My Mama

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Grandchildren’s Remembrance

MY grandmother had a good brain.
She remembered everyone’s phone number;
Whenever we returned to Sibu, she’d always remember the dates of our arrival;
In every bible exam, she would definitely score 100%!
“You’re a clever girl, because you inherited it from me,” she’d always joke.

My grandmother prayed often.
I remember when I was 8 years old. We went to Australia together,
Every night before bed I would see her pray.
Every morning as soon as she woke, I’d see her pray.
At the time, I really thought that Grandma didn’t sleep at night, spending the whole time praying!
When I grew older and went to study overseas, whenever I rang her on the phone,
The last thing she’d always say to me was:
“Grandma prays for you every day.”

My grandma loved me a lot.
She knew that my favourite Kampua was from “Shun Fu’ kopitiam,
She knew I loved the Kebab by the Kampung Pier.
Every time I visited her in Sibu, she’d make sure I was able to have both my favourites.
She’d worry I’d get hungry on the plane ride (even if it was only half an hour),
She would cook me a bowl of noodles before I flew.
But…who would’ve thought…that would be the last time I could have those noodles…

I’m grateful that from a young age, I could live with my grandma.
To go to the night market together, to buy ‘Abang Balik’ together…
We share lots of fond memories.

I’m grateful that I was able to have one last phone call with her before she fainted;
To be able to say what I wanted to say to her, before she left.

Though, I still want to ask God:
Why did you take away the two people whom I most wanted to see me graduate?
One left after I went to university,
One left a few months before my graduation

But I keep reminding myself:
God has his time, and I don’t need to understand it.
I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say, and I’ve done all I could do
And that’s enough.

For the life she lived, and the legacy she left behind,
I give God all the praise.
I ask for grace to carry on.

[ Charis Sii, translated by Tiffany Sii ]

When I was younger, I thought the Foochow word for ‘home’ was interchangeable with the word ‘Sibu’. And home wasn’t Sibu because mum or dad was from there, but it was home because that was where Mama (grandma) lived. Every summer since I was born we have been home to see you Mama. I’m so happy that we are so fortunate and blessed by the Lord to have been able to see you so often, to talk to you so often, to eat with you so often, to worship with you so often, and to make you laugh at my terrible Foochow so often. My heart is so heavy but so happy that you are peaceful in paradise with the Lord, grandpa and uncle. Thank you for loving and worrying for us all so much. You touched so many souls and we will all miss you more than any English, Chinese, Foochow words or otherwise can explain.

[ Timothy and Jordan Lai ]

Sunday 16th February 2020 – who would’ve thought that it would be the last time you’d accompany us at church, Mama. I knew for a while that the number of times she’d be able to accompany us to church was limited…but I didn’t think it would have to end this soon…

Those few days had been bitter-sweet because though there was a heavy feeling of loss in the air…it was also amazing to be able to come together and celebrate her life. Each one of us – be it her family or her friends – could share memories they have had with her.

Ironically it felt like I’ve gotten to know my mama a lot better those few days just from the stories I’ve heard. How she was the one who brought the Lord into our family, how she has always been an active participant in church ministry, and how she has brought God into the lives of countless people. Before she passed, I never knew any of this. It was like I got to know a brand new side of her. But one thing I did know was that she always asked people whether they went to church or not – “nv wu kuo zo le bai mo?” (Foochow) She would always ask us too.

From bringing her to the market every Saturday morning, to going over to her place for lunch, to bringing her for doctor’s appointments…though all small moments at the time, I’m grateful to have been able to spend time with her doing so.

A fond memory of Mama would always be her ‘ping ang long’ (foochow) or ‘peace eggs’. It was something she would cook every Chinese New Year and of course she made sure everyone at the table got an egg – to represent a peaceful year ahead, and as a reminder that our peace comes from God. And indeed, it is. She centred her life on God.

Attending church with her every Sunday morning at Xin Fu Yuan Methodist Church was also a big part of our lives growing up. Rain or shine we would be there at 6.15am on the dot and always sitting in the same spot for as long as I could remember – 6th row from the back on the left-hand side. Sometimes I wondered why she insisted on arriving so early but now looking back I realize that she truly wanted to prepare her heart for worship. There were times I would subtly glance over at her during those moments, and she would just have this peaceful smile on her face – an expression of complete peace, quietly worshiping in the presence of the Lord. Even as she became weaker, she never stopped attending church. The joy of the Lord really was her strength.

