December 9th, 2009
My mother passed away almost three years ago. My mother was diagnosed with congestive heart condition in late 1999. Seven years later, on 31st October 2006, she was admitted into University Hospital to have a heart by-pass surgery.
My mother never regained consciousness after her surgery. Sadly, 40 days later on 9th December 2006 at 7.00pm, she passed away at the age of 80 still in the Intensive Care Unit. I did not get to hold my Mum’s hand or stroke her face one last time as she passed away before I got there.
I remember vividly the day when my brother rang to tell me that my mother was critically ill. My husband and I were our way to do our weekly groceries shopping. It was 12.30pm in Auckland where we live and over in Kuala Lumpur it was 7.30am in the morning. My instincts told me that it was not good news.
I had no empathy about death until I lost my dear mother. My heart was like a vase smashed by a hammer. Baffled and bereft, I somehow muddled through in the days after her death. Her death taught me that life is fleeting and family counts. Conjuring her voice, her infectious laughter and our frequent long distance calls have become a way for me to keep her close, to gather together the bits and pieces of her that reside within me.
Born in 1926, my mother’s life spanned the Great Depression, World War II, the repressed ‘50s, the stormy ‘60s, disco, Y2K, 9/11, mobile phones, the digital revolution, emails and beyond.
I love the twinkle in Mum’s eyes whenever she talked about Seenum, my brother’s son. Being a traditionalist, having grandson to carry on the Chin’s family name was her ultimate desire in her life. My nephew fulfilled my Mum’s joy and pride.
Now when I go back to the house where Mum lived, I can almost see my mother’s face peering out the lounge window as my husband and I arrive even before we get to the door bell. She’s been gone nearly three years and her presence still permeates through out the house, her bedroom, the kitchen, the garden, the verandah, everywhere.
My mother left me with lots of famous sayings and lots of funny stories. This is how I get through the loss of my mother — by telling stories of her exploits, by laughing at her infamous mispronunciations, by remembering her strength, by following her Hakka recipes (“harm gai” which is her secret Hakka recipe of soaking a steamed “kampong” chicken in her concoction of home brewed rice wine and granulated salt).
In a letter she wrote for my brother and to read after her death, which we found in her drawer beneath ancient bank statements, I never really thought about death until I lost my mother. But losing someone close to you gives you clarity. It helps you see what matters most; it allows you to appreciate the precious pieces a person leaves behind.
It’s my mother’s voice I hear whenever I am worried, in response to my worries about money or work or weight.
My mother may be gone, but she is never gone from my heart as I replay fond memories of her. My mother and I shared a great mother and daughter relationship and bond. She had an irrepressible love of a good mother and will be unforgettable. I don’t ever recall saying out loud “I love you” to my mother. Words may be missing but we had a deep affection for each other. Most of the time, even before she opened her mouth to say something, I already had an inclination what my mother is going to tell me. I still miss her very much and I know she is always watching over me, my brother and her immediate family members.
October 23rd, 2009
October 21st, 2009
Heah Hock Heng passed away on 20 October, 10 days short of his 64 birthday. I first met Heah, in the 80′s, when I just joined the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS). He needed volunteers to help do a painting job at the MNS field centre in Cameron Highlands.
Apart from working as a painter I also ended up cutting chillies and onions etc. in the kitchen. Heah was both the project manager as well as the chef at that time. He was already renown then for his work in the field .
My painting was not up to standard and neither was my cutting skills. But that was the beginning of my long friendship with Heah and later with his wife Cheong Ann and some friends from the MNS days.
Heah (standing in the far right) making sure that the lunch for the party was in order, 2007, at KLPac.
Two years ago, I asked Heah and his friends to help cook a lunch for 100 persons. This was a party for a mixed disability group of friends at the KLPac. It was to celebrate the exhibition of photographs of the disabled athletes, which I had done.
Heah was one person who was always willing to help, when he can, no matter what it may be. He also had a distinguished career as a project manager for forest and environment related projects in Malaysia.
Heah with all his friends helping out at the KLPac lunch for the disabled friends, 2007.
But most of all, Heah will be remembered as a chef, for feeding thousands of MUS members ’5 start hotel food’ deep in the Malaysian mountains.
Heah’s funeral will be on Saturday 24 October, 2pm, Trinity Methodist Church, Petaling Jaya.
September 14th, 2009
Visitors coming to a show at KLPac, not everyone was there for our photos.
We took down ‘EXITS’ our one month long exhibition at KLPac, 13 Sept, Sunday night. It was four weeks of being in attendance at the display at weekends. We met and talked to many visitors and friends. Not everyone who walked pass our show was into seeing or contemplating a difficult subject – life and death.
What was most rewarding was to have a partner Peter Tan and his wife Wuan to join in with me to commemorate our mothers exits. Peter and Wuan didn’t quite know what they were into at first, putting up an exhibition of photographs of grief, but they both warmed up and finally we all enjoyed the experience.
Our mothers, where ever they might be, would have been proud of us (or may be not) we’ll never know. But on our part, arranging and selecting the pictures of our mothers, and sharing it to a larger public was like opening the doors of our intimate self to others. Photography was the path. Love was the key.
How these pictures were received or read was also a vary individual matter too. Many wrote in our visitors book that they were moved and shared our openness and regard of our mothers.
Thanks to Numpueng, Seenum for their support (being dragged there by me)
August 25th, 2009
Some visitors at the exhibition
Wuan and Peter Tan talking to some visitors
Me, Raymond, Lee (from Applied Imaging that supported this project) and Tuan
Stephano signing in the visitor’s book, Peter Crook chatting with Peter Tan
This join exhbition with Peter Tan & Wuan is a revisiting of the momories of our mother’s death and our grief. But it is not only that, to some visitors this show acts as a reminder to them that death is a mystery and it can happen to anyone at anytime. Some said that after looking at our presentation, they hope that their own children will one day do something like what we have done for our mother, for them when they are gone. There are a few who happened to be there, at the KLPac, but haven’t come to see our project and they would not look at the pictures at all and walk straight pass. Of course many are surprised by what we are showing. We hope this display will open minds to an eternal truth about our human condition – death. How shall we prepare for it?