CS Tan

I remembered the acute ache.

I haven't come across any woman as perfect as Ah Ma, at least to me. I thought so when I was a little kid, and I still think so in my 30s. She has the 'softest' pair of hands which were often used to comfort people, the biggest heart that had room for everyone she knew, the most endearing smile that put people at ease and her mouth uttered only good words.

Since my tender years were spent with her, Ah Ma became the perfect role model for me to look upon, the patient wife, caring mother, doting grandmother, friendly neighbour, comforting friend etc. When my uncles and aunties squabbled, she was the mediator. She always had a smile ready for her neighbours. I remember she used to patron this small provision shop in the neighborhood which was tended by a man known as 'Gong Kia' (silly fellow in teochew). Most people made fun of him and some even took advantage of his simple mindedness. But Ah Ma always had a kind word for him. I used to wonder why Ah Ma chose to shop at this little stuffy store instead of the air conditioned supermarkets which provided so much more selection of goods. Later, it dawned on me that it could be Ah Ma's way of letting 'Gong Kia' know that there was someone who appreciated him.

Ah Gong used to own a garage workshop at the old Tanglin Halt area in the early eighties. As it was pretty underdeveloped during that time, many wild dogs used to roam around Ah Gong's workshop. Ah Ma had never failed to pack leftover food from previous night's dinner for the dogs whenever she brought lunch for Ah Gong, and the dogs would eat to their fill. I could go on about the list of things I found amazing about Ah Ma...

Then one day, she passed away very suddenly when I was 9. Mother and I were planning to visit her that evening, but we never made it in time. I remembered the acute ache that overwhelmed my heart while waiting outside her room for the paramedics to revive her.

Losing Ah Ma initiated me into adulthood prematurely. At the age of 9, I understood what it really meant to have your heart broken. I also learned that when you truly love someone, you carry the spirit of her goodness with you wherever you go and you will want to share that spirit with those who cross your path. I'm not sure if I can do as well as Ah Ma, but remembering her goodness motivates me to keep on trying.

She is the best of me.
CS Tan