Around the life sized image of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a verdant flush of green, interspersed by white orchids named in his honour. Standing in line at the Botanic Gardens community condolence site, I was surprised when the grey-haired lady in front of me turned and asked the girl behind me for a favour. "Can you send me the picture that you just took, please? I don't have a good camera phone and I would like to remember this," she said, in between sobs barely shielded by the crumpled tissue in her hands. Numbers were exchanged and a picture shared with a stranger, sharing the same grief.
The air was still, lightly perfumed by flowers, softly punctuated by a documentary of the man, playing on the side. Community sites like this, all over the island, have allowed the public to pay tribute to our founding Prime Minister during this mourning period. This was especially important for older folks who were unable to make the trip to the Parliament House, much less join the long queues that lined the streets during the lying-in-state period.
For Singaporeans further away, there were commemorative events held by various communities to honour Mr Lee. We came together to share our moments to mark the man and his life. From all around the world, the condolence books have been sent back to Singapore, to the Prime Minister’s Office, where we hope it would bring a measure of comfort to the family.
There are many stories being shared about how he has shaped and touched the lives of so many Singaporeans. His housing policies, his hard line on corruption, his vision for a green and self-sufficient nation have shaped so many Singaporeans’ and their children’s lives. The Straits Times has put together a special downloadable feature on the life of Mr Lee and made available excerpts of the e-book Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas. These are rich troves for those of us who shared many years with him, and a good start for the younger ones among us to understanding him.
On the day of the funeral, I waited in the rain along Jalan Bukit Merah, with many other fellow Singaporeans, umbrella in one hand and a small flag in the other, straining for a better view. Then, one elderly Indian man across the road from me, bellowed, "Close your umbrellas for two minutes! Please! Two minutes!"
And we did. Everyone in earshot closed their umbrellas and stood in the rain, chanting, "Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!"
It takes just one man to stand up and be heard, for change to be made. Mr Lee was that exceptional person who came forward to make a difference. With the remarkable leadership of the first Cabinet, our founding Prime Minister laid the foundation for Singapore’s success. 50 years later, we are living his legacy, our country a monument to his life’s work.
The funeral is over. But his work is not. It is left to us to carry on fighting the good fight. As life resumes its normal pace, remember that one minute of silence, when we came together across oceans, across time zones as one people, one nation, one Singapore.