Lai Hing Tam
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Lai Hing Tam
October 3, 1928 – November 6, 2021
For Baby Girl Tam, Verna, Baby Adam and Ming Sun
Mom’s Heartsong is dedicated to all those who have loved, and have lost, and have somehow found a way to try and love again;
Mom’s Heartsong is especially for all dear mothers, fathers and families who have lost unborn children, stillborn babies, experienced early infant losses and traumatic interventions, including any type of womb trauma
or anyone who has grieved the loss of a child, sibling or parent;
Mom’s Heartsong is also for all the parents who chose to, needed to or were pressured to give their children to others to raise for a
multitude of reasons;
Mom wants to express her deep gratitude to all those who have
chosen to foster and adopt children.
TAM, Lai Hing passed away peacefully after a short stay at the Royal University Hospital, on Saturday, November 6, 2021 at the age of 93, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She was born on October 3, 1928 in Canton (Guangdong), China, the middle child of five siblings and her full name at birth was Lie Hing Yee. She immigrated to Canada in 1955 and became a Canadian citizen in 1975. Lai Hing was predeceased by her husband, Kock Hin Tam (also known in the Saskatoon business community as Tom Yee); her father, Yee Fook Bow and mother, Dung Sol Jean; and her sisters: Suey Hing, Susan, Donna and brother, Joe Fat; and her daughters, Baby Girl Tam and Verna; and son-in-law, Robbie “Charlie” O’Neill, and grandsons, Baby Adam and Jason LaMarsh.
She will be lovingly remembered and greatly missed by her beloved seven children: Faye (Jonah), Rosemarie, Humphrey (Kim), Jean O’Neill, Ivan (Carrie), Nancy (Guy), Doug (Sharon), and her son-in-law, Norman Wong (Rita), and Nathalie, mother of Mareck and Jacquie; she also felt great affection for Danny Yee (Elaine). Lai Hing is also survived by: her older sister Suey Hing’s children; her nieces, Mary (Tony) and Victoria (Tommy), and her nephew Tom, living in Montreal and California; Tony Tam, the husband of her younger sister, Donna, and her nieces and nephew; Edna, Kay (Van) and Wei (Jun) living in Calgary; and Sue, the wife of Joe Fat, and many nieces and nephews living in California; and the children of her younger sister Susan whom are living in China. She will be especially missed by her dear sister-in-law, Mabel Yee and her beloved niece and nephew: Fern (Dan) in Texas and William (Norah) and her grandnephews: Aidan, Spencer and Carson, in British Columbia.
She is the cherished grandmother and Popo/YinYin of her dear 12 grandchildren: Zachery (Kris) and Isaac Wong (Shania); Justin (Olivia) LaMarsh and Lauren Tam (David); Ally (Brandon), Jodie and Emmy-Lou O'Neill; Grace and Joshua Tam; Yanérick (Vanessa) Hains, and Mareck (Haley) and Jacquie Tam; and her great grandson, Matéo Hains. Lai Hing was also the beloved great aunt of her dear grandnieces in Calgary: Carmen, Karen, Lauren, Sydney, and Riley. In the Chinese culture, the paternal grandmother is called Yin Yin and the maternal grandmother is called Popo. As the years have gone by, the grandchildren have grown to understand the difference, and yet, they still prefer to call their grandmother, “Popo”, whether she is their maternal or paternal grandmother. For the Tam family, it’s an expression of a special loving endearment, and this has become her namesake, signifying the “sweet heart connection” that she has with her dear grandchildren.
At about age 1, Lai Hing’s family realized that she was deaf and couldn’t speak. Her early language development focused on creating her own special home sign language with her family, while also receiving regular academic lessons from a private tutor, since schools in China didn’t have the capacity to provide her with specialized instruction. She learned to read and write in Chinese up to about the grade 3-4 level and often communicated by home sign language or writing notes. After settling in Canada, many years passed before she began to learn formalized sign language, starting with ESL (English Sign Language), which she found extremely difficult to understand and learn. After a few years, her youngest daughter, Nancy discovered ASL (American Sign Language) which was based more on visuals, imagery and gesture. Nancy became an important support and guide in her mom’s sign language development over the years.
Communication with Lai Hing, took a variety of forms. Home sign continued to be the main way in which she communicated, and it was delightful to see her giving loved ones their name signs. She would look for a unique feature in your face, or a mannerism, or sometimes something that you loved, and then built your name sign around that. Name signs included using alphabet letters with a flourish, or pointing to a pierced ear, pierced lip, wavy or long hair, or making the shape of a big and wide U-shaped smile, or big eyes, or big eyelashes! Her home signing evolved over the years, and it was touching to see how different people would find ways to express themselves to her, including gesturing, miming, drawing pictures, giving butterfly kisses and hugs; she didn’t have to point to her heart, to say she loved you, she said it with her eyes.
