Thursday, 6 December 2007

A Trip Back To Ancestral Home With My Mother

Above photo: My mum (in blue attire) sitting in the living room of my late grandparents' home.

Franking her, sister-in-law (partially hidden on extreme left), my three cousins (children of my mum's late brother who did not recover from a fall at a construction site in the 1970s), my fourth aunt and her husband, my third aunt, my fifth aunt and her husband, and my second aunt. My mum had four sisters and one brother (youngest).

Mum left Guangdong in 1953, after the communists came into power. Her migration was hastily arranged with the help of my second aunt's husband (who is also related to my maternal grandmother), on receiving rumours of the communists' intended isolation of China from the rest of the world (how true from hindsight).

Exit permit application to the local authority was turned down, but mum (always true to her strong character) argued her way through, and subsequent clearance was supported by higher authority, given that my father, and paternal grandparents were already residing in Singapore.

The unpleasant experience sank in, and mum haboured many years of fear of ever visiting China again. I could sense the relief that she exuded when I once explained to her the rights of being a Singapore citizen. Paramount of which would be her entitlement to Singapore governmental intervention in the event that she was denied of her right of returning to Singapore on visiting China.

Incidentally, mum struggled with her Singapore citizenship application over many years without success. Her competency in the National Language (Malay) was appaling, but that was a basic requisite of acquiring citizenship in those days. Mum made several applications, but to no avail.

It was only when I was gazetted as the Assistant Commissioner of National Registration in 1979 when I enquired on the feasibility of asking my mum to resubmit her application. The response from the official was supportive, and mum's application was approved without her turning up for any test or whatever.

To these days, I wonder whether or not my short career in the civil service had helped her citizenship application as my department and the Registry of Citizenship were part of the Ministry of Home Affairs. No irregularity suggested. But, could familiarity with an applicant's family background have helped in a borderline case ?

Mum's visit to her homeland was a question of time. But, a dream in 1996 hastened the decision. I dreamt that mum was growing very weak and sickly.

I took no chance on the reliability of the imminent warning, and hastily made the enquiries and booking with UOB's Travel Planner for mum's trip to China.

I treasured the trip with my mum, and wanted to be mindful in the future of taking precious time off my busy schedule to make this trip together with my mum.
The overland trip by coach from Shantau to Guangzhou was especially memorable.

We left Shantau at about 10.00 pm and reached Guangzhou in the morning (about 7.00 am) to take the flight back home, all along with mum beside me (there was no sleeping berth).

I kept telling myself that I wanted to archive precious memory of this trip forever.

Mum lost one of her kidneys to cancer, and her health started to deteriorate in November 2002 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Mum declined doctor's advice of surgery to remove the cancerous ovary. I respected her decision.

Mum passed on, on 3 July 2003 at about 1.30 pm in the comfort of my brother's home.

Before her passing on, mum managed to explain to me on her decline of surgery - she would be too weak to withstand the surgical operation.

Either way, she doubted that she could have survived, and she was contended to leave for eternal life at her earthly age of 74 (lunar age).


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