Friday, May 7, 2010

In Remembrance and Honor of my mother, Tan Seng Keng (陈秀缎)

I don’t have a lot of memory of my childhood.  However, I could still remember vividly that we used to have our meals on the floor when my family first moved into the house where I grew up.  It’s not typical for Chinese but simply we were poor at that time.  Not long after that, I recalled my mother came home one day by a trishaw with a foldable table in front of her.  She had bought the table for us and that was when we started to have proper meals.

My mother had never deprived her children from any necessity when we were kids. The scene of her going from one house to another to wash clothes to earn a meager living to make ends meet still linger in my mind.  Imagine that she had to wash clothes for whole family members of more than one household manually using her bare hands everyday without fail.  Normal people like us today could not even do their own laundry.  Not only that, she would bring back extra clothes to wash at home.  She did it all on her own, and she never asked any of us to help her.  She was doing all this on top of raising 5 children.  This is the sacrifice of a great mother to her children.

Her hectic schedule would start in the early wee hours despite hardly had any quality rest each day. She wakes up early in the morning everyday to start her housework and prepare us for school.  When we got up, everything was ready for us.  Hot water she would boil for us to bathe and breakfast was served, thereafter we were ready for school.  Although she is illiterate (she only finished her education at Standard 1), she knew the importance of education for her children.  She ensured that all of us go to school, making sure that she earns enough to pay for our books, school bus, pocket money and everything that we need.  We are lucky enough that we are never required to work as a kid.  We cherished every moment with her and enjoyed our childhood like other kids, although we never had any luxury toys to play with.

My fondest memory of her was she had a kind heart like bodhisattva as she would help anybody who required assistance. Poverty had never hindered her from performing any good deed or charity. She had instilled such good quality in us and we would continue in doing so.

I could not remember if she ever falls sick although she worked so hard throughout the years.  Finally, she fell sick during my third year in university.  She was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer and had to go for treatment.  I was not there with her to go through all this.  I never know that it was very painful to go through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  I only came to know about such dreadful experience from friends who either underwent the treatment or description from others.  Throughout the years and the treatments, she bears all this agony alone and I never heard her complained a single word.  She is a tough and brave woman!

The only reason I can think of why she never complained now is that she did not want us to be worried.  She chose to go through the battle on her own.  Maybe the fact that she survived the cancer is because she still had unfinished task, that is to make sure that we are all grown up and taken care of.  At that time, my younger sisters just enrolled her first year in university.

At last, she recovered from the cancer and survived for more than twelve years.  However, her condition started to deteriorate.  At one time, she lost her sense of taste.  She started to have hearing loss and totally lost her right hearing.  She complained of dizziness and imbalance during walking.  However, she still insisted on going to market every morning and even finished all house chores by herself, just to make sure that all of us are well taken care of.  This is the love of a mother for her children.

In April 2008, another tragedy happened.  She fell down outside the bathroom and knocked her head during midnight.  Luckily my sister discovered her lying down unconsciously and bleeding profusely.  She suffered from the brain contusion and had to be hospitalized for about one month in hospital.  Again, she was very tough and survived; and life resumed to “normal” after that. 

After surviving so many ordeal and illness, on 23rd April 2010, my mother passed away.  I received a call from my sister in the afternoon that day.  She told me that there was something wrong with her.  Her face turned bluish.  When the ambulance arrived, it was already too late.  The nurse told me that she has gone, and they are not supposed to carry a dead person to the ambulance. It’s a sudden shock to me; I totally did not expect it to happen.

It’s after more than 5 months of suffering from the stroke.  It was a total shock and disbelief for me.  I did not expect it at all. She was still at her usual state the day before.  After the stroke, her whole body was paralyzed.  She can only move her legs and hands a little bit.  Occasionally she would respond to us by moving her eyes and sometimes she did not give us any feedback at all.

When she was first attacked with the stroke, the doctors from Penang General Hospital refused to save her as they had given up hope on her.  I was really angry and till today, I have yet to receive any explanation from the hospital.  We enquired at Penang Adventist Hospital and the doctor gave us lame excuse that no bed was available in the ICU ward and therefore they are unable to perform the surgery.  Finally we admitted her to Penang Gleneagles Hospital and a neurosurgeon finally agreed to operate on her.  However, we were informed that she only had 50% chance of survival. About seven to eight hours of precious time in saving her life was wasted in Penang General Hospital.

After the operation that took more than 4 hours, she managed to survive although her condition was very bad.  The hemorrhagic stroke had damaged her brain stem.  The doctor had to put the tracheotomy to let her breathe.  She could only be fed using feeding tube.  One of the things I regret most is the fact that I did not spend enough time to care for her after she was discharged. 

We took her home after more than two months in hospital.  Just when we thought that she would slowly recover and recuperate, suddenly she passed away on 23rd April, 2010.  Her sudden demise without leaving any words has left a huge emptiness in us. I have never said “I Love You” to her as this is not our culture to express such feeling openly.  However, I want to say “I Love You” and “Thank You” for your endless sacrifice.  Mom, you should be proud of yourself.  You have nurtured your 5 children to be who we are today.


  1. not only did she did guide 5 of u but she has been taking care of many children back then as a baby sitter.
    i'm grateful that i am one of them as you are the best thing that happen to me.
    u have touched many ppls heart throughout ur life.
    i wld like to express my deepest gratitude to u.
    u shld be proud your kids are all grown up and doing so well.
    i hope i will be doing the same.
    love u alwiz mama.

  2. You are part of our family and mama is definitely proud of you.

  3. Chee Yeong,
    all the best to your mother. :)

    may not only be expressed by words or by saying it,

    can truly be feel by touch,

    by all means not a physical touch,
    but by a touch of love like what happened here between you and me,
    you have touch my heart with the lovely story of your mother,
    and i can feel the love that you are trying to explain to million of audience who just walk pass in here, i do.

    one thing for sure,
    she is always there for you,
    and the best things to do is; anything that you do while you are alive here,
    say her name,
    say it so, say it that all the things that you do is from her,
    say it is from her; but not to her,
    and all the good deeds of yours is to her,
    because you are from her,
    and the best of you is the best of her,

    forgive me my friend to have come to this far,
    we have met through 'love' in here,
    for 'every cloud has a silver lining in between',
    for 'million of words you have wrote and for just found one truly deepest meaning of everything',
    and for just one word that had made me write this long,

    we have met with the strength of 'love' with the highest love above all,

    love is always there with you and for you,
    your mama love will always there,
    your mama lived with the touch of love that you are about to proceed from now on,

    we love you,

    with the highest love above all,