Malay and Chinese relatives reunite for Chinese New Year

Mr Jaafar (at far right), 43, receiving a red packet from his aunt, Madam Teo Seat Lay (left), 85, yesterday. Mr Jaafar's mother, Madam Zawiah, who was adopted by a Malay family when she was an infant, sought to reconnect with her biological Chinese
Mr Jaafar (right), 43, receiving a red packet from his aunt, Madam Teo Seat Lay (left), 85, yesterday. Mr Jaafar's mother, Madam Zawiah, who was adopted by a Malay family when she was an infant, sought to reconnect with her biological Chinese family in 2015. She died of liver cancer three months after the reunion, but her dying wish - for the bond between her two families to be made stronger - was fulfilled.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Family gets together again to fulfil dying wish of woman who was adopted as an infant

In June 2015, Madam Zawiah Abdullah, 69, met her Chinese biological family for the first time.

Tragically, the reunion did not last long - she died three months later of liver cancer.

However, the Malay family she had known for most of her life and the Chinese family she just met said the new-found bond would live on.

Yesterday, her eldest son organised a gathering on the second day of Chinese New Year.

Mr Jaafar Mohamed, who was busy preparing a barbecue at his Sembawang condominium, told The Straits Times that he was nervous. The 43-year-old engineer, who has three children, was not sure how many would turn up.

About 75 of his Chinese relatives did. Mr Jaafar's younger brother and 83-year-old father were also there, but a younger sister could not make it.

Madam Zawiah was born to a Chinese Singaporean family. Her mother died after giving birth to her, and her father gave her to an Arab family when she was one month old.

However, she ended up in the home of a Malay family soon after.

While undergoing palliative care at Alexandra Hospital in April 2015, Madam Zawiah told Mr Jaafar that she wanted to reconnect with her biological family.

The Straits Times website posted an article about her on May 30, 2015, describing her wish. Within hours, a friend of her biological family alerted it to the news. One week later, Madam Zawiah was reunited with her long-lost family.

"Almost every week, people just kept pouring into my home to see her," said Mr Jaafar.

"Before she went, she was very happy - that made me very happy."

Mr Jaafar said his mother accepted her fate. But she had one final wish - for that bond between her two families to be made stronger.

So preparing the barbecue made him nervous. "I ordered a lot of food," said Mr Jaafar, laughing.

Among those who turned up was Madam Teo Suak Huay, 89, Madam Zawiah's third sister.

Madam Zawiah was the youngest of 10 siblings, including three brothers. She is survived by six biological sisters, including Madam Teo, and a brother.

Mr Lim Hock Heng, Madam Teo's son, said the two families visit each other on special occasions and keep in touch.

Despite meeting Mr Jaafar only 18 months ago, the retiree said he now has a bond with the younger man. "He's still my cousin," said Mr Lim.

A cousin he met because Madam Zawiah had a simple wish - to meet her family again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Malay and Chinese relatives reunite for Chinese New Year'. Print Edition | Subscribe