I was to write about something else a few days ago. A testimony by my hubby Benny Lim. But this supercedes everything now. I shall write about the testimony on another day.
With a heavy heart, I penned down my thoughts, my feelings and my tears for a dear family friend whom we affectionately address her as Aunty Chu Gim. Who recently passed away after a long illness. She was my Aunt's best friend since her high school days. As far as I can remember, I would always see Aunty Chu Gim in all of our family parties, gatherings and festivities with the family. And everyone greeted Aunty Chu Gim, asked about her, and of her daughter, Ru-Shin.
I remembered asking Mom who is this lady? Mom told me this and I remembered it till today, she said :
"This lady is Aunty Chu Gim. She is Aunty Aileen's best friend from school. And our close family friend. Whenever you see her, you must go and greet her and call her "Aunty". Remember that..she is a part of my family now"
Aunty Chu Gim became extremely closed to me in the recent years when her only daughter, Ru-Shin was to get married in November 2009. She wanted to bake the fruit cakes for the wedding, but due to ill-health, she was unable to. It was always something she wanted to do.
So she called me one day..sometime early February 2009, just after Chinese New Year that year. And she asked if I could bake the cakes for the wedding. And she said I don't have to decorate it, just baked, packed into little favour boxes to be given away at the Church reception.
To me, I felt such an honour that Aunty would ask me to bake the cakes. And I wanted the cakes to be decorated for photo taking. Not just to give it away. Aunty Chu Gim told me this :
"Gina, is it possible for you to cut down on sugar for the cake? Like a lot, a lot and a lot? Because I am diabetic now and I have many friends, family who cannot take too much sugar too."
I don't know what got into me...I just said "Yes, of course. Anything for you, Aunty" and I said it in a gusto and a smile on my face.
After the phone call, it sank in that I have no idea how the cake would be or how it will be without sugar??? I spent several weeks, to months figuring out how the cake would be, how it will taste like. I googled for sugar free cakes, and most are yucky looking or tasteless. After all, while many of the family friends can't take sugar, the rest of us can. So it has to be a cake that "one size fits all".
I sat down to pray and I ask God to give me the Knowledge, the Wisdom to figure this out. And to give me the strength to bake and build a 3 tier Wedding cake for Ru-shin's wedding and also to bake 500 little cakes to be packed into the wedding favour boxes for the guests.
By His grace, I figured it all out. Baked, decorated and delivered the cake to the wedding.
I remembered seeing Aunty Chu Gim at the entrance to the chapel, she was so happy to see me and she told everyone by pointing at me, saying I was the one who baked the cakes, did the wedding cake..I think I wanted to go and hide somewhere.. It was my First time..baking, decorating a wedding cake. I have no idea how the guests would like the cake or not or whether the cake would come crashing down.
Aunty Chu Gim also ask for a favour, that I set aside some 200 more mini cakes, all packed so she could bring to Taiwan for her family/friends as soon after the wedding, she's all packed to go. And again, without hesitation, I agreed. But during the wedding reception, the 200 mini cakes went missing..and I was wondering how come the guests took more than their fair share of mini cakes.
We figured that our so-called well hidden mini cakes were removed by mistake by the catering staff who could have thought that these are extras for the guests.
Aunty Chu Gim was a bit upset, I could see..and I quickly ran up to her and say "Don't worry, Aunty, I would go home tonight and baked a new lot for you. I still have the Cointreau-soaked cherries at home"
Because of this wedding, Aunty Chu Gim kept in contact with me via email and sometimes via SMS through the phone. And her emails to me were always about food..about asking of a particular ingredient or where to get it. It was always in her heart and mind and soul to cook, to bake for her family, her loved ones.
I find her to be the most endearing person. In all our family parties, she was very much a part of our lives. Mingling with all of us as if we are related. We have grown so accustomed to seeing her, uncle Look (her hubby) and Ru-shin that if she didn't show, we ask Mom if Aunty is coming.
In the recent years, Aunty Chu Gim suffered a stroke and sms was forwarded to each and everyone in the family. We set aside time, to sit down and pray for her recovery. And always without fail, we would enquire about her well being and the elders(my aunts) would visit her at the hospital. When she was discharged from the hospital, Aunty Aileen would visit her and tend to her basic needs.