Her deafness may have been a limitation; however, she developed her other senses in a truly remarkable way, excelling in visual and textile arts, and creating in many different media over the course of her life. She worked with fabrics, embroidery, needlework, painting, drawing, knitting, crocheting, ceramics and making beautiful handmade cards adorned with colorful butterflies, hearts, ladybugs, bees, maple leafs, flowers, plants, cherry blossoms, birthday cakes, the menorah, candles, birds, dogs, motorcycles, graduation hats, rainbows, Christmas trees adorned with yellow stars and an array of scenes filled with whimsy and creativity!
She worked at the Exhibition Greenhouses (until it closed in 1984) where she loved taking care of bedding plants, growing vegetables and flowers; (Lai Hing especially loved sunflowers and daisies which reminded her of her dear daughters, Verna and Baby Girl Tam). She had an uncanny ability to “talk to plants”, was a highly skilled “plant whisperer” and wherever she went, she gravitated to plants, wanting to touch their leaves, smell the earthy scent of the soil, inspecting closely for little bugs; tending to plants was truly a deep passion for Lai Hing and the plants she nurtured responded with a green lushness and radiance, the life force shining through brightly with her caring presence and attention.
She also worked at Lorne Avenue Chop Suey, the family restaurant, and was famous for her homemade deep fried egg rolls (made from egg crepes expertly wrapped around a secret recipe of stir-fried bean sprouts and pork). To this day, people still long for the crispy crunch of her eggrolls dipped in plum sauce. She loved anything to do with food, testing recipes, leafing through the colorful food pics in various food magazines, was an avid fan of Food Network TV, often directing others to make the dishes that were featured.
She lived life from her heart, bringing joy to others with her generous spirit for fun and play, sharing beautiful smiles and sparkling bright eyes, a readiness to join in laughter, and always so open to learning and discovering new things.
She was someone that enjoyed life and she would light up, whenever she had the chance to be around babies or little children. She especially loved trying to get them to smile, laugh and play. Her eyes sparkled with joy when she saw her beloved grandchildren, great grandchildren and grandnieces, wanting to feed them something, or checking out their height, size, weight, and face shape; and if they were eating enough, looking for “chubby rosy cheeks” as a sign of good health. She wouldn’t hesitate to tell them if she felt they were too thin or too round; she would tell you very simply and directly what she thought. You could be quite sure that she was being honest and direct, as it was very difficult for her to hide her true feelings; she wore her heart on her sleeve! Popo, YinYin, Aunty Lai, Great Aunty Lai… these are all sweet endearments from the many children who adored her, played with her and lovingly cared for her, throughout her long life.
Popo also loved seeing her grandchildren involved in any kind of the arts; from visual arts, to the performing arts, such as Irish dance or hip hop and jazz dance recitals, piano recitals, and Suzuki violin. She couldn’t hear the music, but she explained that she could “feel” it by seeing the way the instruments were played, by looking at the faces of the musicians, trying to get a felt sensation of the various dance moves by mirroring the actions and pressing her ear and cheek up against the piano intently “listening and feeling” for the vibration and sound waves.
She was an avid sports fan whether it was amateur level or professional, enjoying televised hockey, curling, golf, and tennis. It was extra special when Lai Hing was able to see her large family pursue their hobbies and interests; including football, hockey, volleyball, basketball, track and field, swimming, golfing, curling, sailing, motor-cross biking, motorcycling, rodeo barrel racing, skiing, yoga, tai chi and kyudo. Throughout her life, she attended these activities in person, watched live streams and videos, and enjoyed the many photographs shared over the years. Popo’s love of competition and friendly rivalry got her “so into the sports action”, that she made many nail-biting type gestures, lurching her whole body into the movement, squirming and squinting, as if trying to help the athlete to play better; as well as loud vocalizations to show her delight, disbelief, displeasure, frustration or dismay; Popo couldn’t contain her excitement and she would cheerlead with great gusto!
Popo took in the world through her eyes and seeing her grandchildren, great grandchildren and grandnieces, play sports, enjoying hobbies or having fun, helped her to connect and engage meaningfully with them. Their heart connection with their Popo, was a special “sweet heart” connection, that was apparent in their eyes and their hugs; something that goes beyond words, or even sign and gesture.
