Reminisce Connect was established on 24 July 2017, ten days after the passing away of our beloved mother, Madam Yeo Siew Gin at 93.
(Madam Yeo Siew Gin @ Charlie Brown Cafe, 313 Somerset. Source: Artnpat)
However, the work of Reminisce Connect existed long before its being in 1997. The vision of having a community of cheerful and chatty elderly has its simple beginnings through years of building deep relationships with dad and mum and with an elderly couple whom we met when Pat, my wife volunteered as a medical escort with Touch Home Care. The relationship with our parents blossomed as it did with Ah Pak and Ah Sum. Exploring different nooks and corners of Singapore with Dad and Mom in our red Mini Clubman was a common weekend activity. With Ah Pak and Ah Sum, it was visitations to their little abode with weekly fresh supplies of food. We discussed many issues of life such as sickness, concerns for their children, financial resources and fear of death. With time, they had all embraced death with certainty of their destination. Dad died from pneumonia in 2003 after battling with dementia.
It was on the same day of mom’s death that we met with the eminent Professor Kua Ee Heok of the National University Health System and enthused him on the use of recorded oral narrative as a tool for reminiscence work amongst the elderly.
Having been an oral history interviewer since 1989, Pat has one of the most coveted jobs of sipping coffee with more than 200 people in Singapore recording their life stories. From interviewing former prisoners-of-war to the village men on Pulau Ubin to medical pioneers and feisty unionists, she has unconsciously trampled upon the power of reminiscing– the recollection and reflection of one’s life experiences in spoken narrative.
Our mom, Madam Yeo Siew Gin’s oral history account from 1988 to 2017 is an example of how a woman, who had once thought lowly of herself (she claimed she was useless as she could not even write her own name), discovered through her own oral interview, that she was actually a very capable woman. She was an Entrepreneur of the 1950s who had helped supplement her husband’s meagre income from being a kampong tontine head to become a “property agent” (in today’s context) by acting as the middle woman between the buyers and sellers of two flats in the 1980s. She also baked love letters for sale, sold mee siam and helped run a vegetarian stall. It was through these snippets of information, told over time, that we could use to help her review her life story and appreciate her existence. She recollected this with a smile on her face just prior to her death.
We dedicate the work of Reminisce Connect to mom, who though did not know how to write her own name, taught us to love and to love unconditionally as a mother.