For years, Aunty Chu Gim was very much loved and adored by all of us. Of late, she suffered a stroke, sometimes mild, sometimes a little difficult. But in the recent months, her health deteriotated. Christmas seemed awfully quiet last year. Aunty Chu Gim was in and out of the hospital. But most recently she stayed there longer.
All my aunts visited her as much as they could. In the last 2 weeks, she was put on the life support system in the ICU(Intensive Care Unit).
I count my blessings everyday..but my biggest regret was not visiting the hospital to visit Aunty Chu Gim and telling her face to face that I will be here always for Ru-shin and for her granddaughter, little Claire. So she could be at peace and not worry for them.
It was also during this time my hubby was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and the doctors suspected that he may have Tuberculosis as he has blood in his phelgm. During the crucial week of Benny's hospital, the other half of my heart felt torn because I couldn't visit Aunty Chu Gim. I had to open the shop, I cancelled all my classes, and rush up and down to the hospital to be with Benny..and still have to go home, kept the family informed all that has happened. My mom is worried sick for Benny and I dare not tell her too much.
I cried on some days in the shop..and in the still of the night, I also cried. I cried out to God and ask Him to give me Strength, and Peace..
When God healed Benny, my first immediate thoughts were of Aunty Chu Gim. And without cause or reason, I knelt down and prayed to God for Aunty Chu Gim. I don't know if I have some lingering virus/bacteria from Benny's pneumonia, and I don't want to risk it to visit Aunty at the hospital too.
Now I look back, I wish I kick myself now..I should have just show up at the door where it leads to Aunty Chu Gim's ward..even that, I think she would have sensed my presence and I could tell her all I want to tell her.
When Ru-shin announced Aunty's passing on 25th April 2013 on her Facebook's timeline, I cried in the shop. The next day, they held the funeral wake at a local casket company.
When Benny droved me to the shop on 26 April, he ask me about how Aunty Chu Gim became a part of our big extended family. And when I told him, he said
"Take the afternoon off, I will run the shop myself. You go and visit Aunty for the last time. And to give your love and support to uncle Look and to Ru-shin.."
I went to the wake that afternoon, Ru-shin seemed composed and she tried to hold back her tears. I ask to see Aunty..and Ru-shin lead me to the coffin where Aunty was laid to rest. When I saw Aunty, I couldn't control myself, I burst into tears, with loud sobs and I hugged Ru-shin..
I told Ru-shin everything, of how our families came together as one. Of all the days we prayed and loved her mom. And I told Ru-shin my regret for not being there for Aunty.
Ru-shin said to me
"Aunty Gina, mom was really very happy when you baked the cake for my wedding. And it was so successful that even after the wedding, my friends are still asking me "do you have cake left?". It was the cake that mom loved and she said it was very delicious.."
"And I think I would like to bake this cake every year and eat it to remember her because she liked it very much. You fulfulled my mom's wishes to have a special cake for me..That I think is the best gift. She knows you cared. Even if you couldn't visit her, I know she knows it in her heart"
Ru-shin also told me that her mom planned the entire wake of how it was to happen, what clothes she was to wear, what kind of flowers to be used, how long the wake should be and she also wanted a water burial after cremation. Because she didn't want Ru-shin to worry and wondered how mom would have wanted things done.
This is the Aunty I grew up knowing..the one who cares and feels for others. Whether it is someone so close to herself or just a family friend. When my mom was hospitalised, Aunty Chu Gim came and prayed with us, and she cried with us too. Every night, without fail, Aunty Chu Gim would visit my mom at the hospital too. And she would say her prayers for mom.
I told Ru-shin that I would write my blog about her mom. And I would find old photos of her in our parties..but now I decided not to post photos as its private. But I would write about her..in the eyes of someone who grew up loving her over the years.
This brought me to be reminded some many years ago as a child, my dad told me this:
"When its time for me to go, find a good singer to sing this hymn "In the Sweet By and By" Because its a beautiful song for the one who has just passed away and for the living to tell them they will meet again, on that beautiful shore. As Christians, our life on earth is not the end of the journey when we die, but its only the beginning of another journey. Until that time comes for you to go, I will meet you at that beautiful shore.."
This Blog entry is Dedicated to Aunty Chu Gim, Uncle Look,
Ru-shin & also to Little Claire.
May God bless them and keep them,
in His loving arms forever and ever, AMEN!
And Aunty Chu Gim, I will meet you at that beautiful shore.
Love you always, Ting Ting