It's been three weeks since my mom passed away.
In September, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. After fighting a brave battle, she went peacefully on March 23rd, 2022 with family around her. I miss her so much.
My mom was born and raised in Hong Kong. She was the second youngest of six children. While they didn't grow up with much, I recall her telling me about happy memories of them playing and running around in their small apartment. When she became old enough to go out with her siblings, her dad wouldn't let them eat street food because he thought it was dirty. However, unbeknownst to her dad, a neighbour auntie who was a close family friend (they even had the same last name) used to occasionally take them out and treat them to street food. When my mom got her first job as a young adult, she was finally able to buy her first bowl of street food noodles for herself. It tasted so, so good.
In 1986, my mom and dad got married. They had their first child, me, in 1989. In September 3rd, 1990, prior to the 1997 HK handover, they moved to Vancouver. They wanted a better life for me and their future children. Upon arrival, they stayed with some of my dad's distant relatives; the only people they knew here. Less than 3 weeks later, they bought a house in North Burnaby, where they have lived ever since. The house was bare, as their belongings were still on a ship in the middle of the ocean. My mom's mom came to Vancouver with us and stayed while my dad went back to HK for work for a little while. My mom worked hard to secure a job, any job, so she could register my grandma for immigration. Shortly after she found a job, she got pregnant. She gave birth to my brother Jeff in October 1991. Not only did my mom register my grandma for immigration, she also helped all her siblings immigrate to Canada too. Thanks to my mom's courage and determination, we have all found success and happiness in Canada, our home.
My mom loved to learn. She used to take evening French classes in HK, which is how she met my dad. In Vancouver, she took a variety of classes including accent reduction and MOOCs on Coursera, when they first emerged on scene. She watched YouTube videos to learn new Microsoft Excel skills, recipes, and drawing. She learned to play Wordle and sent us her results everyday. My mom believed in the importance of self-improvement. One could say she "Excel"led at it. And yes, she appreciated a good pun. She was a great role model.
One thing my mom took up later in life was Zumba. Before COVID, she took classes at local community centers almost everyday. It allowed her to exercise a few of her loves: being active, music, dancing, and socializing. She would often tell me about how she danced to Despacito, or to a song by Ed Sheeran - her favourite singer. She occasionally indulged in happy hour with her Zumba friends (she understood the importance of everything in moderation) and was always delighted to share photos of the delicious food and drinks they had together. Her face lit up when she told her stories. In 2020-2021, after both my mom and dad had retired, they went on long walks. Sometimes as long as 10 or 20 km. It made her feel strong. I loved seeing her smiling photos and Strava posts. My mom enjoyed staying healthy. She valued health as wealth.
My mom always made time for me. I remember when I was around 5 years old, she used to get up really early to go to work. I would hear her, wake up, and go sit with her while she put on her skincare and makeup in front her tabletop swivel mirror and desk lamp. As she pulled her car out of the driveway and into the alley, she would pause at the narrow spot between the shed and the trees because she knew I was watching from my bedroom window, waving to her. So she waved back. On Saturdays she drove Jeff and I to and from Chinese school (she would do the weekly grocery shop in between), and helped us with our homework every night. She also made us math practice sheets by hand and helped us learn our times tables. When I got a little older, she would let me watch her cook dinner and explain what she was doing so I could learn. When Jeff, my cousin Janet, and I moved out during university, she would make us soup and prepare groceries and home-cooked meals for us. The first little while, sometimes she even stayed over. On the weekends we were too busy to come home, she and my dad would drive all the way from North Burnaby to Dunbar to deliver food. Even after I got married, she would still sometimes bring soup and homemade dishes. We talked on the phone a couple times a week. She would always start with "食咗飯未呀?" ("Have you had dinner yet?"), then listen to my highlights and lowlights before asking me, "你沖咗涼未呀?" ("Have you showered yet?"), which was followed by, "快啲沖涼啦!" ("Go shower soon!"). I know this is how she showed she cared.
Lastly, my mom was happy, even though things were not always easy. She had family and friends who loved her, was successful in her career while raising two children, kept a lovely home, and enjoyed the little things in life. Mom, you can be proud of everything you have achieved. I'm sorry you didn't have more time to enjoy retirement like you wanted.
I only knew my mom for 32 of her 64 years. She was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, she was a hero. She was selfless, giving up her time and energy to care for others. She was always there for me, always picked up the phone when I called, and always had answers for all my questions. She accomplished so many things in her life, teaching me valuable lessons through leading by example. Thank you for everything, mom. I love you forever ❤