The Mother I Knew


 “Your son really is not doing well in mathematics…”, my secondary math teacher began.  “The recent monthly test we had… he failed it… he has been getting around 40 to 55 this whole year, it’s already July right now, and if he doesn’t improve in mathematics, it’s going to be hard for him next year when he goes for his public examination…” my math teacher concluded.

Mum listened intently to the teacher as I stood by beside her, wondering when my math teacher is going to wrap it up. I wanted mum to go back to school (her workplace),  and I wanted to return back to class. I did feel a little a little remorse, partly because I didn’t like bringing my mum out to meet my teachers… we had report card day for that; the thing is, this is not the first time this has happened. Mum had been called upon many times during my primary school days.

Mum wasted no time this time around. I didn’t know what was going on in her head at that time, but I knew she was working something out. Within 2 weeks of that meeting with that teacher, she had made enquiries to put me in another math tuition center. This was when I met Ms. Chew. The rest is history…


“Make it big…whatever you do here, make it big….”. Mum and I were walking down my university pathway towards the car park. A few moments ago, I had showed her my business faculty building.

“We’ve sent you all this way to become someone…make us proud, do well here,” mum continued on as we approached near to the car. My uncle and aunt were already in the car waiting for my mum.  There were tears in my mum’s eyes. She knew she wouldn’t be seeing her baby boy for another 2 years.  But in the midst of this teary goodbye, there was a sense of accomplishment in her. We both knew how hard it was to get here, finally the day had come for me to begin my tertiary education in a foreign land, a land in which mum and I would often talk about in the car when she’d pick me up from college in the evenings.

I tend to think she felt proud that day. Proud, because she had worked so hard to put me in this university. Proud, because she knew her boy was going to do well, he was going to make her proud. The rest is history…


“Have you taken everything?”

There was a frantic look on mum’s face.  She was always worried about things like this. I assured her once again that yes I had gotten all the documents. I knew she would probably burst if I went scrambling for something, that’s why smart-ole-me did everything the night before. Photocopies of my resume highlighting my glorious achievements in uni were neatly stapled and placed along with my university certificates in my clear-holder-file.

It was roughly 6.00 in the evening. Our train for KL would leave at 9.00 pm.  We were all set to go for my interview at IBM the next morning. Mum was just as anxious as I was for this interview. It wasn’t really an interview, it was an assessment test ; nonetheless we were anxious. I had just been stumped by Intel of a sure-job a couple of days ago and that hit me hard. I cried and mum could not bear to see me crying. All the more she was anxious that I should do well for this assessment test…

“I don’t know whether I did well ma” I admitted as I approached the bench where she had been waiting for a good 1 hour.

“How come?”

“It was kinda…hard… not very easy, and I didn’t really get to complete all the questions in time” I replied sheepishly

” Well we’ll just see how it goes from here” Mum concluded as we got up to leave for the nearest taxi stand to head home. We continued talking about the test – how many people were there, what type of questions appeared on the assessment and how I was the only one of my own race among the crowd.  Mum listened as I continued raving on about the test and my chances of passing it.

2 weeks later, within 3 hours after completing my final interview with the HR Director,  I got a call from the company – I was selected to be in their graduate trainee program. The happiest person around to get this news – mum.

“I knew you would do well son! I prayed so much for you to get that job, I’m so proud of you!” Mum squealed on the phone when I broke the news to her on my way back to Penang.


We’re at the hospital. Mum has been in and out for sometime now. She’s too weak to say anything to me. I was hoping that she would impart some wisdom in her final days, something like how Morris gives his last lecture about life in Tuesdays with Morrie. .

But mum spends most of her days asleep, tired from her chemo sessions. It was heartbreaking and extremely painful to see this once-upon a time mighty lioness who made sure I did well in school, who journeyed with me during my first job hunt, who gave me so much of wisdom and strength to take on the world’s challenges with integrity and courage to see her wasting away. The cancer was akin to a death sentence for her. Any moment now she would go. Seeing her was similiar to seeing a wounded lion, unable to roar, unable to hunt, unable to proudly display its main. In a way it reminded me of Aslan in the first installment of Chronicles of Narnia, where he remained helplessly wounded and left to dying on the “tabernacle”.

I still thought about the final wisdom mum would want to impart. I actually did ask her once, and her answer was candid and blunt “I’ve already told you everything that you need to know, I’ve lived my life for you 3 (my brothers)…I’ve given you everything… I’ve done my part”.

I peacefully settled with that answer.  Deep down I knew she had brought us 3 up well. She instilled in us ettiquites and character that will last us to the next generation…when our children come into this world. I had learnt a great deal about life’s challenges  from my mother through observation and occasional talks.  The way she dealt with the parents at teachers at work, the way she dealt with our family friends and so on. There was much to learn from this amazing woman.

But I think the greatest thing of all that I learnt from mum was the real meaning behind sacrifical love.  It’s the kind of love you find only in bibles, but hardly in our world. But mum displayed it for us, she showed us what sacrifical love really was.  It was evident in her struggles to give us the best education possible. This is one thing that I have learnt to apppreciate and want to pass down to my own children someday.To have a mother serve as a real-life model example was a real privillege for me.

Moving On

Mum still sits with me in my room. She is encapsulated in time in a photo frame on my desk.  Her protrait is adorned with a genuine smile, it’s the kind of smile that you get from your parents when you know you’ve done well or you’re doing well.  I often look at the picture, not merely for memorial sake, but for hope and strength, for courage and character, and sometimes for inspiration. To know that I was this mighty lioness’ heir gives me strength and courage to continue living on my life… because one day when I’m up day with her, she’s surely gonna ask me “So what did you do after I left? How did you live your life?”

Here’s to my mom…the mother I knew.


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  • Gosh…I wish you lotsa strength and courage to pick yourself up and honour her memory… 🙂 No worries…you have me and your family and friends around…Of course, God as well…

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