of financial security, her life were continuously dogged with trials and challenges of which she managed to overcome again and again except for her final tragic bout with cancer.

My mother found out too late that she had breast cancer in late 1999. She then had her left breast removed in January 2000 and went through a series of treatments involving radiation and chemotherapy. Her hair fell off which made her look unsightly and she resorted to wearing head-gears including a wig. The effect of the medications took a toll on my mother's body; her weak heart was compounded by occasional asthma attacks that made breathing and sleep difficult. There was a time when she was in hospital in March 2001 when she almost passed away due to her weaken state; her blood pressure was so low that her doctors were pessimistic but she managed to pull through after having a powerful vision of having poured out her woes to a Christ like figure. By November 2001, my mother felt sick from her hernia in her abdomen and kept vomiting; we brought her to the local hospital where I was sadden by the sufferings my mother was going through. Her disfigured body laid on the narrow emergency room's bed where nurses stuck needles into her body as she winced with her eyes closed; it will remain indelibly in my mind as among the saddest scenes. I thought that she was going to die that night as I stayed with her. The next morning, water was taken from her left lung for the second time since a week ago and she made a recovery which proved to be her Indian Summer before harsh winter finally came.

Much as we regret the rapid passing of our mother even though the prognosis was that she could live for several more months; yet, she had always told me that it would be better to go quickly if recovery is not possible so as not to suffer needlessly nor to trouble us. Shortly before she died, she told my sister that she don't want us to cry at her funeral which reminded me of Socrates who chided his friends for crying before his execution and Roman emperor-Marcus Aurelius whom as he was dying during a military campaign, told his soldiers: "Weep not for me, think rather of the pestilence and the death of so many others."

My mother with her tenacious will and indomitable spirit had taken life as it came and through her diligence and ingenuity, had transformed the fortunes of her family and along with our father, afforded us the things in life denied to herself during much of her lifetime.In her life's battle, she had fought at the place of honor which is at the front where the fighting is the fiercest. While there were times when she had fallen, yet she picked herself up again and again to continue the struggle until cancer struck.

My mother whom had worshiped Chinese gods almost all her life was converted to Christianity by my brother-Francis when he and other fellow Christians showed up in the hospital to pray for her while she was having the operation to remove her cancerous breast. She had a liberal attitude towards religions in that they are all basically good. I took the opportunity during the Christian service on the second night to dedicate a sad but meaningful song by A.P.Carter-Can The Circle Be Unbroken? to her memory. Among the haunting lyric were these words: "Went back home Lord, my home was lonesome since my mother she was gone; all my brothers sisters crying, what a home so sad and lone."

The legacy of my mother consisted not only of the material things and keepsakes that she gave to us; she also taught us the values of humility, decency, being frugal, having a forgiving spirit, diligence, and the practice of filial piety. Her legacy is still unfolding and we hope that we will achieve many worthy goals in our lives so as to be more worthy of her expectations. I would like to quote Emerson in his eulogy for his friend-Thoreau which I feel can be equally apply to my mother in that her "soul was made for the noblest society wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, she will find a home."

A postscript: A strange thing happened after my mother passed away; my daughter who was then around 6-year-old had a dream which she related to her maternal grandmother who was then taking care of her during the daytime. I only got to know about this when my mother-in-law told me; only then did I asked my daughter to tell me about her dream. During the recent visit to my mother's grave on the occasion of the Chinese All soul's day or Qing Ming, I again asked my daughter who is now 16-year-old about her dream then which she confirmed. She dreamed that my mother brought her to a place which is white and bright with things like white clouds, white linens, roman columns... a place akin to heaven; so far as I know, no one else in the family experience such a dream. Although I am not a Christian in any sense of the word, yet I do like the idea of my mother being in heaven; she whom had more than her share of a life of filled with challenges and worries can at long last, rest in peace.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A plaque for Mom's grave during Qing Ming visit

I visited mum's grave today with family to observe Qing Ming. For this visit, I came with a plaque that I DIY from material that hopefully can survive the elements of hot sun and rains. I also took along some fertilizer to spread on the two potted plants; one plant is thriving while the other one does not seem to be able to survive for long. Hopefully, this sick plant can recover eventually. I was pleasantly surprised to see how good a fit the plaque goes into the narrow space at the bottom left hand area as I had made the plaque without knowing for sure where it can find a good resting place. Anyway, there is a melancholy yet pleasant mandarin song which I would like to share with visitors. The words of this poem by the poet Christina Rosetti (The poem followed the youtube video) was translated into mandarin by a famous Chinese poet who studied at Cambridge during the early part of the 20th century and this was in turn used to make into a song by a gifted Taiwanese song writer. This song's name is simply "Song" graced a Taiwanese movie from the 1970s and it was sung by the then young actress-Slyvia Chang who not only acted and sang in a long career but later went on to an illustrious period as a versatile and highly successful film maker.

When I am dead
Christina Rossetti

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me:
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A virtual memorial dedicated to Mdm Kwan Kim Kee

It has been almost ten years since mom passed away. It was a wretched thing to see someone you loved and cherished succumbed to breast cancer and suffering pains and wasting away until death which one do not welcome was later accepted as a means of final release from her bodily and psychological pains. I still think of mom from time to time and well remember the sad song which we sung during her wake. I found a soulful rendition of this song by Michelle Lea and would like to share it with visitors to this site; the lyric as well as the music video from youtube is included below. Mom, we still think of you and we thank you for all your love and care and I at least feel so unworthy of your life long affections and sacrifices to which I gave so little in return.

Can the circle be unbroken?

I was standing by the window
On one cold and cloudy day
And I saw the hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away

Can the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, by and by
There's a better home awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky

Lord, I told the undertaker
"Undertaker, please drive slow
For this body you are hauling
Lord, I hate to see her go"

Can the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, by and by
There's a better home awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky

I followed close behind her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in the grave

Can the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, by and by
There's a better home awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky

Went back home Lord, my home was lonesome
Miss my mother she was gone
All my brothers sisters crying
What a home, so sad and lone

Can the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, by and by
There's a better home awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky.