Li Xiuqi's eulogy for her grandmother Mrs Lee Kuan Yew
In a eulogy delivered at the funeral, Mrs Lee's granddaughter said that her post-stroke Nainai was full of life. -AsiaOne
EULOGY BY LI XIUQI AT THE FUNERAL SERVICE OF MRS LEE KUANYEW, MANDAI CREMATORIUM, 6 OCTOBER 2010
Hi everyone. My name is Xiuqi and I'm Mrs Lee's granddaughter.
I racked my brains as to what to tell you that you haven't already heard many times. By now, you have heard all about what a remarkable woman my grandmother was. How she was an excellent wife and mother; how she was kind-hearted, sharp-minded and a tower of strength. And indeed she was.
But now I'm going to share something else. As my granddad has said,after 2003, Nainai divided her life into BS and AS - Before Stroke and After Stroke. I'd like to give you a glimpse into Nainai's life After Stroke.
Before stroke, she was a power woman. She ran the Oxley road household like a tight ship. She paid the maids, bought the fish, quality-checked the cooking, and peeled my grandfather's fruit and packed his suitcase. She exercised rigorously every day and ate not a single extra calorie, which preserved her hourglass figure for her many gorgeous cheongsams. She was no-nonsense and did not believe in making small talk or nattering on the phone with other women.
Then her stroke struck in 2003 while she was in London. Shocked by the news, me and my friends prayed fervently and the next day she made a miraculous recovery. I flew over to visit her in the East London hospital. She had regained consciousness and the doctor was asking her a standard set of questions to assess her cognitive function. Questions such as "is it day or night? Do you know who I am? Do you know where you are?" She was answering until he got to the question "Do you know who is the prime minister?" She got cross and said "of course I know who the prime minister is!" and after that she refused to answer any more questions because she felt the doctor was talking to her like she was stupid. That was when I knew she was back to normal.
While she was still away, her children quickly seized the opportunity to renovate and elderly-proof the old Oxley Road house. They leveled the bathroom floor and installed a shower.
This was a big deal because all these years, my grandparents had still been bathing with the old-fashioned system- scooping from a tub of water the same way they bathed me when I was little! So my granny came home to find her tub gone and a shower in its place. She was not pleased at all and refused to bathe at home for several days, choosing to bathe in the Istana instead.
Many things changed at Oxley Road. Now my granddad had to peel his own fruit, peel her fruit, pack his own suitcase and make his own Milo. For the first time in a while, he had to handle money so he could pay the maids.My granny locked the money in one place, and kept the keys to the lock in another totally unrelated place. My granddad complained that she needed a system but she retorted that she had a system. And that was that.
For the first time in her life, my granny was helpless. She experienced a physical handicap and it did give her frustration. But I knew that she was also secretly happy to be taken care of. And she acquired the glow of a girl who knew she was adored.
More changes were in store. My family was a little perturbed when my granny started showing personality changes. Her memory, which used to be sharp as a tack, became a little blunted. She grumbled about this but I told her what's the big deal, that's how I feel all the time. She began to collect colourful things like ribbons and pinwheels. She had a newfound interest inold nursery rhymes and lullabies that she used to know. She wondered if she was entering second childhood. She started to natter on the phone like other women. She started to joke around with her security officers.
For a time my family worried that she had Alzheimer's but I don't think she did. Her wit was as rapier-sharp as ever. No, what I saw was a woman who for the first time could lighten up and smell the flowers. I would say, and I heard many others say as well, that they felt she became less fearsome and more approachable. I personally enjoyed the new her very much.
I decided I would like to travel with my grandparents as much as I could, see the world and spend time with them too. We went on many trips in4 years. And no, the state did not pay for my plane tickets so not to worry,Ministry of Finance. Those were happy memories. We went to France where we enjoyed walks in rose gardens and along riverbanks. We went to Italy where my granny surpassed us all by polishing off two huge scoops of gelato- before dinner.
Once we went on a long trip with multiple legs, from Paris to the Middle East. My granny swears by bananas to keep the digestive tract workings moothly. I was just amazed at how she managed to supply herself with them. She carried one in her hand-carry luggage, when we got to our first destination, the ambassador's wife produced more bananas for her, and when we arrived at the next country, my aunt Kim Li flew in, handed her a bag and said "here are the bananas you asked for." An unbroken supply chain halfway around the world.
In Tokyo my granny went to Tokyo Hands, a 7-storey DIY store. She has always been on a lifelong quest for the Perfect Hairbrush. She found a nice hairbrush there. It wasn't expensive. But even purchasing it was a struggle for her because Nainai has always been frugal to a fault. In the end,the hairbrush won. Nainai said, "Well, I'm already so old, I can afford to buy it"and put down the money. She went home smiling, hairbrush in hand.
That was the thing about my granny. Some days, the aches and pains would act up, she felt old, she would be grouchy and critical. But there was something about her that made you always to please her.
When you hit on something that she really liked, her whole person would light up and she would continue to praise it forever and ever. Such was the case when we went to Shanghai. Once I bought her a pair of black Puma shoes. They were a spiffy pair with a stripe in Ferrari red.They cost me very little but it didn't matter.
She adored them. She felt cool in them and every single time she wore them she would beam and feel very pleased with herself and I'd feel satisfied that my money was supremely well-spent.
Once my granny discovered the joy of MP3 players, she accumulated more than me. Some were gifts from other people who, like me, liked to please her. She was young at heart. Sadly, her 80-something-year-old body gave her aches and pains all the time. However, she was a survivor and never gave up trying to overcome it. She tried everything, from sleeping with little pillows in various positions to support her body, to acupuncture, sports massage, swimming an hour a day, and so on. One time I arrived at her house to find she had gotten rubber balls with blunt rubber spikes, like sea urchins. Trigger balls, they are called. Nainai recommended them to me and the two of us spent the evening sitting on the balls on the floor, massaging the muscles in our butt.
I always felt sad that her aging body did not allow her to do the things that her soul wanted to do, such as roam the streets window shopping, eat more desserts, or move around freely. The most terrible thing was when she got locked-in syndrome and could no longer move nor communicate. It pained me imagining how agonising it would be to be in her position, just lying there for months while others ate, drank, moved and talked. Ever the survivor,she overcame multiple infections in her locked-in state, infections that people thought would kill her. A big thank you must go to her wonderful security officers and nursing staff who grew to love her and facilitated her life with a lot of love.
The post-stroke Nainai was a person who was full of life. If I could spend more years with her, and if she was able-bodied, there would still be many things to see, do, talk about and taste. And indeed I have full assurance that one day, I will.
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