Yuk Kuen Ng (Mar.8, 1935- Aug. 18, 2022)
Last week, at age 87, our mother Yuk Kuen Ng has gone to be with the Lord, following a lengthy bout with kidney disease at home. She was devoted to our home and family. Even in her last weeks she was still out working in the garden checking on her tomatoes and beans.
She was born March 8, 1935 in Taishan, China she was the last of three daughters to Sing Wing Wong and his wife Won Ho Lee. She was given the name Yuk Kuen. Yuk in Chinese means jade which symbolizes beauty and strength and Kuen means grace in Chinese.
The Wong family was a well to do middle class family supported by a general goods store owned by her grandfather. Things were good for years until their lives changed overnight when the Japanese war broke out in 1937.Grandfather Wong not only lost his wealth but also his life when trying to protect his business from looters. Within a few years, mother lost her father to illness and her two older sisters already married left the Wong family leaving just mother and grandmother to fend for themselves.
After surviving the war, they were faced with famine so grandmother sent her young daughter to live with her older married sister’s family in Hong Kong. Mother was only twelve years old at the time. They treated her without kindness. Our twelve year old mother became their maid; she would do all the home tasks, shopping, cooking, cleaning and took care of all seven of her cousins whom were all older than her. At night after a day of hard work she was rewarded with only the left over meals and a space to sleep on the floor. With her mother far away and no one to help her to escape from the miserable life mother just kept all her tears and bitterness inside. She eventually was able to break free of her Charles Dickens life when she married our Father Kit Fong Ng in Hong Kong. My sisters Karen, Barbara, brother Joseph and I (Alfred) were born. Our father worked in a paint factory and brought in little income for four young children to eat. By the time our youngest sister Barbara was born mother joined the workforce while grandmother would stay home to look after us. With her hard work and fast learning, pretty soon mother was making a good income as a seamstress at the garment factory. She would leave home early and came home late. I remember she never had supper with us. Grandmother would save her a portion in a thermos when she returned after a long day at the factory.
In 1973 our family left Hong Kong and came to Canada. On the plane I will never forget seeing our mother breakdown and cry for the first time. She was crying for her beloved mother she has to leave behind. She told mother that she was afraid to move to a foreign country with different languages and most importantly she had always promised her father she would return and die in her village.
Even without a formal education mother learned to read and write Chinese very well. I always admire her strength and determination to learn. She would walk to attend her beginner English night class even in snowstorms after a long day of work. She wanted to communicate with her English speaking boss at her job. Mother would always save the discarded fabric scraps from work and used to make some of our clothing. One day she surprised me with a beautiful winter coat made from the scraps she had saved.
Every winter she knitted sweaters, hats and scarves for us. I still remember the colorful rainbow stripes sweater she made for me when I was a small boy! Even as I grew taller and bigger she would add more strips on the sweater.
Our parents purchased the house in Scarborough. We all love the large backyard that we turned into as mini garden farm. We planted many kinds of Chinese herbs and vegetables and groves of apple, pear and plum trees. During the summer, most of our meals were made from produce from our gardens. During harvest time, they invited many friends and relatives to pick the fruits. Mother even home delivered some to the ones who could not travel on the TTC.
After mother retired she could not slow down as father developed diabetes and later dementia. Mother took on the task as a PSW to take care of father full time. After father passed away in 2012, mother and I took a trip to China. She was happy to see how much it had changed and how life had improved, unlike when she left at twelve. She walked the great wall with enthusiasm and energy unlike an80 year old.
She will be miss greatly by her children, Karen, Alfred, Joseph, Barbara, daughter-in- law Alice, son-in- law Benny and granddaughters, Angela and Sharon. I wanted to Thank Dr. Chan, Dr.Dhruve, Dr. Joshi, the whole team at the kidney clinic at Michael Garron hospital, her family doctor Dr. Yip, her visiting nurse Kimi for their great care and supports. I wish to say special thanks to Dee Marsden, the social worker who always listened to me and offered advices and encouragements.