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(中英文版)一个新加坡流亡者的归来 AN EXILE RETURNS TO SINGAPORE

一个新加坡流亡者的归来

作者“洪瑞钗医生(邱甲祥夫人)

编者按:本文章转载自《逃出狮爪》(ESCAPE FROM THE LION’S PAW)

2011年11月份,甲祥换肾后,在休养期间动笔书写他的流放生涯。这是篇生动而感人的文章。他对自己的际遇和病痛,没有流露丝毫怨怼或愤懑。他牢牢地把握那些流亡岁月,转变成一个个有收获有意义的年头,活出自己的理想。

甲祥喜欢朋友。总爱邀人到家里做客,几乎和谁都能相处得好。本文的读者,将为他的幽默和爱心对待生活的态度所感动。我作为他的妻子,陪他一起流亡,度过一个个充满激情和新鲜事物的年头。这真是个奇怪的际遇,想像当我们仓促离家出走时,本来不是预期将失去一切的吗?可是,甲祥却到处游走,从越南到尼加拉瓜,从巴勒斯坦到约克郡矿场,从南非到挪威,从美国人民中间走到古巴人民中间,建立起团结和友谊的传承。

人家把他从他热爱的祖国新加坡扫地出门,他却迅速地到处扎根。不局限在给他政治庇护的国家,而是在全球各处。他本着发自内心的国际主义精神,“在这里也在那里”,到处投身于捍卫争取正义的斗争。

他是个非常活跃的流亡者。三十五年,转瞬间过去了。然而,在被流放的那些年头,他也无日不心怀自己热爱的新加坡。当“阿拉伯之春”引起他的激情,他马上想到的是“新加坡之春”。当他为巴勒斯坦人以“护照”为题写诗,他的诗情其实来自一个失去了新加坡护照的人的内心。当他和他的南非友人站在一起,要求释放南非友人被囚禁在罗宾岛的同志时,他同时也在寻思如何争取新加坡政治被扣者的自由。

他为大红花写过一首歌。我想,他喜欢大红花,一定是因为大红花的坚强,不为干旱、黑暗、孤单或土地贫瘠所屈服。它只是不断地挣扎,然后以鲜红的花朵妆点枯寂的地面。甲祥也许没意识到,写大红花,他其实在写的他自己。

去世前两天,他刚完成了流亡生涯的记录。这是他留下的最后的文字。他告诉出版人,尽管离预订完成的时间还远,不知道为什么,他总是不必要地急着把它写完。这原因,我们现在是无从得知的了。我们知道的是,他把记录流亡生涯的文字留了下来,从此我们再也不必为了被人放逐而感到害怕了。

2011年11月20日,他在我们伦敦东部的家里,骤然撒手离开人世。每一个认识他的人,都大感失落。我以他未亡人的身份,替他拟了讣告。他出殡那天,付费在新加坡《海峡时报》作为分类广告刊登。亲友们从世界各地涌来吊丧,伦敦中心办理他丧事的小教堂挤满了人。这是个隆重而深情的告别仪式。

从事情刚发生当时的震惊与不愿相信中平复过来,我根据自己对他的了解,着手按他的遗愿办理后事。他会要我把他带回新加坡去的,他的祖国。他总是把自己比喻为一心想着落叶归根,死后也要回乡安葬的中国人。

三十五年流亡,他被迫离开他生前热爱的土地和人民,他将为自己终于能够回家感到欣慰。他回家的权利,生前被剥夺了;他死后,遗体总要在自己的家乡安息。所以我为他火化,以便把他的骨灰带回去,和他的祖先放在一起。

死者的配偶带着骨灰上飞机,把死者带回他们选择的地方去。这种事早有先例。因此,按理我只需直接订好机票,到时带上他的骨灰就是了。我需要的只是他的死亡证和火化证。他会想在2012年2月15日那天回家。三十五年前的这一天,新加坡内部安全局的官员在凌晨两点摸上门去要抓他,迫使他流亡,最后在流亡中去世。

不幸的是,我不是一般的寡妇。我是邱甲祥的妻子,我也是个流亡者。我不敢假设他们会还给我带着丈夫骨灰回家去的权利。此前我曾经申请回新加坡去探望我病危的年老双亲,两次都被回拒。我的双亲死前连见我一面都无法如愿。

有些流亡者,甚至公民权都给剥夺了。因此,在他去世两个月后,我寻思自己很可能无法成行。我甚至尝试安排,让甲祥的家人飞到伦敦来,把他的骨灰带回家去。我不敢奢望新加坡政府会这么大量,在三十五年后仍保留着我的公民权,更别说给我发旅行证件,让我带着甲祥回去新加坡。

