There’s a beautiful story of Baucis and Philemon in Metamorphoses, two elderly couples whose only request to the gods is for them to die at the same time. They’ve witness the power of the gods, who transformed a humble shack into a grandiose palace, yet they ask only for each other.
I don’t mean to sound contrived, cliche or plain tacky, but I am truly moved by the relationship that Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew share. I can’t help but draw the link to the story of Baucis and Philemon.
The reports so far on the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo (her maiden name) have been luminous. Even the usually welcomed alternative voice sounds crass and ill-timed at this moment if it’s dissenting and questioning. Beyond politics, Madam Kwa offers a softer, human side to Mr Lee. A simulacrum (LKY, MM Lee, Lee Kuan Yew) previous to her passing was he to me, but now I feel the need to refer to him with the politer “mister”.
Still we can’t deny that this is suddenly a little epiphany to all Singaporeans, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, like his wife, will pass one day. That perhaps is the sudden sobriety that has hit our nation…or at least the media. Needless to say that the scripted eulogies have been curated thoroughly by the press office in charge…but how we mourn our leaders, how we revere them, tells of the expectations of our society. That surely can’t be curated? I wonder how contemporary Singaporean women might feel about Mrs Lee being revered as the epitome of what the Singaporean woman would be – strong, beacon of the household, happy to stay out of the limelight in support of her husband.
Change and transformation will be underway. But for now, I’ll just bear witness to this lesson of experienced and kept love…and hope I can one day experience the same.