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The security officers cared for Mr Lee like he was their own father
WHEN it came to protecting Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, his personal security detail took care of him around the clock as well as they would their own father.
In her eulogy to her father on Sunday at the private service at Mandai Crematorium, Lee Wei Ling shared several stories of her father's security officers (SOs), thanking them profusely for being an "integral part of Papa's life".
"They looked after him with tender loving care, way beyond the call of duty. A doctor friend, who came to help dress a wound Papa sustained when he fell, noticed this and said to me: 'The SOs look after your father as though he is their own father'," said Dr Lee, the director of the National Neuroscience Institute.
She spoke of how Mr Lee's health deteriorated rapidly after his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, died in October 2010.
Even though he had difficulty standing and walking from 2012 due to Parkinson's disease, he refused to use a wheelchair or a walking stick, preferring to walk on his own, with the help of his SOs, said Dr Lee.
She related another incident when Mr Lee was having lunch at home and had choked on a piece of meat. Two of his SOs carried out the Heimlich manoeuvre several times but to no avail, because Mr Lee's tense abdominal muscles.
Another SO came to help, and, the three officers forming a human chain coordinated their pull, eventually managing to eject the piece of meat.
"By this time, Papa had already turned purple. But within seconds of the meat being dislodged, he was mentally alert," said Dr Lee, thanking the three officers for saving her father's life.
Mr Lee was also plagued by bouts of hiccups that could be controlled only by medication that brought on adverse side effects; he also had trouble swallowing solids and liquids, a common problem in old age.
He went online looking for ways to manage the hiccups. Dr Lee disclosed that he once used rabbit skin and chicken feathers to induce sneezing. This helped at times, but wasn't effective enough.
Mr Lee also cut down his intake of food, believing that eating too much could precipitate the hiccups. He lost a lot of weight as a result, making him appear gaunt.
"Papa was stubborn and determined. He would insist on walking down the steps at home, from the verandah to the porch, where the car was parked. (My sister-in-law) Ho Ching had a lift installed so Papa need not negotiate those steps. But when he was aware and alert, he refused the lift though it was a struggle for him to walk down those steps, even with three SOs helping," said Dr Lee.
The lift was not installed in vain. On several occasions, when he was ill and needed to be admitted to SGH (Singapore General Hospital), he did not protest when the SO guided him onto the lift. Still, even when ill, if he was asked if he wanted to use the lift, the answer would invariably be "no".
Dr Lee said that the kindness and goodwill shown by the SOs went both ways. She said her father once went the extra mile to help one of his officers who had come down with chicken pox while on an official visit to Saudi Arabia.
"The doctors decided that the SO should be isolated in some hospital in Saudi Arabia for two weeks. Pa thought that very unkind to the SO, and insisted that the SO return to Singapore together with the rest of the delegation. He wasn't going to leave any Singaporean behind, not least an SO," said Dr Lee.
She also expressed her family's gratitude to the nurses, doctors and specialists who had looked after her father over the years, especially those who did so in the last five years of his life, when his health worsened.
She thanked the medical team that cared for Mr Lee when he was admitted to the intensive care unit at SGH, hailing the staff as "diligent and meticulous" in their care for him.
Her two brothers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Hsien Yang, also spoke at the private service at Mandai, as did two of the late Mr Lee's grandchildren, Hongyi and Shengwu.
PM Lee said he was "grateful" that his father guided and nurtured him and his siblings to grow up into "normal, well-adjusted people, even though we were the Prime Minister's children, always in the spotlight, in every danger of being spoilt, indulged, and led astray".
PM Lee shared a heartwarming story of a father's love for his son when he was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma back in 1992.
"Pa once rang up all the way from the Philippines. I thought it was something important. But actually he called to say he had arranged to send me some durians. He wanted to make sure I was properly nourished during my chemotherapy," said PM Lee.
He said that his father, who died last Monday at the age of 91, had a "long and full life" - healthy, active and vigorous until his advanced years.
"He used to say that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pa's marathon is done. He went away peacefully. He will leave a big hole in our lives, and in our hearts. But his values, his love, and his words - these will stay with us, inspire us and live on in us for a long, long time," said PM Lee.
At the close of the service, family members filed past the open casket and each placed a single red rose in it. Then, the casket was closed for the final time and Mr Lee's team of security officers bore the coffin aloft and left the hall.