但他们真给我发了。

入境新加坡的一次性旅行证件,在意料之外送到,就像回应祷告出现了奇迹。政府允许我带着他的骨灰回去新加坡一次。这是等了一辈子才等到的一次,在度过三十五个年头的流放生涯后终于等来。我喜出望外,跪倒在地感谢主。

他的家人和朋友在新加坡殷切地等待着他回去。他们安排在善牧主教座堂 (Cathedral of the Good Shepherd) 给他举行追悼会。教堂对面的房子,就是他和兄弟姐妹出生的地方。他和哥哥甲立有时睡迟了,相互追逐着匆忙赶来做弥撒的,就是这所教堂。教堂隔壁是圣约瑟书院;他们家十一个孩子,男孩都在这儿上学。转角处过去是圣婴女校,那是他们家女孩上的学校。

现在成了历史遗迹的大教堂依然美丽,只是亟需修葺。墙上到处是裂缝,新近的地铁修建工程破坏了教堂的地基。现在上这教堂来的,除了极少数的例外,大多是退休的老人、外籍劳工和白领工人。换句话说,近郊区过上好日子的中产阶级已不到这所教堂来了。重建的费用昂贵。大教堂无法筹足资金,只好依靠添加柱子和吊车支撑,免于坍塌成为废墟。

亲友们把甲祥的生活片段编辑成数码光盘,按甲祥最为他们喜爱的性格特点,命名为“宽宏大量光盘”。光盘收了甲祥的诗、歌、画作和照片,以及数百则别人献给他的颂词。光盘里也有他和家人多年一起生活的照片。这是一个人的写照,一个充满爱、欢乐、笑声和善良的人,一个对社会正义有强烈献身精神的人,一个在相互关爱的天主教大家庭里长大的人。他从不追求名利,却为来自社会各个阶层、各个领域的人们所深爱和怀念。

飞机在樟宜机场降陆,触地那一刻我热泪盈眶。这机场是在我和甲祥离开后才建成的。我捧着甲祥的骨灰,轻声和他说:“亲爱的你回到家了。”但什么地方却传来讥讽的声音,嘲笑地说:“有什么大不了。这只是他的骨灰。他死了,死了,死了……”这声音把我吓着,伤透了我的心。

然后,一个平静的声音悄悄地说,“你哭什么?”这把甜美的声音,仿佛发自我的内心。“别哭。你哪能在死亡地里找活人?”这话是哪儿来的?不错,它来自福音。两千年前,耶稣被钉在十字架那周的第一个早晨,一个女弟子到他墓地里,想为他的遗体涂抹油脂。她遍找不到他的遗体,以为被人带走,于是哭了。她听见了一样的发问,然后让她别在死亡地里找活人。耶稣复活了。墓地空无一物。那是复活节的第一个星期天。

我是个基督教徒。我知道死亡不是终结。死亡是通向和天主在一起的永恒生命之门。活下来的,该走出哀伤,脱下丧服。我吞下眼泪,紧抱住甲祥的骨灰,快步出了机场,向焦急等在出口外面的甲祥家人和我的小妹奔去。

下来的十二天,和亲友们在一起;忙乱,又弥足珍惜。除了感人的甲祥的追悼会,也去上他外曾祖父,新加坡知名先驱人物周文礼的坟;去安置甲祥父母和我父母骨灰的壁龛。我们终于将甲祥的骨灰留在教堂里,和安置他父母亲骨灰的地方靠近。我和家人与朋友有过几次聚会,另外出席了两个医药讲座。

新加坡变化大,变得差点都认不出来了。树木长高了,楼房长得更高。新加坡是如此的美丽、清洁、翠绿。但对我来说,人才是主要的。他们是所有一切当中最美好的了。朋友和家人,和我一样都老了。但随着年岁增长,我们的友情和相互关爱也更加深了。我们的家庭在扩大,朋友们的家庭也在扩大;许多年轻人加了进来,不少是我们流亡后才出生的。年轻的一代,给我们带来未来的希望。他们充满活力、热情、天真、精力旺盛、聪明、睿智、可爱。我很快就意识到,能够和他们在一起,我该引以为荣。我相信,这些年轻人将使新加坡变成一个出众和有人情味的地方。

