Plaque: A tribute to mum

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.