Thursday, August 09, 2007
My Uncle passed away at 6.50am this morning in China.
He had been suffering from cancer for more than a decade now, but for a good part of those many years, he had been doing rather well. I think he was in remission for quite some time, but it came back in the last few years, and recently got rather bad.
We had all been hoping that he would at least hang in there a while longer, perhaps until winter when the weather would be better. The hot summer air had made it more uncomfortable for him this period.
My uncle was born here in Singapore, but due to a decision taken by my grandfather years ago to relocate the family back in China, my uncle was sent back as a little boy with my granduncle and a couple of other uncles just before the Cultural Revolution started. My dad was passed over for this return trip because he had taken ill at the time and could not travel. No one else ever went back, nor returned to Singapore. My uncle spent the rest of his growing years in China, away from his family.
Years after in the early 80s when the Singapore Government decided it was "safe" enough to let some Chinese relatives of Singaporeans visit on sponsored social passes, we managed to apply for my uncle to return for a month long visit. That was the first time I'd ever met my uncle, though my dad had told us many stories about his growing up years with my uncle, who was the next born after my dad. No doubt despite the distance all those years (and communication difficulties - my dad was schooled in English, my uncle in Chinese, and neither could easily write letters to the other back then; distance calls were not exactly the most affordable too), my dad and uncle were close. No one would deny they were brothers. I took to my uncle very quickly too - he was really very much like my dad, from looks to mannerisms and their love for chicken wings.
Like my dad, my Chinese has never been particularly good. Can't really write or read it well, and my spoken Mandarin is rather the pits. Nevertheless, I've always felt close to my uncle. Blood really is thicker than water. I'd try now and then to send the occasional SMS or email over in Chinese. I think my uncle understood my efforts to communicate, few and far between as they were. I wish I could've said more.
We visited him last year. As usual, I never managed to say much - can't speak Hainanese, don't understand Cantonese, Mandarin the pits. But it was nice sitting down for meals together with my uncle and family for three, short days. I was hoping he would be strong long enough for my baby to come, then I could at least send a photo over. He'd been asking for the longest time when we were going to start our own family.
I miss my uncle.
Posted by gilaswan at 8:38 am