Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Eulogy of Dr Wee Kim Wee, Former President of Singapore

A friend sent me this.......So simple and yet so touching.


Weekend May 7, 2005

MY grandfather's achievements as an editor, a diplomat and a head of state are now the stuff of legend. You would have read all these things in the newspapers or watched them on television - he was a public man.

What I should talk about is my grandfather as a family man. I cannot talk about my grandfather without also talking about my grandmother. She was the rock of his life. His last thoughts were of her. They were holding hands when he finally went to sleep on Monday morning.

Last year, we celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. After dinner he presented her with a red packet full of money, which he then followed up with a jewellery box - because my grandmother loves wearing jewellery. There was a jade brooch inside the box. And, in return, in front of everybody, she kissed him three times.

They were 87 and 88 at that time.

Once, (when) I was learning the piano, I thought I would learn some songs to play at my grandmother's birthday party. I asked my grandfather what songs he thought she would like. To my surprise he gave me a type-written sheet (with songs listed)in order of preference.

He was always a busy man - he used to tell me that he had two million things on his mind. But at some point in his life, he had sat down and thought hard about what music my grandmother would enjoy and typed it all out and kept it in special folder ready to be whipped out at anytime.

Husbands who are here today: Do you have a list of your wife's top 10 favorite songs in a folder? That's a lesson you can take from my grandfather.

They celebrated 69 years of marriage together in April this year. I thank my grandfather from the bottom of my heart for showing us what it really is like to love a person. I also thank my grandfather for showing us what it is to love life.

He was a man who enjoyed life. He collected snuff bottles, coins and stamps. He travelled the world; he played sports; he planted fruit trees; he loved the smell and taste of hazelnut coffee.

Whenever his grandchildren visited him in his office - whether at the Malaysian High Commission, the embassy in Tokyo, the Singapore Broadcast Corporation or the huge halls of the Istana - there would come moments when he would wink at us, open his desk drawer and say "have a chocolate".

Unknown to my grandmother, who disapproved of his snacking in between meals, he always kept a secret stash of Hawaiian hazelnut chocolates, which he ate out of her sight during office hours.

My grandfather loved animals as well. He liked to watch horses running. He liked dogs and cats and he liked fish. At the last count, his house contained 11 chickens, eight terrapins, two goldfish and one dog.

Once, someone gave him six turkeys. I think the idea was for them to be fattened up and eaten. My grandfather looked at them and spoke to them. He gave them names. I remember my mother saying to me, "Oh no, he has given them names - we'll never get rid of them now". And so the turkeys were with us for quite some time.

But one day, they started irritating the chickens so my grandfather decided to find them a new home. The Singapore Zoo was chosen. When the family heard about this, of course we all joked that the turkeys would be fed to the crocodiles.

He was so alarmed by this that he made special arrangements with the zoo. They were to send him a written report every time a turkey died. The report had to state the cause of death and age of each turkey.

That was the kind of man my grandfather was. He revered and respected life - even the life of an animal.

The stories of his life are, to me, all stories of love. If you wish to honour his memory in your life, then live your life to the full, stand by your friends, cherish your family, listen to everyone with an open mind and welcome those who cross your path with an open heart.

He has gone on another journey now. We have spent the past five days saying goodbye to him and it is now the time to let him go.

From all your grandchildren and great grandchildren: I know you love us all so very much.

Goodbye gong gong (granddad). Goodbye.