Changing of the guard

In less than 12 months, we've lost one beloved grandmother and two very close grandaunts in the family. While life continues its vicious cycle, I cannot help but feel a little numb. Maybe it's just me but I am sad that I will not be able to see or speak with Mama Koh again, no matter how cranky she is.

I just realized that there is no one to visit with at festivals, no one to nag me to get to church, no one to tell me that all men are evil (especially my father) and no one to snark with at gatherings anymore. And this heartbreaking.

A cantankerous old lady. she was 92 and the eldest of 10 sisters from a branch of the Cheok family tree. And one who ruled pretty much with an iron fist.The thing that we all remember most fondly about Mama Koh was the way she used to glare at us kids. She was one lady who could cow even the hardest hearted, all without uttering a sound. Crying babies and boisterous children always fell mute when Mama Beliak (Glaring Grandma) set her eyes on you.

Her outspokenness and sass was the one trait that we shared and that allowed us to talk freely about a number of things. She was the one person who talked me through some of the difficult times and although she didn't agree with some of my decisions, she gave me the space to sort them out. Well, she'd also nag me to death but as long as my ears didn't fall off, right?

Unlike most people who cannot get along or like their families, mine always had a sense of togetherness. Whether is the language or the culture or the wicked sense of humor, every single family member possessed her own special charm that made interacting with them special.

Mama Koh's passing over the weekend signals a major change.The sense of family and kinship which is so strong with the grandaunts around seems to be fading away with each of their passing. And although a good majority of us learnt the language, the cooking and are continuing the family traditions, it somehow feels different. Of course, we are very grateful that our parents and the rest of the family are still here to maintain status quo but the feeling that something is missing heightens, especially around the festivals. For who do you turn to to learn more about the vast family tree? Or a certain aspect of the culture?

It's the changing of the guard, I suppose that comes ever so once in a while.
The family tree is not something for the faint-hearted. Alina tried her hand to draw just our branch and she ran out of paper, well paper plates. It seems that at every gathering and now even funerals that we encounter an aunt, uncle or cousin who has not seen us since we were knee high. It's challenging to remember so many people, especially since you see them only once a year.

But why so challenging, right? Here's the deal in a nutshell: Great grandpa married four wives who in turn had children. And since these were times that long surpassed us, each wife had A LOT of children. Imagine this, my branch of the family had 10 sisters...10. Explaining just this branch could take years because even I have not met every single one of them. Imagine doing the whole tree...good grief. But I digress...

I'm just feeling maudlin with so many of my grandaunts gone and no matter how much you prepare, deaths in the family are always a kick in the heart. Despite this, I feel that in sadness, you find the strength to appreciate those around you and love them more, no matter their faults.
So here's to the changing of the guard, hopefully we know enough to maintain that family tree and are as memorable as those who have gone on to a better place.

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Anonymous said...

Wow! Me pics on your blog!
I miss her terribly as well. And in my mind I think -
1) Thank goodness I made the call to visit her at CNY
2) Lucky we saw her at the hospital when she was still responding

This year's Good Friday will be something that I will never forget for a long time to come. Aside from Alina's comments on her blog --> please go read - I also recall Mama Koh poking me (I was standing next to her, while she was sitting on the stool)
Mama: Where's your husband?
Me: Oh, scratches head, he's at home resting
Mama - poking: Tell him to come next time.
Me - translating: Oh...Erm...ok! I'll tell him that YOU would like to see him here
Mama: Nods in agreement

==> Mama her authoritative ways...where nobody says no to her.

I wish that we had time to go down and learn beading from her...maybe we should make time with Ee Poh Rabbit...time to appreciate others more.

Last weekend we lost 2 members of the family. The tree becomes full of angels as the years pass...

Bitchy Witchy said...'s depressing but at the end of the day, we get more than an armful of wonderful memories :o)

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Ever prodded a sleeping dragon, only to have it whip up and bite you in the ass? Well, neither have I. But I advocate that you should try everything...once ;P


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