Mom was a fashionista and it is clear where the many other fashionistas in the Tam family tree have gotten their “retail therapy genes”! She had an extensive wardrobe and loved to create outfits that were smart and stylish, adding hints of jewelry for flair, and in the past few years, she wanted everything pearls.
Lai Hing loved to sew clothes for herself and her children, often making her own patterns and designs; like the siwashes with horses and geese. She was a prolific artist that painted, did cross stitch, loved quilting, made “hey clay” sculpture figures, creating a wonderland of brightly colored creatures from the land, sea and sky kingdoms! Her favorite colors echoed those traditionally used in the intricate sand mandalas inspired by Tibetan Buddhism. One of our family’s most favorite and treasured paintings is a watercolor of two sparrows on a cherry blossom branch that Lai Hing painted when she first learned how to paint with watercolors when she was in her late 60’s. It is a very simple composition, and in its simplicity, it has a beautiful Chinese elegance that speaks to her heritage and homeland.
She also liked spending lots of time outdoors on the deck or patio, taking in the beauty of the gardens and nature, watching the birds and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. This past year, she would “sun” herself on the deck, wearing her stylish wrap-around sunglasses, wanting to position her chair, just so, to take in the sun rays or hiking up her pants to stick out her feet to feel the warmth, while wearing her iconic sunhats. Lai Hing was a dreamer and an artist at heart. As the autumn approached this year, she enjoyed sitting on the deck, but eventually preferred, to pull up a chair to the large picture window facing the back fields of the acerage to watch the sunsets every evening, while enjoying the bright warm sunshine in the daytime.
She loved to eat, and had an adventurous and hearty appetite for food flavors from a diverse range of ethnic cuisine and take-out foods ranging from #17 Triple beef and tripe Pho soup, to DQ cheeseburgers, McDonald French fries and Chicken McNuggets. The jumbo raisin cookies, egg tarts, chewy oatmeal coconut cookies and cherry pie were favourite treats from her children and daughters-in-law. Her eyes would light up when she received a parcel of Harry David Riviera pears in the mail.
In her latter years, she became very fond of dogs and eventually, liked cats, too, but she was definitely a DOG PERSON; enjoying affectionate kisses and leaning to present her chin for licks and nuzzles and feeding treats to our “foodie-driven” dogs surreptitiously under the table, thinking that no one noticed, but we did, LOL! This “must love dogs” feeling was happily shared with the Tam family and Popo truly enjoyed the many beautiful dogs she came to know and spend time with over the course of her life. She would ooh and ahh at the photos and videos sent to her iPad. Roger Caras’ quote rings so true for Popo and the Tam Family of dog lovers:
Dogs may not be our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.
She was a gamer that loved puzzles, tile rummy, mah jong, bingo and playing whist. In particular, the Tam family would like to acknowledge the long time friendship of Sylvia Clelland, mom’s 3rd floor neighbor at St. Volodymyr Villa, whom was also the Villa bingo caller. To accommodate Lai Hing’s special needs, Sylvia did some trouble-shooting and arranged to have Lai Hing sit beside her, so she could show her each bingo ball as she announced the letter and number over the mike to the rest of the hearing players. Lai Hing loved going to weekly bingo, and it is so wonderful that Sylvia was able to make it possible for mom to participate independently with this small accommodation. Mom also loved doing puzzles and joined in at the Villa’s group puzzle table and loved the challenge of working on her own puzzles too. One of her favorite puzzles is a giant-sized deep red-colored cherry pie. She loved it so much that she asked her daughter to get it framed, so she could hang it on her wall alongside her other pieces of artwork. And in the earlier days, she was an avid gardener, growing her flowers and vegetables in her raised garden box, eager to show all her visitors how her plants were doing; her garden boxes were her pride and joy!
The Tam Family would like to also give thanks to the Villa’s caring management and staff as many family gatherings were held at the Villa, and access to the dining hall and bowling alley made it extra special because Popo could more easily take part.
Lai Hing loved to be active, joining the Saskatoon Deaf Seniors Club where she found a “home away from home” within a special deaf community circle of folks her age that accepted her and made her feel so incredibly warm and welcomed. The Tam family is so grateful for the kindness and camaraderie shown by the Saskatoon Deaf Seniors Club members and she has missed them a lot over the past two years as the weekly gatherings with the club were definitely an outing that she enjoyed very much!
