FRONT-LINERS! A word that prior to March 18 was just another word for those fighting at the forefront of battle, a cause, or event. It has taken on a superlative meaning since then – it now stands for all those in the medical field, the fields of research, technology, IT, and all the various socioeconomic-political spheres – for those who are at the vanguard and the frontline directly confronting and helping to save and protect us from the dreaded Covid-19 virus.
Prior to March 18, who were our front-liners?
They were those, especially in the field of medicine, who were doctors, nurses, administration staff and others; researchers and scientists; IT experts and people working in all the various fields – security, hospitality, emergency, etc. Of these there were many who had worked quietly, silently, without fame, glory or spotlight being shone on them – the nurses, matrons, teachers and medical staff, who work day in day out to ensure that the sick are properly tended to, the dying in the hospices cared for, and the newborn who come into this world are properly delivered in a cocoon of warmth, comfort, and cleanliness.
Today I wish to eulogise one such special person. Her name was Lucy Lee Nyuk Ing and she started her career as a nurse in Sibu. It culminated years later at the Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching as a matron, having gone through all the stages of nursing life – of which one was teaching the nurses how to be midwives, among other tasks that she had performed. Her life as a matron touched many others and often they speak with the highest regard for her.
Lucy passed on in the early hours of Oct 19, 2020 in
Auckland, New Zealand at the age 81. Her passing is mourned by her loving husband Leonard Lee and five children – Joyce, Roy, Janet, Jacqueline, and Joanna, 10 grandchildren, as well as many family members and friends.
Lucy was strong-willed, forceful, independent, and hard-working; completely forthright and fiercely protective of her family and friends through thick and thin. At the same time, she was loving, kind, and generous to a fault – she wasn’t one to tolerate fools but was totally sincere and genuine in her friendship and her many close-knit relationships throughout her life.
Born on Nov 19, 1939 in Sibu, Lucy was the only child of Chinese Foochow immigrants Lee Seng Kwan and Ling Choo Ding. Her childhood was spent in a long town house, which was built very close to other units. Her mum was a Buddhist and her dad an atheist. When she was in her teens, she followed a friend to church and from there she gave her life to follow Jesus.
Lucy put herself through nursing school working part-time to pay off her college fees as her parents couldn’t afford it. She was later to become a teacher at a nursing school.
She met the love of her life Leonard and they were married on Nov 30, 1963 when she was 24. Leonard was an enterprising, successful entrepreneur and businessman and during his life owned or was partner in businesses ranging from pharmaceutical products to running Kuching’s oldest and biggest stone quarry! While her husband was fully occupied with his business affairs, it was up to Lucy to be the superwoman in the family, to tend to the growing family and ensure that all their needs were fulfilled – educating them was foremost on her mind. She was strict and a disciplinarian, but always with a tender loving touch.
After she retired from nursing, where she had made many friends and played her role in ensuring all who had been under her care received only the best attention; she decided to continue to do charitable work. Lucy committed her time and efforts to the Kuching Lioness Club and she became secretary, during which she organised many charitable functions and events.
This included annual food and fun fairs held at the Salvation Army, Children’s Home, Cheshire Home, and the Home for the Aged. She ensured the success of her Lioness’s contributions and even went on the rounds herself to help promote among her wide circle of church friends and family to help these charities financially or in kind. On a personal note, Lucy also collared my wife Doreen into the Lioness organisation at one stage. Both their social circle of friends increased immeasurably.
Lucy and Leonard loved ballroom dancing and they often hosted dance parties; their love for music was broad – from the classic Chinese singer Teresa Teng to Elvis and Celine Dion.
My fond personal memories were our great times together at the numerous Sarawak Club New Year’s Eve galas in the 1980s, with other close friends who had included Alice and Sim Tian Peng, Soh Har and Raymond Wee, and others too many to name here – and our after party sojourns at around 2am on New Year’s Day when we’d all adjourn to one of our homes to finish off the night with a hearty serving of hot rice porridge with all the accompanying goodies – and what a range of titbits we would always end up with. Then we would end the night’s proceedings with our spirited ‘one for the road’ drinks too!
In the 1980s, all our kids were around the same age group of between eight and nine, and the oldest would be 13 or 14; we had bought a piece of beachfront land at Pandan and built a small wooden bungalow, which we would frequently go to for our weekend picnics. Those times were most memorable as the lady-folk would be busy rustling food and goodies up in the kitchen, the kids would be on the beach and in the sea frolicking, and the men would be either playing mah-jong or sitting around shooting the breeze and drinking beer and whisky.
At night, we’d have campfires and barbecues and sing-a-longs; and when it was time for bed the kids and ladies would occupy the rooms and the men would sleep on the floor of the veranda patio and their snores would deter petty thieves from the nearby villages from pilfering T-shirts and sneakers left out on the balcony.
Lucy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was 43 in Kuching. Her specialist had given her only 11 years at best. But God in his infinite wisdom had ensured she lived another 38 years – more than time enough to see all her 10 grandchildren.
The entire family decided to migrate to Auckland when Lucy was in her late 40s, mainly for the children’s further education; and they have now settled happily there. Daughter Joyce has moved to Melbourne.
Her entire life Lucy devoted firstly to her family, then to God and the Catholic faith, and to her many charitable organisations. She in turn had brought many to both the Christian faith and to contribute towards her many charities.
In preparing for her own epitaph Lucy wrote, “I am not defined by my disease. I would rather be remembered for who I was – strong-willed, genuine, loving, generous, independent, intelligent, wise, spirit-filled – a caring daughter, a devoted mum, a faithful wife, an involved grandmother, and most importantly a good friend indeed.”
She was indeed all that and more.
Lucy’s funeral service was held yesterday (Oct 23) in Auckland at 9.30am (4.30am Kuching time) and I was honoured to have had my short eulogy read together with three others – her son Roy’s, daughter Jacqueline’s, and granddaughter Emily’s. Rest in peace, our dearest ‘Ah Ngiik’ (my fond nickname for her) – may your lovely soul rest in eternal peace. Amen.
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