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Lee Kuan Yew: Man in love

You know him as the man who built us.

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was also a beloved husband to Madam Kwa Geok Choo, who died in 2010.

It was in the bad times, after she suffered a series of strokes in 2008, that the public got a glimpse of how much he loved her.

Here are excerpts from Mr Lee's book, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, and from speeches and tributes, on his 63-year love story that endured till the end.

"...Singaporeans had a glimpse of just how close he was to his wife when he spoke at the funeral. When he reached out to plant a last kiss on her forehead, the act of tenderness moved many to tears...That kiss brought to light a side of Lee that many had never seen before: A softer, more sympathetic side, one capable of grief and affection - and love."

"Mrs Lee...was unable to move or speak after a series of strokes had struck her down. She was bedridden and drifting in and out of consciousness. Nurses tended to her round the clock, but Lee, too, kept a vigil by her side. He saw her before he went to work, and the first thing he did after returning every night was to go to her bedside and talk to her. He told her what he had been up to that day, whom he had met and what they had discussed. He told her what had been in the news. Then, he took out Palgrave's Golden Treasury, an anthology which contained some of her favourite poems, and read them to her."

"He said he tried not to think about the 'empty blank spaces' he had to fill now that his wife was unable to accompany him for the lunches, dinners and walks they used to enjoy nearly every day. "

Lee's daughter Wei Ling wrote in her column: "...Over the years, especially after my mother's health deteriorated after she suffered a stroke, my father was the one who took care of her. Being the eldest son in a typical Peranakan family, he cannot even crack a soft-boiled egg...But he readily adjusted his life to accommodate her, took care of her medications and lived his life around her. I knew how much effort it took him to do all this, and I was surprised that he was able to make the effort."

Lee told The New York Times, on his wife's illness in 2008: "I can't break down, Life has got to go on. I try to busy myself, but from time to time in idle moments, my mind goes back to the happy days when we were up and about together... I thought about how lucky I was. I had 61 years of happiness. We've got to go sometime. I'm not sure who's going first, whether she or me. So I told her, I've been looking at the marriage vows of the Christians: 'To love, to hold and to cherish, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, till death do us part.' She understood."

Lee's son Hsien Yang, said in his eulogy for his mum: "When we married in 1981, Papa wrote Fern and me a letter with advice on marriage. Of his relationship with Mama he said: 'We have never allowed the other to feel abandoned and alone in any moment of crisis. Quite the contrary, we have faced all major crises in our lives together, sharing our fears and hopes, and our subsequent grief and exultation. These moments of crisis have bonded us closer together. With the years, the number of special ties which we two have shared have increased. Some of them we share with the children."

Lee himself, said in his eulogy to his wife: "My wife and I have been together since 1947 for more than three-quarters of our lives. My grief at her passing cannot be expressed in words... I have precious memories of our 63 years together. Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life. She devoted herself to me and our children. She was always there when I needed her. She has lived a life full of warmth and meaning. I should find solace in her 89 years of life well lived. But at this moment of the final parting, my heart is heavy with sorrow and grief."

More reports at tnp.sg/leekuanyew

 

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