We’re into the last stretch of 2017 and I have to say that it’s been an amazing year being with Flo, growing so much as a person, and making huge steps in ED recovery. On the flip side, we’ve also lost quite a few of our nearest and dearest in the second half beginning with Aunty Judy, then Grandpa P, and on Monday, my Sook Gong slipped away.
Sook Gong, or Granduncle Su, watched Mum and her brothers grow up, and subsequently my cousins, brother and I. He was more than an uncle, he was like a second grandfather to us. Sook Gong isn’t actually a blood relative. He’s Indian but we all love him just the same. Like Grandma and Grandpa, he migrated to London from Singapore over 50 years ago and made a life for himself over there. He never got married, never had children, and so, we became part of our family. So it was nice, to sit with Mum at La Ristrettos, a cosy cafe tucked away on level 8 of Novena Medical Centre, on Tuesday to share of our memories with Sook Gong, and all that he did for us: –
Every summer when we were little, Kor and I would look forward to days out with Sook Gong because he’d spoil us rotten. He’d take us to Toys ‘R Us to pick out whatever we wanted, ply us with chocolates and sweets, and pretty much let us jump all over him.
Aside from enjoying his curries and dosas at Southall’s Prince of Wales pub, he also liked himself some Whiskey. Some days, after a bit too much to drink, he’d call us all the way from London to Singapore, and me taking up the self-appointed role of the Tan residences’ receptionist, he’d ask me to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep. This little tradition began probably the minute I could talk and lasted just before I hit my teens and it became too embarrassing.
I remember how he’d always ask for us to give him a kiss on the cheek, only to quickly brush his moustache across our face while we squealed in delight and disgust.
As I grew older, Sook Gong would always enquire as to how I was going in school. He’d read some of my articles, some for class and some just for the sake of writing, and always, he would encourage me to send some off to the papers because he felt they were well-written and thoughtful pieces deserving to be read further and wider than just amongst family.
Sook Gong was always gentle in his ways, never one to raise his voice. He would drop everything for any one of us. He would house sit, and cat sit, for Uncle Peter when they went on holiday. He did it so well that they’d come home to see Yaffy fat and round after a few weeks away. Uncle David and Aunty Emily always had Sook Gong round to baby sit for their kids when they were growing up. He attended Mum’s, Uncle Peter’s and Uncle David’s weddings, he watched Nathan and Rachael graduate. He was always generous with us, never asking for anything in return.
The last few years have been difficult with him going through some health issues but Sook Gong continued to soldier on, refusing to depend heavily on anyone. I think he went through some kind of depression and looking back, I wish I could have done more, talked more to him, helped lift up his spirits. He was more quiet, more withdrawn, and didn’t have much appetite at all, losing quite a lot of weight as a result. This year, he was admitted into hospital quite a few times partly because he became weak from lack of nourishment, partly due to rheumatism and other health matters.
This final time, he was admitted for pneumonia and after a couple weeks in hospital, just when he seemed to be coming round, he took his last breath. Our family is heartbroken but we know that he is no longer suffering. Grandma told me that when she visited, she told Sook Gong how much he is loved by us and to pull through to watch the grandchildren settle down. I hope that he knows how much we love and appreciated him even though he did so much more for us than we did for him. He may not be physically with us but I know that he’ll be watching us from above whatever we do, just as he’s always done.