She still keeps her mother's number
MEMORIES: Radio DJ Rosalyn Lee (above and top) with her mother, Madam Lee Kim Geok (top). - PHOTOS: TNP FILE, ROSALYN LEE
It has been 11 years since her mother lost her battle to breast cancer.
But local radio DJ-host Rosalyn Lee still has her mother's mobile number saved in her mobile phone's contact list.
Whenever she scrolls through it, the entry "Mum" jumps out at her.
"I would think, 'This hurts.' But I don't want to delete it," Lee, 36, told The New Paper yesterday.
Her mother, Madam Lee Kim Geok, fought her illness, which spread to her lungs and brain, for a decade before she died at age 52 on Feb 4, 2004, a date that coincides with World Cancer Day.
On Wednesday, Lee, her boyfriend Justin Vanderstraaten, her brother Ryan and his wife, as well as her good friend, former DJ Chew Soo Wei, paid their respects to Madam Lee at Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium.
Lee posted a picture of the moment on her Instagram page, together with a tribute post: "I do miss Mom. Not just today, but every single day. I miss hearing her voice, of which I have no record of. I miss seeing her move and I miss her smile.
"She was sad for a very long time cuz (sic) she had a pretty rough life, and her smiles, though rare, were the most beautiful flashes of pearly whites I've ever seen".
Netizens shared with her encouraging words and stories of their own loss after TNP ran the story on our website tnp.sg.
Mr Phil Yoon commented on Facebook: "I can understand you fully. It isn't easy to lose your loved one, I am going through the pain too. When I lost my husband last year, I, too, died with him. It was too painful."
Another user, Ms Iszan Wan, called it "touching" and said she cried when she read the post.
Lee and her brother would also visit on special occasions like Mother's Day and Madam Lee's birthday, bearing her favourite flowers - pink roses.
In her early stages of grieving, Lee would dial her mum's number and hang up after a few rings.
"One time I was feeling really down, so I sent a text message to the number, saying that it used to be my mum's number and that I felt a bit sad. Of course, there was no reply. I felt a bit stupid after that," she recalled.
Lee has since stopped doing that, describing it as morbid. Now she relies on old family photographs and handwritten letters to keep her memory alive, but she wishes there were videos of them together.
Sadly, the only clip in existence is on her brother's mobile phone and it is of Madam Lee in her weakest state at the hospice, a memory Lee refuses to revisit.
"It's not how I want to remember Mum. My advice is to take as many videos as you can. You will really miss all those little things about them when they're gone," she said, adding that the hardest part was watching her mother progressively weaken.
"It came to a point when she wasn't able to talk and walk. She was always on morphine. That was upsetting and traumatising.
"I felt like that wasn't Mum any more and I wished she would let go because I felt so sad seeing her helpless."
Lee could not cry for months after her mother died as it was her instinct to block out sadness.
"One of the lowest points in her struggle? When I helped her wipe her bum and she started crying.
"She couldn't believe it was happening. She was a proud, strong woman who disciplined me with a cane and she was losing control," said Lee, who had a cervical cancer scare in 2008. She received pre-cancer treatment for it.
"Let's face it, the feeling of loss never goes away. But this quote (by the founder of US state Pennsylvania) William Penn helps me: 'They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies'.
"It helps me through moments when I feel wrecked."
"One of the lowest points in her struggle? When I helped her wipe her bum and she started crying. She couldn't believe it was happening. She was a proud, strong woman who disciplined me with a cane and she was losing control."
- Rosalyn Lee, who lost her mother to breast cancer 11 years ago