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This week, Mum would have turned 73 years old. We commemorated her birthday with a family dinner in remembrance of her.

I interviewed Dad on his and Mum’s story for his book My Life, My Stories, which I recently published for Dad’s birthday two weeks back. The interview on Mum was the hardest, yet most precious for him, as we recorded memories and gems of their dating life and marriage of 52 years.

This is an extract:

“My favourite memory of Joyce:

Joyce and I often went to Satay Club in our younger years. On one occasion, we were both seated on a stone bench at the Esplanade looking out towards the sea where Marina Bay is now. This was a few months into dating, and Joyce took my hand and suddenly popped a question to me. She asked if I would ever leave her. I said, “No, I will never leave you.”

I had two other favourite memories:

  • The first was when I took Joyce for a very formal police annual dinner at Hyatt Hotel. This was after we were married. Jack was already born but Emily was not. Joyce was dressed in a long gown and wore a wig. She looked so elegant and I felt very proud to show her off.

  • The second was an incident that happened during my dating days with Joyce. A former girlfriend Veronica turned up at a Victoria Memorial Hall party which we are at. I had stopped dating Veronica by then, but she showed up there to scold me anyway. Joyce out-shouted her and fended her off.

Other fond memories:

  • Joyce cared more for my health than her own. It was always that way. She did not take care of her own health.
  • Joyce always gave her best and bought the best things for our family (for our children and grandchildren) – medical treatment, milk powder etc. It never occurred to her that giving more to us meant spending less for herself.
  • Joyce was generous by nature. She supported my first brother’s eldest son through his university education and made me give my eldest sister’s son Ah Dan $1,000 to pay for his wedding, which was a lot back then (about 30 years ago). She also helped her brother James and paid for his maid to take care of their mother during the times that she stayed there.
  • Joyce was very hot-tempered by nature. But after each flare-up, she would make it up to me by buying things for me and I always had to hold her back from buying too much.
  • Joyce was very trusting, and she liked to help people. She never expected favours, rewards or anything back in return. I was always concerned that she would be taken advantage of. She was generous towards others and not extravagant in lifestyle. She was happiest when designing her own clothes. I followed her to many tailors through the years, from the first one in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee to the present tailor Mdm Leong at West Coast Road.”

Happy Birthday, Mum! As Caleb would say, Mama is having Heavenly laksa and Heavenly nasi lemak – which are all healthy in Heaven.

Related post:

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Today, I’m participating in author Susannah Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

My picture book selection is Sadako’s Cranes, a heartbreaking story of a little girl who became victim to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I stumbled on this book on display at the Clementi Public Library and it caught my eye for two reasons:

  • I have Sadako’s Cranes in a chapter book story. This is my first time seeing the picture book version – and it is gorgeous.
  • When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, my dear, dear friend Arlene gave me a bouquet of origami paper cranes which she folded, as inspired by the story of Sadako’s Cranes. In Japan, the crane is a symbol of long life. Arlene folded 36 cranes in all – one for each month that we had known each other.

Sadako cover

Title: Sadako’s Cranes

Author & Illustrator:   Judith Loske

Publisher: Michael Neugebauer Publishing

Theme:  Death, Sadness & Hope

Opening line:

“I want to tell you the story of my friend Sadako Sasaki…”

Synopsis:

Sadako’s Cranes is based on Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese victim of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Sadako spread1

Sadako spread3

According to the back matter:

“On August 6, 1945, when she was two and a half, Sadako survived “Little Boy”, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima…ten years later she was diagnosed with leukemia, a result of radiation from the bomb.

She hears of a Japanese legend which says that a person who folds 1,000 cranes is granted a wish. Hoping to recover, she starts folding cranes.”

Sadako spread4

 

What I loved about this book:

  1. The author skillfully wrote Sadako’s story with such sparse yet profound text which conveyed so much in a very personal and unusual way. This true story of a young child is told simply and personally, against the backdrop of a significant historical event.
  2. The accompanying illustrations are beautiful, poignant and heartbreaking. It conveys a sense of place, sadness and so much emotion.

Sadako spread5

Activities:

  1. Use the back matter to discuss about the children who suffered the effects of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, through Sadako’s personal story.
  2. Fold origami paper cranes as a sign of hope and peace and gift it to a loved one. Folding instructions here.

 

Related Link:

How Paper Cranes became a Symbol of Healing in Japan

Perfect Picture Book Friday #14 – Ida, Always

 

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Today, I’m participating in author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

My picture book selection is Ida, Always, a poignant story of loss and death, and it bears telling how this book picked me:

My dear, dear friend Hwee bought this book from the festival bookstore on Day 1 of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2019 last week and gave it to me (autographed by the book’s illustrator Charles Santoso who was in the festival bookstore at that time).

When Hwee gave me the book over coffee, she said, “Don’t cry. I didn’t know…until Santoso told me that it is about loss of a loved one.”

I choked up. “Thanks. I won’t cry. But I need to tell you…today is my mum’s birthday.”

Mum would have turned 71 years old but she had passed away from terminal cancer 6 months earlier.

(Postscript:

Hwee: “I asked Charles Santoso to pick his favourite book, which I planned to gift to Emily. He picked this, stopped, and said, wait, what is Emily’s background? This book is about death. Wow. I said yes, this is for Emily… “)

Ida bookcover

Title            : Ida, Always

Author        :   Caron Levis

Illustrator : Charles Santoso

Publisher   : Atheneum Simon & Shuster

Theme        :  Death, Loss, Grief

Opening line:

“Gus lived in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city. Buildings grew around him and shifted the shape of the sky. Zookeepers poked in and out. Visitors came and went.”

Ida Spread1

Synopsis:

“Ida, Always is an exquisitely told story of two best friends – inspired by a real bear friendship – and a gentle, moving, needed reminder that loved ones lost will stay in our hearts, always.

Idaspread2

 

Idaspread4

What I loved about this book:

  1. The writing is artfully crafted and the gentle illustrations complement it well. The author paints the scenes with so much emotions and colour that you feel the depth of the friendship between the bears and Gus’ loss of his best friend Ida.
  2. It addresses death and loss in a sensitive and thoughtful way.

Gus’ loss of his best friend and longtime companion Ida reminded me of my parents’ 50 year-marriage. My parents did everything together and went everywhere together. Although they were two completely different personalities, they were very much one item. But as my dad said this week- her memory lives on in our hearts.

And Gus’ story ends the same way, with his memories of Ida with him always.

Activities:

  1. Sit down with your child and write a thank you card to the loved one whom the child has lost. List down the things that you are both grateful to that loved one for.
  2. Look through family albums together and encourage your child to verbalise his/her thoughts about the loved one whom he/she has lost.

 

Resources:

https://childmind.org/article/helping-children-deal-grief/

https://www.caredimensions.org/grief-support/childrens/childrens-grief-resources.cfm

 

Related Links:

God Knows Leh #32 – Is Mum the Word in Finding Good Grief after Death?

Inside Out Kid #10: Mum, Grandma is already in Heaven!

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