Monday, March 23, 2015

O Captain, My Captain

News that former PM Lee Kuan Yew died in the middle of the night was both expected and unexpected.

Expected, in that he had been in the hospital for the past few weeks, and steadily deteriorating in the past few days.

Unexpected, in that it hit me harder than I would have thought.

I've never met the man, hardly listened to him giving speeches, lived most of my life after he had stepped down as PM.

But this is the man who shaped modern Singapore, from post-WWII British colony to modern metropolis. He may not have been a blood relation to most of us, but as Singaporeans (technically American, I know, but really Singaporean at heart), Mr Lee was very much a part of our lives, like a national grandfather, an analogy even more apt as he appeared to change from being a fiery speaker to becoming more like that stern old man who would smack you if you were misbehaving but whom you knew always had a soft spot for you.

My mom woke me up early in the morning to tell me that he passed away in the middle of the night. I was very much in a stupor when she told me the news, having worked late the night before, ironically, in case he had ceased to be earlier.

But then you finally wake up and think, hope even, that it may have just been a bad dream, and you go to check the Internet in case it really was some horrible figment of your imagination. But it's true; the website is in black livery, PM Lee Hsien Loong is making an emotional announcement of his father's passing, and you suddenly want to cry and feel empty, as if your world has been pulled out from under you.

But life will still go on. Contrary to the fears I've allowed to fester in the days before, chaos did not break out. Buses will run, people will go to work, children will go to school. The stock market will continue trading, as will the fishmonger in the market down the street. And the Government will function as before, in its oddly efficient yet occasionally inefficient way.

There is just one difference.

Singapore's Iron Man is gone.

Thank you for all you've done for us, Mr Lee. Rest in peace. You've earned it.

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