A pastor’s reflection on people’s grieving over Lee Kuan Yew

The sense of loss is still fresh. Lee Kuan Yew passed away a fortnight ago. Many are still grieving. The National Museum was full of people at the exhibition held in honour of Lee Kuan Yew. People are returning to normality rather slowly. There is some wisdom in the Chinese tradition of a hundred days of grieving. Over the last 14 days, some people have ended up on two extreme ends: some idolizing LKY, and others blasting him. Then there are those who are more sensible, sensitive and yet incisive. One such person is Rev Dr Lorna Khoo, a Methodist pastor, whose piece in her Facebook, struck me as insightful and wise. So I asked her permission to reproduce it in full:

Some Reflections and Thoughts re the past week

1. Let us give honour where honour is due .
Mr Lee Kuan Yew deserves that honour, our respect and gratitude.

2. Everyone will have different ways of expressing/giving that respect/honour.
While I did not line up 8 hours in town, change my FB picture to the black ribbon or stand in the rain to bid goodbye, I did sign a condolence book, lead in the observation of the l minute silence, pray for the family members by name, followed the state controlled newspaper and media re updates, reposted positive posts regarding him on FB,  watched the funeral on TV (  stood at attention and saluted the cortege in private) and shed tears at PM’s eulogy. Even got the car/computer stickers for friends who want to honour his memory that way.

Respect the difference in expressions. No one has to express it the same way.

3. Timing is important.
There needs to be ‘time out’ for people to grieve. There will be time later to talk about other things. I think at least a week after the funeral or even two weeks. Now its still very raw… emotions are unprocessed. Some emotions are one’s own for him. Others are added on- from unresolved griefs in one’s own life or sharing of our corporate/ national atmosphere of grief. What has taken a week to reach a ‘crescendo’ cannot be expected to disappear immediately after the funeral.

Give space. Go gentle.

4. As children from the same family experience their parents in different ways, so we in Singapore experience the Architect and Father of Modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew…in different ways.

Just because one child had very good experience with one’s father does not mean another in the family had the same experience or that the father was a very good father. The reverse is true too: one child might have been badly hurt by the same father who was everything that another would want in a father. To decry or put down another for sharing different experiences of the same father is not right nor fair. The father is a human being- he has both good and bad traits.

Some might want to make him into something close to an idol: I have seen excesses and what I consider to be extremely bad theology appearing on FB (eg 23/3 = Psa23; talking about his sacrifice almost on the same level as Christ’s or St Paul…)

Some are iconoclastic – blasting away at every good memory in the house with profanity and inappropriate PUBLIC expressions of happiness  [ eg A-mos-quito]. There is lack of sensitivity, humanity and maturity here. While some negative expressions might be a reaction to the extremism of some idol builders ( who are piling praises out of this stratosphere ) , some might be real grouses. There is a need to raise issues having to do with injustices perceived or actually committed… but these can be surfaced more effectively in a decent, balanced way….and at a later time, giving space for the grief to subside.

Let’s not be dismissive of others’ experience simply because its not our own. Never stoop to insulting the person for being ‘brainless’ or ‘stupid’. Its good always to see both sides – with information from both the state owned media and the variety of social media.

5. People are STILL grieving for a father they have lost.

I would not call him ‘founding father’ as neither he, Sang Nila Utama nor Stamford Raffles ‘founded’ Singapore. Singapore already existed as an island (by whatever name in the past) before they came. He IS the father of modern Singapore. The Architect. While one might have significant uncles/aunts…(Goh Keng Swee, Ong Pang Boon, the Dutch guy -forgot his name- and others….) , there is always a main leader…like a maestro -conductor of a orchestra… who gets each excellent instrument player to create his unique music in harmony with everyone on the team…resulting in a musical feast for the audience to enjoy. Lee Kuan Yew was such a ‘ conductor of the orchestra’  kind of father.

In real life – even if one’s father is a real rot, one still grieves when the loss is experienced. It might not be grief for what was lost….but grief for what could have been but was not so. Counsellors will say that in such periods of one’s life, one should avoid making rash decisions. (And shall I add….rash heated statements….?)

6. There will be and needs to be time to confront hot button issues.
We cannot be saying ‘peace, peace…’ when peace needs to come with actions of righteousness and (as my friend mentioned correctly), RESTORATIVE justice. Those afraid of conflict will want to avoid it at all cost. But for the nation to move forward together, we need to re-examine painful issues of the past, do surgery to remove the pus…for only then will healing come.

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