I've been feeling sad over the recent passing away of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Since Monday, I've been asking myself why I feel sad but why I don't feel as sad as other people. I also didn't really want to write about all the great things that he did, not because I disliked him but because I didn't know him. When I was in Lower Primary, he had already stepped down as the Prime Minister. I knew him as the former prime minister of Singapore in name, and that is all.
As I read about and saw streams of people going down to the Parliament House to pay respects to him, my heart moved but my feet didn't and I wondered why. With social media, there were countless articles and videos circulating around, some moved me to tears but yet I was still not moved to wanting to join the queue to pay my respects.
Not until when increasingly more 'common folks' were uploading their personal photos of Mr Lee and sharing about their encounters with the man himself - My friend whose grandfather talked about Mr Lee when he was a young boy, the lady who met a taxi driver whom Mr Lee helped during the Meet-the-People's Session... I wanted to go down.
So I asked myself why - it was for my family, my children.
My mother belonged to the Pioneer Generation, but she has never spoken much to me about politics before nor can I remember her talking about Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In school, I wasn't interested in politics too and couldn't care less to read much. As a youth, I was disengaged, indifferent. Only when I had a chance to vote recently, then I started finding out more.
The first thing that came to my mind was, "Wouldn't my children be too young to understand anyway? Nat is 4 and Noe is only 1."
And then I realised that paying my respects to Mr Lee, wasn't about making them understand, it was to capture a moment to remember that's important in the history of Singapore, to record an experience down in pictures or writing so that we can then later on reflect on it together as a family, when the children are older. And as the husband reminded me, we uphold the value of honour as we honour him. Whether or not we agree with his methods, is a different matter altogether, and a debate for another day.
Too bad this realisation of mine came too late. Today, the queues were too long and members of the public were strongly advised not to go down. In the end, we decided to head down to one of the satellite sites instead. I did a mini-activity with Nat before we entered the site so as to create in him some awareness of who Mr Lee Kuan Yew was. I told him some basic stuff and he started off colouring a picture of parliament house (drawn by Evacomics). Then he was made to hunt for 'treasures' along the way as he decoded 4 words with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The 4 words were 'tree', 'water', 'train', 'house' and I explained to him that Mr Lee envisioned of all these for Singapore. Finally we got down to writing a 'thank you' note.
At the satellite site, It was interesting that after he placed the thank you card at the front, Nat was very captivated by the one of Mr Lee's speeches on the big screen, it was at the moment when Mr Lee was declaring "Merdeka!" He kept asking me if Mr Lee was Prime Minister already and then was clearly upset when the screen switched to the news instead. He said he wanted to watch more of Mr Lee, and not the news and advertisements. I was happy with his response but also happy to go off because his little sister was going to start running all over the place if we didn't leave soon.
My hope is that when they are older, Nat and Noe will look at the photos we took and read what I wrote here, about what we did together today in this historical moment. And then they will share these memories with their own children. The memories we build as a family, as a nation, are important for the future generation to learn and gain strength from.
Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew, for these memories.