family · moments

Goodbye Ma Ma.

My dearest grandma (or “Ma Ma” to me) passed away unexpectedly last Saturday evening. She was 83. It came as a big shock to the family as she was never in ill health. We even had a lovely conversation about going flower-shopping that very afternoon. A couple of hours later, she was gone forever. Interestingly, she passed exactly 100 days after my grandpa. Perhaps she couldn’t bear to be separated from her partner of 6 decades and yearned to be with him. We will never know. I’d miss her so much 😦
Here’s the eulogy that I wrote and read at her funeral:
I am miss ene, the oldest and first grandchild of the family. I represent all my cousins to share with you our precious memories of our grandma whom we fondly address as Ma Ma. Thank you for being here to send off my grandma on her last journey. We appreciate it very much.
Being the first grandchild had its many privileges. I had everyone’s attention on me during my first few years. Together with my cousin, E, we were the privileged ones who had Ma Ma take care of us during our early years. We lived in the kampong and in the day when our parents were at work, we spent all our time with Ma Ma. I remember telling Ma Ma that when I grow up, I want to be a parachutist and jump out of planes because every afternoon, as we sat on the patio, we would look at army personnel doing their practise-jumps out planes in the distance.  Ma Ma was horrified and said : Pua Pua Si ah! (literally means ‘fall to death’. A common saying to express horrified feelings).
I also remember trips to the wet market where she would buy enough food for the army and then lug it all back home on her own. One time, she wanted to take a taxi because of the amount of stuff she carrying but the 7-year-old me insisted that we take the trishaw because ‘it’s more fun’. Ma Ma shook her head at my insistence and flagged down the nearest trishaw. It made me gleeful with joy, squashed into the back of the trishaw with my Ma Ma who was complaining endlessly about the slow ride and the heat.
On another occassion, I decided that I needed a pet chick. Yes, a live young chicken. And my Ma Ma bought me one from the wet market. That same chick grew up and became curry chicken on our dinner table.
Despite our outrageous requests, Ma Ma never said no.
That’s our Ma Ma for you – she never said no to us grandchildren. A shrug of the shoulders or a nod of the head was enough for Ma Ma to travel long distances to get whatever it was that caught our fancy. All of us remember her stashing away sweets, chocolates and soft drinks in her room so that we can secretly head there to eat them. Without the knowledge of our parents, of course. We all loved her chicken curry and ngoh hiang. As well as her many dishes that she cooked up on special occassions. She was an amazing cook and would never cook less. She always made enough food to feed the entire village (and the next). There was always so. much. food. whenever Ma Ma cooked!
We grandchildren also remember Ma Ma for her love for strong flavours. She loved her food salty, deep-fried and thoroughly unhealthy. She hated the taste of plain water so she drank very little of it. She loved Coke and would drink a big glass every night before she slept, topped with a huge load of ice cubes.
Our Ma Ma was also a shopaholic. We came to the conclusion that she is the indisputable original shopping queen. She loved pretty clothes, shoes, and nice-smelling powder. Whenever Ma Ma headed out, she will take a shower, and dust herself white with body powder. Our Ma Ma wasn’t an old lady who wore ‘ah ma’ clothes. She wore dark-coloured jeans and mid-sleeved blouses adorned with bright prints and (crystal-bits). Many couldn’t believe that she was in her 80s.
Kong Kong and Ma Ma had an arranged marriage. They were match-made when Ma Ma was 21 and Kong Kong was 28 years old. And they stayed married until death did them part 61 years later. In their twilight years, Kong Kong and Ma Ma did many things together. Ma Ma would head across the island to buy Kong Kong’s favourite food at his request. Despite grumblings, she would dutifully head out and come home with his requested food. Kong Kong would also wait outside the house for her return and if she took longer than usual, he would chide her for making him worry.
One time, Ma Ma complained of backache. Without telling Ma Ma, Kong Kong took a bus and figured his way to the city. He headed to the nearest electronic shop to buy her an infrared lamp machine from Philips to help ease the backaches. Apparently, he saw the advertisement in the papers and decided to get it for her.
Being from the older generation, our grandparents were not the sort to show love outwardly towards each other. They simply cared for each other in a quiet, non-showy manner. They used to head out together and I used to think that it was so cute that they would go on little adventures around Singapore by bus.
Ma Ma passed on the 15th of December, exactly 100 days after Kong Kong. None of us was prepared for Ma Ma to leave us this soon after Kong Kong and we are thoroughly heartbroken. We will miss them both terribly and our hearts will take a while to mend but we are greatly comforted by the thought that Ma Ma is now reunited with Kong Kong. We know and believe that Kong Kong will continue to look after her, as he did when they were here with us.
We love you so much, Ma Ma and will miss you more than our hearts can bear.

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