So this happened when I was in Rotterdam. I remember I was out having fun in London and when I came back to Xinyi’s place where I was staying, she opened the door and announced that Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away (More accurately she said something like “He’s dead”. Yknw how we Singaporeans are.)
I remember I reacted with surprise and just went “Oh. Okay.” Partly because I guess on some level we all were expecting the announcement of his passing anytime. But for it to be said so baldly and so suddenly after a fun first day out in London… I couldn’t really process it. But it’s been a few days now and while my life here in Rotterdam has been going on as usual, it seems far from life as per normal back in Singapore. All the tributes, all the information on social media, all the reminders about what he has done for Singapore. It feels so surreal to be honest – to be an overseas Singaporean at a time like this. From my vantage point, it really looks as though Singaporeans are really all coming together at a time like this. And I love it. Being overseas for the past two months have made me realise how much I love being in Singapore, how proud I am of being Singaporean. And with his passing and the outpouring of affection and gratitude that Singapore has been showing through various online links I have back home… it makes me feel even more sentimental.
I think as humans, we tend to forget. I’ve always been taught to 饮水思源 – that I shouldn’t forget my roots. But it’s human to forget. To live in such comfort that we forget the struggle that our ancestors went through to allow us to live in such comfort. There are so many stories about Mr Lee on the net now – about his enduring spirit, about how he constructed Singapore as we know it, about him and his wife. He is an amazing man. The foresight he had, the mental strength, the determination and the responsibility he must have felt. How can any ordinary man endure all that? To know that the livelihood of thousands and that the future of an entire nation rested on you. That nobody expected you to succeed as a nation. At times like this I really am so proud to be from Singapore. To say that yes, my ancestors beat the odds and gave me the home that I love so much now.
I remember scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and someone shared a conversation she overheard while she was in the queue to pay respects to Mr Lee. It went something like:
Never mind. We won’t be doing this again.
It’s a slightly shocking statement. But true I think. Who else would be worthy of all this media attention, all the tears, all the love from Singaporeans? Some people might not like what he did, but we cannot deny that if it weren’t for the decisions that he made, we wouldn’t even be around to voice our dissent. He is the one who gave us all the opportunities that we now have, that we now sometimes take for granted.
I love that above Facebook post. I feel like it encompasses everything I love about Singapore. We might complain and whine and be annoyed, but at the end of everything, we will come together and we will mourn the passing of the man who built Singapore for us.
Thank you for everything.