我回到新加坡,几乎每天都有事忙。时间飞快过去。还没回过神来,我已经回到了伦敦。我不确定自己能不能再回去新加坡。但不管它了,反正我已经见过自己牵挂的人,拥抱过他们。假设这是等了三十五年后我第一次也是最后一次回新加坡,我也只有感激这回的能够成行。我要是命定在流亡中死去,我没有埋怨。无论身在何处,我都会为丈夫和我所共有的理想继续努力。当我独自在伦敦家中,到了夜晚,我常会怀着感恩之情,回想起回到新加坡那宝贵的十二天,想念着家人和朋友。我知道,没有流亡的痛苦,也就没有回家和重聚的巨大快乐。我将默默地向天主祷告,要求天主继续给新加坡和他的子民祝福与庇佑。

2012年3月14日

洪瑞钗医生访谈录视频网址:

洪瑞钗医生著作:《从贝鲁特到耶路撒冷》

AN EXILE RETURNS TO SINGAPORE

Dr Ang Swee Chai (Mrs Francis Khoo)

 

洪瑞钗医生与新加坡流亡者陈华彪夫妇及新加坡驻英国最高专员

In November 2011, Francis wrote about his exile while he was recovering from his kidney transplant. It was a lively and inspiring piece. There was no bitterness or anger about his personal circumstances or his failing health. He grasped the years of exile firmly and turned them into productive and fruitful years in living and working out his ideals.

Francis loved people and welcomed everyone to our home, and was at home with everyone. Those who read this piece will marvel at his sense of humour and love of life. As his wife, living the exile years with him was full of excitement and adventure — a strange situation considering how we were supposed to have lost everything when we left home. He had built a rich heritage of solidarity and friendship from Vietnam to Nicaragua, Palestine to the Yorkshire mines, South Africa to Norway and the people of USA to Cuba.

Uprooted from his beloved Singapore he quickly found roots everywhere — not only in the country which gave him political asylum but also worldwide. He involved himself with struggles for justice both “here and there” as befit his true internationalist spirit.

His was an extremely active exile. Thirty five years seemed too short. But it was a life in exile always with special reference to his beloved Singapore. When he became passionate about the Arab Spring, he would immediately think about a Singapore Spring. When he wrote his poem “Passport” for the Palestinians, it was from the heart of a man who had lost his own Singapore passport. When he stood in solidarity with his South African friends demanding the release of their comrades detained in Robin Island, he was also seeking the freedom of the Singapore political detainees.

He wrote a song about the Bungaraya, the red Hibiscus. I think he loved the Bungaraya because it is hardy, and never beaten by drought, darkness, loneliness or poor soil. It just struggles on and makes its way to cover the parched land — to fill it with crimson flowers. Francis probably did not realise he was writing about himself.

He completed his account of his exile two days before he died. It was his last writing. For some unknown reason he told his publishers that he was in undue haste to complete it, well ahead of schedule. We may never know the reason for this, but he left us this account so that none of us should ever fear exile anymore.

His unexpected and sudden death on 20 November 2011, in our home in East London, left a huge void in all who knew him. As his widow I wrote his obituary and published it as a classified advertisement in the Singapore Straits Times on 25 November, the day I buried him. There was a huge outpouring of grief from family and friends from all over the world. The tiny little church in central London where his funeral took place was packed. It was a dignified and loving send-off for him.

After the initial shock and disbelief, I proceeded to undertake what I knew would be his last wish. He would want to be taken back to his country, Singapore. He always compared himself to the Chinaman whose dying wish was to be buried in his village.

His 35 years of exile from the land and people he loved so much in his lifetime had made him passionate about his homecoming. Denied his right of return in life, his remains should be finally laid to rest in his homeland. So he had to be cremated so that his ashes could be brought back, to be with his ancestors.

There was already precedence for spouses to carry ashes on planes to countries of their choice. So it should have been straightforward for me to book a flight and leave with his ashes. All that was needed was his death certificate and his cremation certificate. He would have liked to be home on the 15 February 2012. That was the day, thirty five years ago, the Singapore Internal Security Department officers came at 2am to arrest him, forcing him to escape into exile, and to die in exile.

But unfortunately I am no ordinary widow. As the wife of Francis Khoo, I am also an exile. I could not presume that I would be granted the right of return with my husband’s ashes. On at least two previous occasions I was refused my request to visit my ageing parents when they were near death in Singapore. Both died without seeing me.

Other exiles had lost their citizenship. So for two months after his death, I was concerned I might not make the trip. I even made tentative arrangements for members of Francis’ family to fly over to London to collect his ashes. There was no reason why the Singapore Government should be magnanimous enough to retain my citizenship after 35 years, not to mention give me a travel document to come back to Singapore with Francis.