Later in life, at about age 83, she started practicing tai chi with her special “tai chi family” led by Harry Ng’s heartful instruction at the Cosmo Seniors Centre with the warm-hearted caring of Myra’s coordination of the classes. Although her mobility and balance became more challenging as she grew older, she adapted quite well, and sometimes practiced chair tai chi or had a family member “spotting” to catch or steady her if she looked like she might tip over.
The world dramatically opened up for her when she was gifted an iPAD for Mother’s Day by her children; she was about 80 years old, and it wasn’t too late for her to learn how to FaceTime, along with playing Bee Cells, her favorite app! This past year, Popo fell in love with Long Meimei and loved bingeing on her videos. Popo had a magnetic calling for growing all things, saved seeds every year from her garden to plant the following spring .Upon Guy introducing her to Long Meimei (a traditional Chinese chef who is a famous video blogger), Lai Hing became enthralled by the photographic beauty of visual storytelling. These video blogs were a nostalgic, panoramic sensory experience, that took her back to her China homeland, to a simpler life in the country, a sense of being deeply in touch with nature and all its beauty.
Lai Hing loved to be a social butterfly, engaging with friends and family just about every chance she got! She enjoyed being surrounded by her large extended family, going on outings to a variety of authentic Chinese restaurants, enjoying picnics and barbecues, and gathering for celebrations of birthdays and holidays. On birthdays, at Christmas time or Chinese New Year’s, hong baos, red and gold Chinese money envelopes, were a fun tradition that marked many special occasions throughout the year. She’d give out hong baos, with two hands from her heart and invited us to receive her small money gift, with all our hearts, with two hands. This tradition, always filled us with such joy, to give and receive, from all of our hearts and Popo will be greatly missed as she was in so many ways the shining star that brought her large extended “ginger root” family tree together.
The Tam family will greatly miss her amazing cooking of so many home-cooked favorite dishes like: sticky rice, tomato egg, steamed potatoes with pork, moi toy, sticky glutinous rice balls, doong (a traditional Chinese rice dish stuffed with different fillings and wrapped with bamboo leaves – our favorite ones were “deluxe and loaded to the max” with a salty bright orange egg yolk with a piece of pork, chicken, Chinese sausage and a piece of pork belly, a carnivore’s delight, YUMMY!), congee with century eggs and fried Chinese donuts, stir-fried green hubbard squash with dried shrimps, steamed pork belly with bean curd, steamed ribs in black bean sauce and so many more! Mealtimes were always a highlight of the day and she cooked from her heart and often “by” heart, as she never wrote down her recipes since she liked to cook or bake by “sight, feel and taste”. She cooked her dishes from scratch, using fresh ingredients, and most of all, when she prepared food for our family, it came from her heart and her loving nourishment went straight to our hearts and souls.
Since her departure ceremony has begun, those of us whom had the pleasure to know and love her have had time to reflect and share fond memories. We are looking forward to practicing her biggest teaching which was to listen to our hearts and to follow the path of the heart. She felt her emotions deeply and expressed them with a tour de force; she lived and she loved with great passion and when angered or hurt, this was also just as intense and powerful. She challenged those around her to hold heart space, to accept her as she was and to seek understanding for the totality of her being; as she was sometimes an enigma, a “complex human puzzle” … in one situation, she could be so tender, sensitive, caring and vulnerable, and at other times, fiercely formidable with her strength, courage and determined (sometimes downright stubborn) spirit!
The Tam family is deeply grateful that Lai Hing was able to live such a full and well-lived long life! It’s like she had a second chance at life when she retired! Part of why Lai Hing stayed so active and had such vitality for so long is because of the incredible practitioners that made up her natural healing team along with medical doctors who respected her nature-based healing values and beliefs. The Tam family would like to give their heartfelt thank you and deep appreciation to: Sunava Hintz, Bernadette Hoffman, Karen Lucky, Dr. Duane Pochylko, Dan Ouellette, Dr. Lexy Regush, Dr. Paul Murphy, Dr. Carmen Rabuka, Dr. Moorosi, Dr. Naomi Whelan, Crystal and Lynne at the Pacemaker Clinic, and Dr. Fern Yee; and to a dear kindred daughterly spirit, Ming Sun, (she practiced Tui Na, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture as a loving Heartsong to our mother). Our dearest Ming is already in the sky realm, preparing the hot water to make a pot of fresh tea… we imagine Ming greeting our mom with a cup of warm tea to welcome her back home into our ancestral circle.
