In Memorium

I know I said that the next blog after ‘A Manifesto’ would be ‘On Mindfulness’. Yes, ‘On Mindfulness’ will come shortly. However, life has happened in-between and I must write about this new development first as it is significant to me and many others.

On 29 Dec 2009, close to midnight, Mrs Catherine Hu passed away. Who was she, you may ask? Aunty Hu was my mother’s best friend of many years. Born one day earlier than my mother, both women became firm friends when they taught together at Fairfield MGS in the 1950s. Their friendship deepened over the years as they supported each other through career developments, marital hardships and child-rearing duties. For my brother, sister and I, it was mandatory to spend time at Aunty Hu’s strict House of Correction where we received vital coaching to help us through PSLE and crucial lessons on morals and manners. Apart from that period of instruction, we would frequent Aunty Hu’s home on other occasions. We always enjoyed our visits to Aunty Hu, for she was one of those rare surrogate mothers in one’s youth who made sure you always left her home well-fed with delicious homemade food. Ah… Chinese New Year will no longer be the same without Aunty Hu’s nian-gou soup…

Sadly, it already has been a long time since I have tasted Aunty Hu’s nian gou. In the last decade or so, Aunty Hu had been ill with heart and other problems and she suffered a stroke several years ago which rendered her bedridden. It was sad to visit her, sensing that her spirit was still strong, but so frustrated at not being able to move or speak as she used to. Hence, she became my inspiration for my short play, Imperfect Family Recipes. Not only did I feature Aunty Hu’s xiyaukai recipe (almost verbatim from Aunty Hu’s mouth as I recorded her words in 2002), the main character is patterned after Aunty Hu, an elderly stroke victim who used to be a good cook and now desperately struggles to communicate with her loved ones.

At the end of 2008, another stroke further immobilised Aunty Hu. And things slowly deteriorated from there…

Aunty Hu lived a good life, caring and nurturing all those around her. I am happy that she is no longer suffering and is now with the Lord whom she so loved. She will be sorely missed. Amen.


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