“The reverb is taking me out…”
My father’s mother passed away on 26th August at 1530 hours.
It all began with my sister waking me in the afternoon with “奶奶’s (nai nai Mandarin for grandmother) in the hospital, get changed and let’s go.”
Hastily I woke and got changed. Typically I wouldn’t think much of my grandmother being in hospital for she had suffered breathing problems for the last few years. But it was my sister’s sixth sense and urgency that made me feel anxious and frazzled.
Arriving at Tan Tok Seng hospital saw the older Goh Siblings (my father and his two older siblings and younger brother) solemn but hopeful that this would be yet another incident of my grandmother failing to inhale oxygen from her tank, and that she would weather yet another trip to the hospital.
It was when the doctor spoke to us that made me realise “Oh she didn’t make it”.
The doctor (praise his soul and his team for they did their best) took his time to deliver the news. Establishing familial ties with my grandmother, addressing the children and grandchildren directly before he said “When the paramedics arrived at the scene, it was estimated that she had stopped breathing for 10 minutes. The paramedics performed CPR on her before she received resuscitation efforts at the hospital for an hour, I’m sorry to say, she didn't make it.”
I only started to sob when I saw my father hold back his tears.
My father had spoken to my grandmother a few hours prior to her death, I can only imagine the anguish that he’s feeling.
My grandmother was born in the early 30s. As a woman who had to deal with gendered and societal expectations of that time, she absolutely flourished with charm, charisma and soft power.
She, alongside my late grandfather, brought my family from poverty to a higher socioeconomic status simply from their hard work and grit — literally the perfect example of the Singapore dream of rags to riches.
As I struggle to feel the full extent of my feelings and emotions, logic and rationality like to remind me that objectively, it seemed like my grandmother lived her life truly to the fullest. From sending her grandchildren overseas for their university education to seeing the existence of great-grandchildren.
I’d like to think, for a woman of her calibre, she truly lived life with no regrets and achieved what she wanted to achieve in this wretched existence.
I am not sad that my grandmother has passed for death is a natural occurrence that happens when one is old in age and has chronic illnesses.
I am sad because she no longer tangibly exists.
Given our modern world and governance with death, the fact that I saw her cold dead body at the mortarium last Saturday to putting her remaining bones in her urn just yesterday is extremely jarring to me.
Everything has happened so fast that I feel absolutely insane for I’ve not had the time and space to process.
I was not raised by my grandmother, so my heart can only go out to my elder cousins and my father and his siblings who truly received the full extent of her love and care.
My grandparents gave me everything. Without their support for allowing me to study down under, I would not be my true authentic self today.
Very much a stream of consciousness and in a bid to to try to process my feelings, I write this piece to not only process but share my love for my grandmother.
My 奶奶 who never imposed any expectations onto me (except for getting fewer tattoos, which is an extremely fair opinion to hold).
My 奶奶 who believed in me as a person and believed that I would achieve great things.
My 奶奶 who brought me immense joy during family gatherings and would share with me stories of her past.
Tan Fong Choo, 陈鳳珠, the phoenix who holds a pearl — you mean so much to me and those who have been raised by you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t prove much of myself to you as one of your younger grandchildren.
But I feel so honoured and blessed that I got to call you my 奶奶.
I hope you’re resting in power and in peace. Thank you for your love, kindness and care, I can only hope to emulate the power and care that you’ve given.
I will not let you down.
With so much love,
your Nana ❤