And lastly, and very importantly, the Tam family wants to extend its deepest appreciation, from the bottom of our hearts, for the 25 plus years of loving compassionate care and homeopathic counsel that Hoe Mark has so generously and humbly provided to Lai Hing, supporting the unfolding of her life and healing journey, which has culminated in our Mom’s Heartsong. We do not have the words to express our gratitude. Our sister Nancy, on behalf of our mother and the Tam family, will endeavor to live by and perhaps eventually share the Heartsong teachings of the “sacred harmonica.” The essence of the harmonica teachings is for us all to take care of each other. We would also like to express our deep thanks for the kindness shown to us by Jen Lane and John Antoniuk for their generosity and the offering of their beautiful gift of music to our Mom’s Heartsong.
The Tam family and extended family would like to thank the amazing team of doctors, nurses, support staff and social workers at Royal University Hospital for the expert and compassionate medical care our mother received during her short hospital stay and for everyone involved that helped our family to navigate through a very challenging and emotional time, making many small miracles possible, to give our family the chance to say farewell and conduct the departure ceremony that mom requested. We feel truly blessed and are very grateful.
The Tam family has been very moved by the compassion, empathy, patience, kindness and understanding shown to us from the caring staff at Prairie View Chapel and Crematorium as we prepared our mother for her departure journey. We are grateful for all the beautiful work that you have done for our mother and also for our other family members. Prairie View has become like family to us. Thank you.
The Tam family extends their deep gratitude for all the prayers, healing blessings, love, caring and support given to them during their mother’s departure journey.
We Love You Mom. We’re signing to you and sending you butterfly kisses and lots of pink sweet hearts filled with our gratitude and joy that you were the Blessing way portal into this lifetime for all of us to be together.
A small and private family Celebration of Life service will be held in Saskatoon at a later date; the family’s intention is to video record the service and a link will be posted to share at the Prairie View Chapel and Crematorium website in the near future: https://prairieviewchapel.com
If you wish to leave an online message of condolences for the Tam family, please go to the Prairie View website as listed above.
Due to the extremely cold weather that is upon us at the time of writing Lai Hing’s obituary, tentative plans are being made to have a special Tree planting ceremony in honor of Lai Hing Tam in the spring/summer of 2022 and it is hoped that a small outdoor gathering/picnic could be planned; weather permitting. More information will be shared once details are finalized.
In lieu of flowers, the Tam family would like to invite donations be made to support the deaf culture, arts, ASL and community-building in the province of Saskatchewan
in memory of Lai Hing Tam. Here are the 3 groups with directions on how to make a donation and some information is listed about each one further below. When making a donation, in the comments section, please write IN MEMORY OF LAI HING TAM.
1. Early Childhood Development and Family Services and Saskatoon Deaf Seniors Club
– go to this link and make a donation to Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
2. Dark Crows Collective – to make a donation, send your electronic money transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will go into their auto-deposit. A staff person will contact you regarding your donation should you wish to have a receipt.
Early Childhood Development and Family Services is a program that is funded by an annual grant and donations. It operates under the umbrella of the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (SDHHS) as a multi-disciplinary approach involving services which includes:
A. Home visits.
B. Baby sign and Sign Language instruction.
C. Basic information on strategies and tools for raising d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing children.
D. Consultation with other service providers on appropriate accommodations for children with different hearing levels.
E. Referrals to audiologists, speech-language therapists, hearing aid practitioners, and other rehabilitation professionals for therapy purposes.
F. Family literacy and education, support through play groups and family group meetings, resources and information.
G. Support through play groups and family group meetings.
H. Resources and information.
I. Connections to other d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, families, and d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing mentors.
J. Opportunities to participate in d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing culture, community events, gatherings, workshops, and activities.
The Saskatoon Deaf Seniors Club has been formed to enhance the social interactions and interpersonal needs of deaf members by playing bingo, whist drive, having small group gatherings or outings, going for lunch or supper, and attending or participating in special events of interest.
Dark Crows Collective is a non-profit organization. It is a group of Deaf and hearing actors who work together to explore the Deaf experience and ways to bridge all communication preferences, language choices, intersectionalities (such as race, class and gender) and visual communication styles. We are seeking ways to blend genres such as ASL poetry, puppetry, mime, the written and spoken word. We collaborate with Deaf and hearing artists, Deaf cultural consultants, ASL specialists and those who are culturally diverse to bring unforgettable experiences of navigating all worlds to audiences.
Sponsorship: Deaf Crows Collective performance and art projects are made possible thanks to the generous donations of public and private donors. For information about sponsorship of a future Deaf Crows performance, please email email@example.com
See the website link at: https://www.deafcrowscollective.ca/events.html
Go with all
We all share the journey. (HM)