Self help and healing war wounds

Today, December 2, in Kajang, over 500 ex-combatants of the defunct Communist Party of Malaya, together with families and friends came to commemorate the 30 anniversary of the signing of Hat Yai Peace agreement (2 Dec 1989). They laid down their arms and they were promised a safe passage home. These women and men were at their youth when they took up arms first to fight the Japanese and later the British for Independence. This war lasted about 44 years and many have lost their lives in the many battles but some are still alive today to tell their war memories and wounds. These annual gatherings are their way of healing themselves emotionally, physically and finding a sense of belonging.

Lim Sun Seng

To day, 4 May, is the 50 anniversary of the death of Lim Sun Seng, he was 23 years old. On that day he and some comrades from the Labour Party were out putting up political posters for the 1969 General Election in the Kepong area in Kuala Lumpur. There was an incident with the police when the group was putting up their posters and Lim was shot in the head from the back by the police. Lim’s death brought tens of thousands out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur on 9 May. Many of those who were marching behind the coffin that day was present today. There was also a book launch to commemorate the history of many of our Malaysian local heroes.

A group of friends and relatives at the cemetery

A moment of silence

The people at the cemetery

Fifty years ago the funeral in Kuala Lumpur street

Swee’s memory of our mother

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.