Growing up I was barely in Sibu, and when we did spend time together, we could never really get conversation flowing due to the language barrier, so most of our conversations stayed at small-talk level. Deep down I knew she showed her love towards us through her actions – evident in the way she made sure our stomachs were always fed, always hydrated, and always a bowl of chicken soup once we returned from overseas. However, there were a few things she would always say to me (foochow): “duer ngie rou siew, duer kuo zo le bai o” (Make sure you go to church when you’re overseas), “duer ga siong ne gi dor o” (Remember to pray to God), and “Mama gern gern buong nv gi dor, Nei giang” (Mama prays for you every day, don’t be afraid).

So, all her grandchildren knew, even whilst they were not with her in Sibu, she was praying for them every single day. Through every exam, every obstacle, every milestone – she always remembered us in her prayers.

Mama taught me a lot of things too– but I think the most important thing she had taught me was to always pray, no matter what the circumstance, to do the right thing and not hold grudges against anyone. And most importantly, to keep God first. As when you do, things will fall in place. But Mama…you forgot to teach us one thing, and that’s how we’re going to go about making Sunday church feel a little less empty now that you’re gone. That row will always be yours, but it’s not going to feel the same from now on.

Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your love, and most importantly thank you for bringing God into our lives. I *wish we could just have one more Sunday church service with you. But I suppose we can find comfort in the fact that happiness can come out of grief because it can be made into something so inspiring. Mama’s life was beautiful indeed – because she had God in her heart and lived out God’s love in her life. Though you’re not here on earth with us anymore, I know you will still be praying for us every day in heaven, and asking us “nv wu kuo zo le bai mo?”

Thanks Mama. And don’t worry, we’ll be okay. We have God in our hearts, and we will continue to live out His love in our lives – just like you did.

[ Tiffany Sii ]

Grandma left us about two months ago. It wasn’t a sudden shocking piece of news to me at the time, but that didn’t lessen the grief and sadness of losing her, someone that once loved me dearly.

She seldom expressed her love for me with affectionate words, yet the little things she did were more than enough to tell me so. Little, little things such as telling me stories when I was young and waiting for my arrival in front of the door every single time I came back to Sibu. She would always go with me to my favourite chicken rice shop and kebab stall in Sibu every time I was around. Without fail, she would call me at unexpected times just to know how I was doing, and pray for whatever I was going through. All these little little things were her actions of love. I wished and wish that I had more time to accompany her; to stay in the house longer and talk to her more.

Despite that, I’m glad, knowing that she has been released from the pain on earth as she continues her journey with God in eternity. My praise for the Lord goes on.

Mama, I love you very much too and I long to see you again in heaven. Love sent.

[ Eirene Sii ]

I have many fond memories growing up with mama. Going to the wet market early every Saturday morning to get her groceries was one of them. Back then I would hate it but now I realise how fortunate I was to have been able to spend those precious moments with her.

We would go to her house that afternoon to eat the most amazing lunches she cooked. It would always be the same layout: two veges, a meat, a fish and a soup or two, but I always looked forward to enjoying the hearty meal that I felt me and mama hunted hard for.

Going to church with her every Sunday morning was another thing I’m really grateful for. Her deep faith in God was evident and was conveyed to her children and grandchildren.

Despite the language barrier between us, she still showed her love towards me through her words of encouragement and reminders to rely on God and fear Him.

Mama, I’m really going to miss you. I am really grateful to the Lord for blessing me with such an amazing grandma and I hope you’re having a blast up there. Till we meet again.

[ Stanley Sii ]

Ever since I could remember, Mama was involved in everyday things in our house. I always remember Mama’s noodles from my earliest memories and how I longed to get a bowl full of it. I also remembered the room that we named after her (Mama’s room). It was our spare bedroom that she slept in the couple of times that she stayed at our house.

When she and Ah Ning Jie Jie came to Gold Coast in 2015 for daddy’s graduation, we visited many spectacular places such as the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Sunset River Cruise. The excitement on her face when she saw those beautiful coloured birds and the amazing sunset at dusk was something I shall never forget. She also always wanted to visit the beach, to gaze and feel the wondrous breeze and the smell of the ocean waves. We would walk the steep hill to the top of the lookout and always admire God’s creation.

