The Crying Room
This appears in The Straits Times, Singapore (8th January 2004). It is distressing and it makes me think deeply. Hope it does something for you as well.....
The Crying Room
To help ease the pain, widow 'lets herself go' in bedroom in which her hubby killed their son.
There is a 'crying room' in the condominium apartment of Madam Lee Siew Lian, 46, an electrical engineering lecturer at the Institute of Technical Education. This is where her son, Weng Yan, was killed by his own father, Land Transport Authority engineer Chow Peng Wah. Weng Yan was then 10.
Madam Lee calls it her 'crying room', where she would 'let herself go' to ease the pain of the double tragedy. The door is always kept closed, with all of Weng Yan's belongings intact. A family portrait of husband and wife, son and daughter, now 15, still hangs on the bedroom wall.
'There are days when I put on my brave face and carry on with life. I 'let myself go' in the crying room. But the wound in my heart will keep bleeding until I die,' she told The Straits Times in her Far Horizon Gardens apartment in Ang Mo Kio.
She recalled that father and son would 'wrestle' with each other in the room. Mr Chow would also read Enid Blyton books to the boy. On May 7 last year, that same bedroom was where Madam Lee found Weng Yan with a nylon rope around his neck. His lips were bluish-black, and she had tried to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He was dead. She tried to ring her husband on his mobile phone but there was no answer. She did not know that he too was already dead, after leaping off the 11th floor of Block 297, Yishun Street 20.
When she heard about his death, she was torn between staying with her dead son or going to see her dead husband. 'I couldn't believe my husband killed boy-boy. I thought God must be playing a very cruel joke on me,' she said. Mr Chow had been on medical leave for most of April last year, and had asked, for the last time on April 16 for a transfer out of his Nicoll Highway worksite.
The answer was still no.
Earlier in March, he had asked for a transfer to another department because he could not handle the workload. 'He cried a little on the day he received the e-mail on April 16, and also stopped sleeping,' she said. 'I kept talking to him, but he seemed so far away. I thought he'd get better after seeing the psychiatrist the next day,' she said.
His medical leave from April 19 to May 2 was later extended to May 9. Although he was on medical leave, Mr Chow made an appointment on May 5 to see his director on May 8. An LTA spokesman said that on May 6, when he presented his final medical certificate, he was advised to go home. The next day, he was dead. Said Madam Lee: 'I never expected him to go, and to take boy-boy with him.'
More than 50 of Mr Chow's LTA colleagues turned up for his funeral, and she turned down offers of financial help. She wanted to quash rumours that her husband was depressed because of money problems. But there was no sign of his supervisor, Mr Wong Hon Peng. 'The least he could have done is to turn up and pay his last respects,' she said.
On the second day of the inquiry which started on Monday, Coroner Malcolm Tan told Mr Wong to apologise to Madam Lee. She was upset at the way the apology was proffered: 'He just looked at the judge and said 'sorry'.' For a month after the murder-suicide, mother and daughter stayed at home picking up the pieces. Xueyi skipped her mid-year exams. For Christmas, they went to New Zealand for 11 days. Said Madam Lee: 'What's the point of celebrating when half the family is gone?'
She also called the Samaritans of Singapore helpline and attended group therapy sessions with widows who had lost their husbands to suicide. Her daughter, she said, was a source of strength. 'She would message me on my mobile phone and say, 'Mummy, you must be strong. Life goes on. I am here for you',' she added.
Bosses, would you treat your workers differently after reading about Mr Chow? Call us at 1800-828-2828
Cool Hand Luke