Cancer patient determined to say goodbye to her 'hero'

Cancer patient determined to say goodbye to her 'hero'

Under the blazing afternoon sun, cancer patient Susan Mak felt faint as she made her way to Parliament House from her office at Bukit Merah yesterday.

The 75-year-old wanted to pay her last respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who will be lying in state till 8pm today.

She took a bus from Bukit Merah to the community tribute site at Toa Payoh Central to write in the condolence book before taking a train to City Hall MRT station, where she had arranged to meet her daughter.

But the side effects from her chemotherapy sessions took a toll on her during the two-hour journey.

"My doctor had warned me not to go to crowded places. I felt weak (on my way here) but I didn't care. I just wanted to be here," said Ms Mak, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer three years ago.

The New Paper found her in the priority queue at 3pm yesterday. She was holding an umbrella, looking lost and pale.

The temporary employee at the Housing Board had lost her daughter among the crowd of people in the priority queue.

She was helped onto a wheelchair by some national servicemen and directed to a new line specially set up yesterday for those with prams and wheelchairs.

Ms Mak said she had joined a long queue on Thursday night. After two hours, she was told she had to wait for another seven hours so she decided to head home.

"I turned back on Thursday night. Today I can't turn back," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Her daughter, who was later reunited with her, said: "I told her not to come again because it would be so crowded but she insisted."

The 75-year-old explained the reason behind her steely resolve: She had been an ardent supporter of the late Mr Lee as a student, even before he was elected Singapore's first Prime Minister in 1959.

"He was the legal adviser to many student unions. He was already my hero even before he was in power.

"My friends and I helped him on election day, going around running errands for him," she said, her face crinkling into a smile.

Ms Mak then fished out a notebook from her green handbag.

Tucked within its pages was a black-and-white photo of her with Mr Lee.

"I took this with Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1965. It was the opening of the flats at Lorong Tai Seng, and I was chosen to present to him the pair of golden scissors for the ribbon-cutting ceremony," she said proudly.

She had brought the photo along to pay her last respects to Mr Lee and she managed to do just that within an hour.

Afterwards, Ms Mak said in a voice thick with emotion: "I don't know how to express how I feel now.

"I feel like I have just lost a member of my family."

LEG INJURY

Another elderly Singaporean was determined not to let a leg injury and an unsteady gait stop her from paying her last respects to Mr Lee.

Madam Chua Mei Poh, an 82-year-old retiree, spent Thursday night massaging her swollen calf, which she had hurt when she accidentally walked into a road divider, so that she could withstand the long walk.

But after she left her flat in Chinatown, she realised she did not know the way to the Padang.

"Somebody told me to go to Dhoby Ghaut, then City Hall, so I asked for directions each time I reached a station," she said in Mandarin.

Spending two hours in the queue waiting to pay her last respects in the heat did not bother her at all.

"I am not worried about the queue or how long I have to wait, as long as I get to pay my last respects to Mr Lee. That is the only reason I am here."

Retiree Jenny Wee, 75, echoed Madam Chua's sentiments.

Despite advisories on the long waiting time, Ms Wee, who lives alone, was determined to see Mr Lee "for the last time".

"I had to come. I knew if I didn't come, I will miss him more. He is our founding father. He loves us. We also love him," Ms Wee said, choking up.

Fortunately, thanks to the brisk flow of the queue, she managed to pay her last respects to Mr Lee twice within two hours.

"I could only glance at him from afar. I couldn't see his face for the last time, but it is good enough.

"I stood there for a little while and told him, 'State father Lee Kuan Yew, go in peace'," she said.


This article was first published on March 28, 2015.
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