Sunday, 9 July 2017

Oxley saga (What is love within the family?) Part 3

What is love within the family? 
What makes a mother sacrifice everything for her son? What makes siblings unite together against the corruption of pride, wealth and fame? What holds a family together regardless of the forces threatening to pull them apart?
Today's paper reports a lot of things. Yes, the Lee siblings saga is still very much alive and kicking even after the July 3 parliamentary debates. 
But what arrested my heart this morning is a simple yet elegant life of Mdm Ng Ah Chun, 89, and the love of her life, her special-needs son, Mr Tan. And he is not even her biological son.
Here's her heart-warming story. 
Mdm Ng lived a hardscrabble life doing back-breaking odd labor like washing dishes, cleaning and selling wild flowers as a prayer offerings in order to make ends meet throughout her life. 
From cradle to near grave, she had gotten the short end of the family and socio-economic stick. 
Her father, a well-to-do businessman, rejected her mother, and her and her sister at birth. His reason? 
He said girls are useless as they belonged to their husbands' families once they wed. He didn't want daughter.
Mdm Ng then left home at a young age as she could not stand living with his father and his mistress.
From there, she largely lived a vagabond life, living in the streets, sleeping on a table tennis table in school, looking for scraps in rubbish bins and depending on the kindness of strangers who offered her food and clothes.
Then, an elderly couple took her in at 10 years old and later asked her to marry their grandson, who was a sailor. 
But the marital bliss did not last. Her husband died of a stroke shortly after the wedding ceremony. 
After that, Mdm Ng did sewing and babysitting work to get by, and that was when she met her neighbor's kid, Mr Tan, in 1966. 
She cared for their infant son for a few months when his own parents suddenly left him. Mdm Ng then tried looking for them but they left without an address. 
She said friends asked her to dump the kid with the church since he is "not normal". He was observed to be slow in picking up speech. 
But Mdm Ng lamented, "Why is he like that? But what can I do? He is very obedient, very quiet and very pitiful." 
During that time, kids with intellectual disabilities were seen as shameful, but Mdm Ng decided to care for him and treated him as her own. 
Like Mdm Ng, her son did not received much education. He was dependent on Mdm Ng as she worked as a seamstress to provide for him. 
At one point, Mdm Ng said she had suitors, but she never remarried because she said, "I have a son and that is enough. I'm content."
Both mother and son stayed together regardless of the odds, shame and difficulty, and when Mdm Ng could no longer physically take care of him, Mr Tan was sent to Mindsville, a home run by Minds. 
Mdm Ng suffers from glaucoma and has problems walking due to her age. 
However, despite the physical separation, their bond is unbreakable. 
Mr Tan still visits his mother on weekends, who is now 89. He misses her dearly in Mindsville. He even cries when he has to go back to Mindsville after the visit. 
He said, "I love her very much. I want to go home." 
Lesson? Just one.
At some point in your life, you have to ask yourself as a son, a father, a brother, or a husband, what is the point of all this?
What is the point of working till you are dead tired when you return home? What is the point of pursuing more wealth, fame and influence and return to a home who hardly recognises you? 
What's the point of boasting to the world that you are a leader of impeccable qualities, yet you have to contend or struggle with a broken family at home or a torn-apart relationship with your loved ones? 
You can be the richest man outside but the poorest one inside. You can be known by all except your loved ones. And you can wield immense power and respect from people who know you, but not the people who live with you. 
When Lee Hsien Yang wrote in his most recent Facebook post that "he was not hitting out at the Singapore Government, but his brother, for failing to live up to the high standards of integrity that his father Mr Lee Kuan Yew had set for those in public service," he is forgetting one important thing: neither his father nor his brother is perfect. 
Ironically, he said his father's legacy was more than "bricks and mortar" (or Oxley home?), for he "made sure all government officials acted with justice and integrity. (LKY) accepted nothing less than incorruptibility, especially for the very top. Singaporean can yet live up to his legacy."
Again, LHY is forgetting that ideals are often made in heaven, like the marriage vows, but here on earth, they still have to be thrashed out and sorted out, and that's where things get much more complicated. 
As such, I am sure not going to whitewash history and say without a doubt that LKY himself has met each and every single standard or ideal he had set for his leadership and his government. 
But that is exactly what makes for a leader or hero in the eyes of the people. They are not voting in a perfect man (or woman). They are voting in someone who ultimately overcomes his flaws to the best of his ability within the unique circumstances he faces. 
If it is perfection that the people are looking for, it would not be called democracy right? Instead, it would be called "theocracy", and we all know how that would end. 
Sadly, LHY has proven ESM Goh right when the latter said that the siblings were not "whistle-blowing in a noble effort to save Singapore, rather they were waging a personal vendetta against their brother". 
Let's face it, his brother is not his father. Some may say "thank God". Others, the majority I believe, would say good for him. 
PM Lee may be born of his father's seed, but he is his own gardener. He plants his own seeds on the plot his father has prepared for him. But that's as far as it goes.
He does his own gardening, watering, tending, caring and nurturing. He meets the seasonal winds head on as they come. He has his bountiful harvests at times and his less-than-expected crop yields at other times. He is not doing this alone. He is supported by other trusted farmers and friends. 
Sure, he is going to miss some section/strips of the harvest field, slip a little along the way, and fall occasionally, but that's not the point. That is never the point in the history of our own human struggles. 
It is always how you pick yourself up, continue the good path, and end well that eventually counts. 
Mind you, LHL was voted in not because he is perfect. He is voted in because he can be trusted to work within his means, try his best, and most of all, lead the country as humanly possible as he can. 
Ironically I agree with LHY that the dispute between them ought to go beyond "bricks and mortar" because that's the legacy of the founding fathers. 
But more than that, it ought to go beyond Oxley, beyond what is naively interpreted as "incorruptibility", and beyond an easily professed ideal or two. 
Alas, the dispute should go beyond personal vendetta or wounded pride and ego. And if the dispute ever finds rest in a place of settlement, let it be in a place of understanding and forgiveness. 
There is therefore no need for LHY and his family to uproot and leave the country. But the greater and more urgent need is for him, his sister and his brother to return home and sit by the table they once shared as a family with the laughter and joy, and start the slow but steadfast process of healing and recovery with one another. 
If I have learnt anything from Mdm Ng and her son, who lived a simple life together, but love so deeply even till the end, I would dare say that nothing replaces family. Not money, not power, not fame, and surely not individual pride or jealousy. Those things are holes that cannot be filled because it has no bottom. 
But family can. It's like a plot of fertile land, and whatever good you plant in it, grows. Love grows in family. Understanding blossoms too. Forgiveness is easy when love and understanding take the lead. And joy is the harvest that awaits the family united as one. 
I therefore pray that as fallible as we are, whether as a leader, sibling, father or son, our eyes will always be on what is enduring, timeless and redeeming. 
Let's not mistake the frame for the whole picture, a pixel for the whole image, a molehill to be the mountain, the form for the substance, incorruptibility for humanity, and most relevantly, a house for a home. 
And if home is where the heart is, then, let's keep it that way and do all we can to leave the feud at the door and together mend the hearts over a warm meal in the living room. Cheerz.

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