Friday, 28 August 2009

Great Granny - the exemplary example

Recently I suddenly thought of my Great Granny, probably because I am on temporary vegetarian diet, and probably because of the 7th month. Well, my Great Granny was a full-time vegetarian for the later 40 years of her life and she passed away about 28 years ago at the age of 90.
My Great Granny, pictured here on the extreme left, with my parents and my grandparents on my parents' wedding day (I shall try and find more of her photos to scan). I remember sis and I used to stay in Grandma's huge wooden attap house during our school vacation. We used to play with each other, accompanied by Grandma and Great Granny and 3 german shepherds in that house. While Grandma was busy running the household then, we spent much time with Great Granny, who kept an eye on us.

Great Granny was a very good-natured old lady with failing eyesight due to old age. I remember she used to sit in the living room armchair, and she would hug us, laugh and talk to us while we play. Once when sis was around 3 or 4 years old, she found a scissor and she cut her own fringe till it was quite awful, and she proudly showed it to Great Granny excitedly, "Lao Ma, see I cut my own hair!!!" Great Granny was quite amused and laughed whereas Grandma was furious. Great Granny took things easy and was calm most of the time.

In the living room, Great Granny was always praying and chanting mantras with the mala beads on her hand. She carried her mala beads everywhere in her hands, always chanting. In the temple on special occasions, she always worn a black robe during prayer sessions and Great Granny had already taken refuge. She was quite an authority in the temple then.

Great Granny was the first full-time vegetarian I know. At that time as a kid, I used to wonder how could Great Granny managed with only vegetarian food when there were so much delicious food around. Grandma used to cook for Great Granny and her vegetarian dishes were fantastic.

She was a big contrast compared to her younger days, where she had to run her huge household and her own business. The family used to run a Tze Char shop along the old Hougang 6th Mile area and they were pretty well known. Great Granny has 7 sons and 1 daughter and hundreds of grandchildren and great grandchildren, and so many households to take care of. That was why she had to run the family and business with an iron fist. However, the Great Granny I knew was none of all that smart businesswoman. I only know her as a very patient and kind old lady who accepted everything with a graceful smile.

During her last days, she was due to visit and stay in another son's house for a while. One of my little 1-2 year old cousin waved good bye to her and said "Lao Ma, bye bye, see you again in a few days time." And Great Granny replied smilingly, "Lao Ma is not coming back anymore. Be a good boy."

The very next day, shortly after noon time, we received a call from my grand uncle's house. Great Granny had passed away. She had taken her lunch and was just resting on her chair, and passed away peacefully in a sitting position. Somehow she knew she was going. We take heart that she left us in a peaceful manner, with no pain, no struggle, no sickness and that she left for her journey after a full meal.

I believe with Great Granny's good karma, she has already gone to Pureland, and probably one of the enlightened ones there now. Indeed we were told likewise too. No need to take rebirth. Through Great Granny, I witnessed for myself, her constant daily practice, her character, her sincere treatment of others, and her faith in the Three Jewels that led her into her final blissful journey. She led an exemplary example for us. No need miracles. No need preaching.


  1. wah....vegetarian for most of the something not easy to do ler...

  2. This is such a wonderful memorial of your great grandmother. I fear that the culture in the west is to regard the elderly as children. So many people don't see their simple wisdom. I'm so glad you remember your granny with such a warm heart.

  3. Thank you for writing this inspiring post!

  4. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing such a touching tribute to what was clearly an amazing lovely person.

  5. Valentino, yes even I could not have possibly be vegetarian for 40 years!

    TMC, I believe the culture of Western and Asian countries are really different, but love prevails. I hope more could be shared between cultures so all can benefit in terms of family values and religious coherence.

    Yue Heng, thanks for reading!

    Marcus, thanks for dropping by!


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