When an old tree falls in the forest, there is an impact.
But even before it falls, the forest anticipates.
When the great spreading branches falls with the tree, a patch of sky will open up, and in time many plants and bushes will spring up from where its shade once covered. And those plants will grow and compete and in time perhaps one will surpass the rest and become a new great tree. But only time will tell.
But even as some anticipates the opportunities that have been withheld, that would now be freed, others anticipate the passing with empathy and affection if not love for the great tree, and how it has impacted or even allowed them, their lives.
And some show their love and appreciation in their respective manner.
Children left cards and messages, and drawings. In the photos of these "shrines" for well-wishers to leave their expressions of affection and gratitude, there were several iterations of "Hello Kitty" - balloons and dolls were what I've seen.
I couldn't help wondering if those people had inside info that LKY is a fan of Hello Kitty.
Maybe he likes Spongebob? Or Pepa Pig?
He might even be a fan of Wallace and Gromit!
Maybe, it's a strategy. These... presumptions... are intended to irk him to the point where he will wake up and clarify - "I am NOT a fan of Hello Kitty!"
There were also cards and paper cranes and flowers and little tokens of affection.
And that is what they are - tokens of affection.
One person reported that the flower shop only charged $2 for the flowers because it was for LKY. I'm not sure if he would ever be aware of that shared act of appreciation for what he has done for Singapore. But that's not important.
The flower shop owner and the customer knows. And they know that they shared that common cause - an appreciation of what the dying man has done, has given Singapore.
And yes, he is dying.
He is 91. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. He may even pull through and return to "normalcy". Only to fall ill and succumb in another few months, or years.
Well-wishers are wishing him a speedy recovery. Even if he did recover, what happens when he falls ill again at 96? Get well soon? Again?
At 101? At 191?
Again, you have to read between the lines. "Get well soon" is just code for "I wish you all the best." But without the logical, rational, emotionlessness of "go, gentle into the good night".
So we rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And we leave tokens that has no inherent meaning (AFAIK, LKY is not a secret fan of Hello Kitty). We leave that which we value as a proxy to represent what we value of this man and his contribution to our lives, to our nation.
But the great tree is not falling with verdant branches lush with leaves. Most of the leaves have fallen. Companions, compatriots have fallen by the wayside. His soulmate has gone before him.
He has handed over to the next generation of leaders and is no longer in charge. But some don't believe that. Apparently, it is SOP for Asian Leaders to continue to exert influence overtly or covertly. Since Lee does not openly criticise or contradict SG's government, the ungenerous, patronising, and "wink-and-nod" assumption is that he is the covert power behind the throne.
The Tree that is falling has prepared for this day, this inevitable day. It casts no great shadow now unlike in its prime. Other trees have sprung up in the sun. Their shadows are not as impressive as the Great Tree. Yet. Maybe.
Its life work is done. It was done in exchange for its Life. That is literally a Life's work.
It is perhaps time for it to go gentle into the good night.