TL;DR – Mr Nathan was a extraordinary man of many layers.
The State Funeral of Mr SR Nathan, Singapore’ 6th and longest-serving president, was televised nationwide with the procession of his cortege passing by landmarks of significance to Mr Nathan such as City Hall, Fullerton Hotel and NTUC Centre. There were 7 eulogies given, all of them heartfelt and gave us a glimpse into different sides of Mr Nathan. These are some of sides of him that were we loved the most:
1) He was a romantic
PM Lee told of Mr and Mrs Nathan’s love story and it was like no other.
“Quite apart from Mr Nathan’s remarkable career, the central and brightest thread in his life was his love for Umi, his wife. He first set eyes on her in 1942, when she was 13 and he 18. After a courtship of 16 years, braving parental objections and a two-year separation while Umi studied in Britain, they married in 1958. Their relationship spanned an astonishing 73 years, an inspiration to us all.”
2) He was a foodie
In his eulogy, Mr Zainul Abidin brought up memories of their chit chats while having tea and durian puffs at Mr Nathan’s home. He said in Malay: “I will not forget his love for food. This made our friendship closer. Just mention briyani, nasi lemak and, of course, durians, and a smile would light up his face.” Local delights “mee goreng” and “mee rebus” were also brought up in the other eulogies… Mr Nathan sure was a man after our own stomachs. =_)
3) He was committed
Mr Chan Chun Sing, Secretary-General of NTUC, delivered a heartfelt eulogy and shared that despite Mr Nathan’s busy schedule and health, he visited NTUC in May this year to share his views, reminding them to “stay focused as a labour movement that not only takes care of our working people, but also our country”.
4) He was “old school”
Mr Nathan was known for his handwritten notes, his weapon of choice as made known by Ms Jennie Chua was a $2.20 uniball signo broad-tipped black pen which he used to craft his personalised notes. In a particularly poignant memory, Ms Chua mentioned that she had received a note of encouragement from him after a tiring and difficult charity event which said :”Some of us have greater burdens to bear, I know it was not easy for you.”
5) He was ever so thoughtful
Ms Jennie Chua was sharing a moment where at a fund-raising event a decade ago, she had commented on a beautiful sari that Mrs Nathan had donned. She contuinued: “A few weeks later, a parcel arrived from the Istana containing an exquisite deep brown sari with white embroidery. The accompanying note (from Mr Nathan) said the sari was from Mrs Nathan. The jacket I am wearing today is made from that sari.”
Mr Ramaswamy Athappan, a close friend of Mr Nathan for 16 years recounted how Mr Nathan gifted a statute of Vinayagar, worshipped as a remover of obstacles, to him to safeguard him. Accompanying that was a note that said: “My days are somewhat numbered. I will be 92 in July. My heart is getting weaker by the day. My only wish is to see you well and successful in your life.”
6) He was an inspiration
We leave you with what Mr Chan Chun Sing said of Mr Nathan’s legacy
“You showed us the way to live the dream of being a true Singaporean — that while we may not be able to claim a common ancestry, race, language or religion, we can be united by a common future, a set of shared values and a unity of purpose. That if we live our lives to the fullest, do justice to our blessings as individuals, then there is nothing — absolutely nothing — that can ever stop us from achieving the Singapore dream as a team — a dream to defy the odds of history, for us to be sovereign and free to be called Singaporeans.”
Thank you Mr Nathan, you will be dearly missed.