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Lydia Sum - Few Joss Sticks Mark Her Grave




Months ago, Lydia Sum's funeral drew hundreds. Today, only family members pay respects

FEW JOSS STICKS MARK HER GRAVE
By Maureen Koh
 
June 02, 2008

THE contrast could not be greater.

Three months ago in Canada, on 27 Feb, the funeral for famous Hong Kong comedienne Lydia Sum drew a large police presence, a horde of journalists - both local and foreign - and a stream of shiny cars ferrying celebrities and officials.

About 300 people reportedly turned up at the established Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burnaby, Vancouver, to mourn her passing.

Heaps of flowers, with messages mostly in Chinese, had filled the site.

Early last month, when The New Paper on Sunday visited the place, there was a calm silence at Lydia's grave - Grave 1 in the Garden of Tribute.

One dried flower, a few stray rose stems, and some burnt joss sticks were scattered at the spot where Lydia was laid to rest. She had died on 19 Feb from cancer at age 62.

And during her funeral service, the Mayor of Vancouver, Mr Sam Sullivan, declared today as Fei Fei Day. 1 Jun was also the date of Lydia's birthday.

It would have been easy to miss Lot 1913, if not for Mr Brian Boyle, a manager at the cemetery, who led us there.

Markings from the slabs of grass and soil have grown faint. And there was only a small metal plate that read Sum Lydia Tin Ha (1945 - 2008).

Mr Boyle said: 'It takes about two to three months for the (tombstones) to be ready. More time is needed when Chinese characters are included. But we should have it ready by 1 Jun.'

Lydia was best known for her iconic thick, black-rimmed glasses, hearty laughter, and her self-deprecating humour about her heavy build.

Despite spending most of her time in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia such as Singapore, Lydia had also endeared herself to many in Vancouver, where she hosted the annual gala show for immigrant services group Success.

HEART OF GOLD

Miss Amelia Chew, who had worked with Lydia several times, said: 'She has a heart of gold. She never threw her weight around - and she'd always joke, 'I'm too heavy to do that'.'

At her Vancouver home, where she gave birth to her daughter Joyce Cheng, former neighbours had fond memories of her.

Retiree and Hong Kong immigrant Tong Tuck Cheong said: 'You'd know when she was back for the holidays. There'd be booming laughter coming from her house.'

Another neighbour, Ms Cristine Curtis, added: 'She was never snobbish and would always greet the residents with a wide smile.'

City councillor BC Lee said: 'She was always generous in lending her celebrity status for social and charity purposes. That special responsibility is something we have learned from her.'

At the ceremony where Mr Sullivan announced 1 Jun as Fei Fei Day, her daughter, now 21, had said: 'I know right now, my mother must be laughing out loud, her signature laugh - loud and proud - knowing that her birthday this year will be Fei Fei Day in the city of Vancouver.'

But it is expected to be a quiet affair today, when only family members will pay their respects at Lydia's grave.

Councillor Lee said: 'Usually, it is more an act of significance, like a mark of respect to the deceased. But Miss Sum lives on forever in the hearts of those who love her.'

Just like the Cheuk family, who wrote in the memorial book placed at the Dignity Memorial office at the cemetery: 'Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.'

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