But they did.

Against all odds, a single visit Singapore Travel Document came — like a miracle from an answered prayer. The Government had allowed me that one trip to come into Singapore with his ashes. This was the visit of a lifetime — after 35 years of exile. I was overwhelmed and knelt down to thank God for this opportunity.

His family and friends waited in eager anticipation in Singapore. A memorial was arranged for him in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd — the church opposite the house where he and his brothers and sisters were born. This was the church to which he and his elder brother Michael would race to make it in time for Mass when they overslept. It was also next to St Joseph’s Institution where the boys of the 11-strong siblings went to school. The girls of course went to Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus just round the corner.

The Cathedral, now a historic monument, is still very beautiful, but is in desperate need for restoration. Large cracks mar the walls, and the foundations were damaged by the recent construction of the Singapore MRT. The people who attend the church, with the exception of a handful, are mostly pensioners, migrant workers and white-collar working people. In other words the church is not blessed with a well-to-do middle class suburban parish. The restoration will be expensive. Being unable to raise the funds, the Cathedral stays propped up by poles and cranes to prevent it from collapsing to the ground.

Friends and family had put together a DVD with snippets of Francis’ life. They named it the Generosity DVD after the characteristic of Francis they loved best. It contains poems, songs, drawings, photographs by and of Francis and also hundreds of tributes to him. There are pictures of him and his family throughout the years. It is the portrait of a man full of love, joy, laughter and kindness, a man with a strong commitment to social justice, and a man who grew up in a large and loving Catholic family. He never sought fame and fortune, yet is dearly loved and missed by people from all echelons of society and all walks of life.

As the plane touched down at Changi Airport, tears overwhelmed me. This airport was built after Francis and I left. I held Francis’ ashes and whispered to him, “Darling you are home.” But a cynical voice from somewhere mocked, “Big deal! It is just his ashes! He is dead, dead, dead….” That horrified me. It broke my heart.

And then — “Why do you weep?” a still small voice said. It was a sweet voice and seemed to have come out of my heart. “Do not weep. Why are you seeking the living in the land of the dead?” Where did that come from? Yes, it was from the Gospel. Two thousand years ago, a woman disciple of Jesus went to his tomb the first morning of the week after his crucifixion to anoint His body. When she could not find His body she wept thinking that the body was taken away. She was asked the same question, and told that she must not seek the living in the land of the dead. Christ had resurrected. The tomb was empty. That was the first Easter Sunday.

As a Christian, I know death is not the end. Death is the door to eternal life with God. For those left behind, it is time to come out of mourning, and to remove our sack cloths. I swallowed my tears, clung on to Francis’ ashes and ran out of the airport into the arms of Francis’ loving family and my youngest sister waiting eagerly at the barriers.

The next twelve days were hectic but precious days with family and friends. Apart from Francis’ moving memorial, there were visits to the grave of his great grandfather Chew Boon Lay the well known Singapore pioneer, the columbarium of Francis’ parents and the niches of my parents. We finally put Francis’ ashes in the church near where his parents’ ashes were laid. There were several gatherings with friends and family, and I was invited to give two talks to the medical fraternity.

Singapore has changed beyond recognition. The trees have grown tall, and the buildings even taller. Singapore is beautiful, clean and green. But for me, it is the people who count most. They are the most beautiful of all. Friends and family, like me, have grown older, but with age our friendship and love have deepened. Our families have grown, so have the families of friends — with many young additions — many of them born after we went into exile. The young ones give us hope for the future. They are vibrant, enthusiastic, innocent, full of energy, intelligent, talented and lovely. Very soon, I began to realise that it is a privilege to be able to spend time with them. I know they will make Singapore a wonderful and compassionate place.

The days of my visit were packed with events. Time flew. All too soon, I found myself back in London. I am unsure as to whether I will be able to come back to Singapore again. But it does not matter since I have touched base with those I love, hugged and embraced them. If this was to be my first and last trip to Singapore after 35 years I have nothing but gratitude that I was granted this visit. If I am to die in exile I will have no bitterness. I will continue to work on those ideals my husband and I share, wherever I may be. On those nights, alone in our home in London, I will remember the precious 12 days back home in Singapore with thanksgiving, and think of our wonderful family and friends. I know that without the pain of exile there would not be the overwhelming joy of homecoming and re-union. I will also quietly pray that God will continue to bless and protect Singapore and her people.

14 March 2012

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