Throughout the week, Josiah and Joanie were tasked to give away hugs and kisses to my mum, my aunts, and anyone who looked sad. It's been a tiring week for them, as they had to stay up later than usual but their natural exuberance were a good distraction and brought some cheer. Joash too, has had a tiring week and overstimulation during the day has translated to less restful sleep at night. Nevertheless, we're so blessed that this good natured boy is happy being passed around or just sitting in his chair and observing the activity around him.
Whether poetically or otherwise, the rain had not let up for the past few days, and on Friday, as we walked the small stretch of road outside her home behind the hearse, with the rain beating down hard on our umbrellas, it felt rather surreal, like a scene from a movie...
Today is Saturday. Today I will miss ah ma's presence at the dinner table. Today she will not be asking me to have a second bowl of dessert, 'sugar' as she calls it. Today I will not get to hear her chuckle as she hugs the kids good night.
Remembering ah ma...
My ah ma, was a wonderful grandma. she was generous, loving and always thoughtful towards us, even in the smallest things.
When my brother and I were younger, she always prepared an extra sunny side up for us during our weekly dinner, I suppose because she was unnecessarily concerned that the tableful of food wouldn't be enough for us.
When it was the exam period, ah ma would make us chicken essence. She cooked it herself, the essence extracted from a chicken she double boiled for hours, because she knew that I didn't like the bottled ones.
When I was expecting, all three times, she prepared a bowl of birds' nest for me each week throughout my second trimester.
When we had Josiah, she was there with my parents the first morning after we returned from the hospital to watch us give him his first bath. She even brought us a brand new towel for Josiah, a pastel green one.
During my confinement this year, she made time to cook me a salt baked chicken even though she was busy with Chinese New Year preparations.
Even when ah ma was sick, she would still be thinking about our well being. On more than one occasion, she told me not to visit her while she was in the hospital because she didn't want me to bring the kids there. And when I went without them, she would repeatedly remind me to take a bath the minute I got home.
These were just some of the ways my ah ma expressed her love and concern for us.
(Top R) Ah ma carrying me to 'ta gu" (step on the ang ku kueh) on my first birthday
(Bottom L) Standing at the porch of her old home at Lewis Road with my brother and cousins. Probably during Chinese New Year.
(Bottom R) At one of the many dinners we had with ah ma
Ah ma was a very indulgent great grandmother and I could see how the kids brought her so much joy. She laughed at all the silly little things they did, like run out of the bathroom without any bottoms on, or when they get icing all over their mouths and noses while eating cake. And her face lit up each time they gave her a hug and kiss goodnight. She would chuckle, give them a little squeeze and a big peck on their cheek.
Before he fell asleep last night, Josiah asked me, "Tai Ma is in heaven with Jesus, right?" And followed up with "So now on Saturday we don't have to go to Tai Ma's house?" I guess even Josiah will note the difference in our weekly routine.
We talked about how she loved him. And he remembers it by the food and fruits we enjoyed at her home each week, and other small things like spending time in her bedroom.
On the bus ride back to ah ma's house from the crematorium, Joanie asked me "Where is Tai Ma?"
"Tai ma is with Jesus," I said.
"I want to give Tai Ma a hug," she replied.
I wasn't expecting that at all. The past few days at the wake, Joanie had simply been saying "Tai Ma is sleeping." I said to her, "You can't hug Tai Ma anymore, Joanie. She's in heaven now. Would you like to give mummy a hug?"
"No, I want to hug Tai Ma tonight" she said.
Oh Josiah and Joanie, I hope you'll always remember how Tai Ma loved you and how you loved her!
Ah ma was a very spirited lady. She knew what she wanted, and how and when she wanted things to be done, and Joanie and I have her to thank for our strong wills. So while we've been sharing with her about Jesus and bringing her to church on occasion, there was no rushing her in this either.
But God had pursued her hard. Ah ma accepted Christ this year and was baptized on 7 April at the grand old age of 96. 96! How amazing that after 95 years, she turned away from her Chinese religion traditions, cleared her altar, and asked to be brought to see a Christian columbarium as she did not want her remains to be placed in a temple (there was a spot reserved for her there next to ah gong).
I am so very thankful that I got to spend 31 years with you, ah ma, and that Josiah, Joanie and Joash had the chance to experience your love. I will miss you so much!
Until we meet again!