Back at our house, it was board games galore. Christian Trivia questions never put her off. With the help of a translator (Ah Ning Jie Jie), Mama aced her way to the top every night and proudly claimed victory in the games. Having someone to play boardgames with me was the best memory of Mama for me.

Every time that we headed back to Malaysia, it was time well spent. Even though my Chinese was very limited, we somehow managed to get a conversation going. Whenever she caught sight of me, she would say with a laugh, ‘You should eat more. You’re too skinny.’ Even at her house, I had so many fond memories. Such examples included the clock that chimed every 15 minutes and the sofa that could recline simply by leaning against the back. I never witnessed a day in which Mama would not be reading her Bible. Her devotion and dedication to the Lord also gave me the courage to do the same every night before I go to bed.

I still can’t believe that I last saw her three months ago. I distinctly remember a time when she asked me if I could open the screen windows early in the morning. Getting the job done was easier said than done. The door seemed to have a mind of its own and I found it a miracle that I finally got it opened. Anyways, looking back at my time at her house, it felt as though it all happened in the blink of an eye.

This is my first time experiencing the death of a loved one so close to my heart and I constantly need to remind myself that she is in a better place now. A place of comfort and peace from all of the earthly troubles. When viewing those funeral videos and the wonderful slideshow created by Tiffany Jie Jie, I realised for the first time how close my dad was with Mama. Even though he would speak of her at our house, the realisation that he always went with her on plane trips to holidays in his childhood days struck me hard.

My life has definitely changed after this experience. I will never forget all that has happened in the course of the last 2 weeks. Mama, I promise I will continue to study hard and love my dad as much as you loved him. I know you are still watching all of us in Heaven continually and I will keep playing music for you to listen to.

[ Samuel Sii ]

On February 16, grandma left. Grandpa had been waiting for grandma in heaven for many years. They finally met again.

This time, I looked at your picture and was silent for a long time. I remembered eating “peace eggs” which she made every New Year’s Eve, and making sure everyone had an egg to represent the peace and happiness of the next year. Every New Year’s day, she would wake us up very early to go to church. Although she was not in good health this year, she never stopped going to church and never stopped praying.

You have been watching my growth so I hope you can continue to watch my growth in heaven.

[ Sophie Sii ]

When I think of my mama, I think of all the cold green tea, the fried chicken and waking up early for church. Mama always sat at the same row no matter what. Mama also had a lot of green tea in her fridge. Every time I go to her house, she would ask me in Mandarin, “Medgie, do you want green tea?”

Mama also cooked chicken soup, and it was always in a black pot. It was always that black pot. She also made really delicious fried chicken. Mama also liked some other food, like pizza. So usually when mum had to go the longhouse on Saturday night, me and dad would buy pizza for mama at Pizza Hut. She liked the Island Supreme and we also bought fries and meatballs (because I like fries). Mama only ate one slice of pizza and had a few chips and meatballs, and I would get the rest.

Mama was also always cold, she always wore long sleeved tops (which had really nice patterns). Her house was a bit stuffy at times because she didn’t like opening windows. Mama wore shoes inside her house and her hair was always parted neatly.

I’m glad that Mama is in heaven, she isn’t suffering anymore. I hope that she is with Gong Gong (grandfather) and that she is also with uncle. And maybe she can say hi to my mum’s father as well. Thank you Mama, for the memories, fried chicken and all the cold green tea.

[ Melody Sii ]

She came into my life when I was two. At that time I was ignorant and did not understand how it worked with life. I was just a silly boy playing games and eating junk food as I suppose. And every time I came back to Sibu she was getting older and older. Every time I opened that door, she always came up to me with a smile and gave me a huge hug. Then she would tell us to settle down and would get us something to eat and it was always nice and warm. Sometimes I told her that I wasn’t hungry but she would still tell me to get something to eat repeatedly.

Every time I came downstairs she would ask me if I was hungry or speak some caring words. But I didn’t notice the weight of her love then. Now that she is gone I felt like every word she said happened yesterday. I would keep thinking back and want to say thank you to her for all the things she had done for me. She opened a door to me, a door that opens to family, friends, and lessons that would help me on the path of my life. These words could only be spoken by a wise woman and that was of course my grandma. From the first New Year’s Eve countdown or the first time staying up late to watch a soccer match together, memories will always be remembered. And when I am old, I will visit you in heaven.

[ Jerry Sii ]

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