On Weds 8 Dec 2021, we bid farewell to our 95-year-old aunt (great aunt) Chee Ho aka Katong (a nickname she earned while growing up in Singapore) where our grandfather owned a few grocery shops in Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, Singapore, and Main Bazaar as well as Padungan in Kuching. Sadly, none of those businesses survived down to our generation although my dad and uncles inherited the shophouses and almost all except one had since been sold. In fact, I believed my grandfather was scared to death (literally) during the Japanese Occupation in World War Two. I heard stories of how the Japanese took over our ancestorial home and the shop lots too, along with all the stocks, how our grandfather (whom I never got to meet), was so devasted that he passed away a few months after the Japanese Occupation.
My grandfather was a Chinese immigrant from Fujian, China who made his base in Singapore and then eventually in Kuching. He married our grandmother, a Nyonya whose ancestors were Peranakans, descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia, inter-marrying with local Malays. My family has links in Singapore and Malaysia so our grandmother, the First Matriarch of the Kho Clan was probably from Singapore.
My grandfather and grandmother had 10 children, 6 boys, and 4 girls. My father was the third son and my aunt, 2ko (pronounced Ji Ko, meaning the second aunt). She took over the Matriarch role as a female leader for the Kho Clan when my paternal grandmother passed away in 1974 (I think). My 2ko, 3ko & 4ko (deceased 2006) were spinsters and they looked upon us (children of their third and fourth brothers) as their own children. We used to all lived together in a big ancestorial home in Tabuan Rd, Kuching. We grew up with love and were well provided and cared for.
I haven’t blogged for a long time but my autobiography would not be complete without adding my beloved 2 Ko to my blog. I respect my biological mum for giving me life, for being there for me when I needed someone to talk to as I grew older. When I was young, 2ko was my mother. She brought me up and the upbringing came with challenges as my biological mum did not see eye to eye. As with most traditional women, in ancient days, many preferred sons to daughters, and I was not spared of being told of this lack of biological motherly love for me and my sister from our aunts trying to justify why my sister and myself were exclusively cared for by them and not my mother. 2Ko was my foster mum and 3ko was my sister Lilian’s foster mum and there was 4ko who was foster mum to my cousin, William.
Our Kho Clan is getting smaller and smaller as the older generation’s times are near. In time to come, our children and younger generations may one day not know their links, not recognizing a cousin or a relative as the kinship lost its bond. The task to save our Kho Clan is now rested on our generation, the 2nd generation of Chinese Malaysian, children of our father to keep the connection alive, and for this Kho Clan story to be written and told. It was and is our culture, our heritage, and would be a treasure for the kinship to continue in years to come.
Good Bye, 2ko (popo), your beautiful send-off was organized by my sister, Lilian, and my son, Joel. In this sad time of Covid19 and travel restrictions, we have left you both alone to shoulder this heavy responsibility. You have done the best, a bright and celebrating life for 2kopo, a colorful send-off for a pure Kho Maiden, our last Matriarch of the Kho Clan.
2ko, we love and respect you, more than words can say. Without your love and care, I would not have grown up so strong, surviving the huddles along my way, picking myself up time and again, moving forward remembering that you were always there to pick me up when I fall. To all my children, you are their grandmother, the closest person to all three of them. I have failed to reach deep into their hearts as you had. You had engraved your name in their hearts because we all know that you not only cared for me but my three children too. You were and always will be their grandmother and their mother too.
In my son’s own words, “I loved 2kopo the most, I lived and breathed 2kopo for so many years……… nothing you say can take away the pain of losing her.” Yes, indeed, I should be her carer but I was not because I chose to leave my hometown. My son, Joel had been caring for my aunt for the last many years, a huge responsibility for such a young boy. I can only feel eternally grateful for his respectful decision.
With all our love and longing, we finally said goodbye. We had no choice but to let you go when God calls. May God grant you eternal rest and peace.
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