The nation of Singapore, celebrating her 50th birthday in less than 5 months, had to mourn for the loss of a great man, the founding father of modern Singapore, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, the visionary late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Thousands of tributes from all walks of life – Singaporeans old and young, world leaders from the region and from the west, families and colleagues that worked closely with Mr. Lee, flooded the online platform, simply showing the impact Mr. Lee had made, not only the people but also the world.
As a father, the most touching tributes must have been from the 3 children of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Son Lee Hsien Loong
He was a very strict, good father. He left a lot of the looking after (of the) family to my mother, because he was always busy with politics and with his responsibilities. But you knew he was there, you knew what he thought, you knew what he expected; very strict and if he disapproved of something, and he didn’t have to say a lot, you would know it. When you needed him, he was there. At a crisis, he was the key person in the family. When I was ill with lymphoma, when my (first) wife died, we depended on him for support, not just what he says, but just being there and knowing that things would be ok.
Well, when I was very small, he used to take us to go and look at trains. And we used to go to Holland Road - Tanglin Halt is called Tanglin Halt because the train stops there and there used to be a railway station there. We would go there in the evening and watch the trains come, exchange tokens with the station master. And then it goes on. It’s a great thrill and outing for us, for me. I must have been 5 to 6 years old then. And we would do that.
But perhaps just watching him, the way he fought, worked, and how he struggled with all the issues and challenges, I think that’s a great inspiration.
Basically his advice was on how to have a happy marriage. Speaking from his own personal experience. He spent a lot of trouble keeping in touch with us and when we were away, he would write to us and my mother would write to us every week and I would write back. And my mother’s letter would be hand-written. His letters would be dictated, typed, and is typed double or triple space, and he would go through and correct the typed version, and then add stuff and maybe have another paragraph or two in writing at the end, and then he would send it to me in that form. And to think of the effort, substantial pieces, 5-6 pages or more. I still have them all stored away somewhere. I hope the white ants have not eaten them.
Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Daughter Lee Wei Ling
My father wanted me, an exercise fiend, to stop working out because my bones had become so fragile that I suffered repeated fractures. He called me into his study and gave me an ultimatum. "The doctors told me you could cripple yourself with the exercise. As long as you are staying in this house, I've to look after your welfare," he said.
When all is said and done, my father has led a rich, meaningful and purposeful life. About 20 years ago, when I was still of marriageable age, my father Lee Kuan Yew had a serious conversation with me one day. He told me that he and my mother would benefit if I remained single and took care of them in their old age. But I would be lonely if I remained unmarried. I replied: “Better lonely than be trapped in a loveless marriage.” I have never regretted my decision.
Papa knew that if Mama survived she would never be able to walk independently. But he felt that so long as she knew she was an important part of his life, she would still find life worth living. He told her: “We have been together for most of our lives. You cannot leave me alone now. I will make your life worth living in spite of your physical handicap.” She replied: “That is a big promise.” Papa said: “Have I ever let you down?”
My parents always emphasized to my siblings and me that we should not behave like the PM’s children. As a result, we treated everyone – friends, laborers and Cabinet ministers – with equal respect. My father’s security officers became our friends. We called them by their personal names, and they did the same with us. One security officer who retired in 1970 still calls me Ling.
Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Son Lee Hsien Yang
He described his father as someone who followed what the three children did and gave advice on academic choices, for example, but left them to decide for themselves.
"My father suggested it but I didn't think it was something I wanted to do. Politics should be a calling," he said. "I've never seriously contemplated it. I don't know why people think just because I am my father's son, this had to be my destiny."
He said her illness and death took a great emotional toll on his father, whose health declined as he tried to cope with the loss of his wife of 63 years. "It was just painful to him, to her. Frankly, I think he aged a lot during that period, and after."
What an amazing father. I cannot imagine how the 3 wonderful children grew up in their early days, in a way not within their control, having to share their father with the nation. Relating to a father who is not only the pillar of the family but also the support and visionary of Singapore. Living to a ripe old age of 91, Senior Lee has definitely changed the face of Singapore and at the same time raised up 3 incredible children.
I can only aspire to be the father like Mr. Lee, impacting values that will stay forever in the hearts of my 2 daughters. Values that will teach and guide them to be the women of destiny God has chose them to be. But more than just seeing them succeed in life, in their career, I pray more that I can be the pillar of support for my girls all their life. Whatever they need, whenever they ask, how much they require, I will be there for them. To be the guide that leads not by force but by love.
So blessed the past one week to be able to know Mr. Lee Kuan Yew a bit more, albeit through such a mournful period. Sir, you have taught me much through your life and your dedication for both the nation and your family. Especially so your unwavering love for Mrs. Lee has touched many including me, to follow suit, to love the woman I marry, cause I have married the woman I love.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
”He is a father, he is a father of the nation, and he made this place.”