Our Big Sister

“Yolanda-Our Big Sister” as we call her, was near and dear to my family. She suddenly left her loved ones with an irreparable loss on 17 December 2010. She had just returned from a pilgrimage tour of the Middle East. Her departure was silent, serene and peaceful. Having the opportunity to know Yolanda was a God send to myself and my family.

In 1997, I was posted on an assignment to Singapore. My wife, Hpyu Hpyu and I met Yolanda for the first time at a lunch at hosted at the house of John Murphy and Daw Yin May Myat, a scholar and a teacher. At that time, Yolanda was the Librarian at RELC. We reciprocated cordial visits and our friendship grew. I was transferred to Myanmar in late 2000. We had to leave our daughter Ma Yi Mon Soe in Singapore, as she was attending her Diploma course in Nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic. Yolanda gladly offered to take care of our daughter and even became a God Mother to Ma Yi Mon Soe. We were relieved of the burden and the anxiety which every parent has when they are separated from their child. Naturally, we kept in contact with Yolanda. She was a good mother in our absence. She groomed our daughter so well that she became a Registered Nurse at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and obtained a degree in Bachelor in Health Sciences from the University of Sydney. Now, she is working as a Senior Nurse at SGH.  We are so grateful to Yolanda for her able guidance and strict discipline. She was extremely proud to have witnessed the achievements of her god daughter.

Yolanda on the occasion of Ma Yi Mon Soe's graduation 21 Sept 2007

The years passed by and Yolanda had taken the elder sister’s place in our family. She attended the engagement of Ma Yi Mon Soe in Bangkok and the wedding ceremony in Yangon. Zin Sabai Moe and Ingyn Mon, the children of Ma Yi Mon Soe and Soe Moe Tun, became the grand daughters of Yolanda. She enjoyed the family warmth from all of us. She had never failed to be present at our family events and celebrations.

Yolanda’s concern for others was an extraordinary character trait. She never failed to wish on our birthdays or on other happy occasions. The card was always followed by a long distance call to extend her wishes. Yolanda never failed to offer her help to the needy with a charming smile. She never shared her worries with others while she accepted others as her own.

As we are entwined from different parts of Asia, initially we have to meet and cherish the joy together in life and, finally when the time comes, we have to depart to our own grounds not knowing the schedule or the itinerary of one’s destiny. Yolanda had proved it vividly to us and to others.

Lord Will Bless Our Dear Sister/God Mother/Aunty/Grand Mother Yolanda, for sharing her loving kindness (Metta) and for bringing happiness and joy (Sukha) to each and everyone. We enshrine her merits and good deeds also.

‘Yolanda still lives in our hearts and will always be.’

Contributed by U Myint Soe (Victor), Retired Senior Diplomat, Daw Hpyu Hpyu Gyan, Ma Yi Mon Soe and Soe Moe Tun, Paing Soe, Kaung Myat Soe and Mra Chaw Su Aye, Zin Sabai Moe and Ingyn Mon, and Maria in Yangon, Bangkok and Singapore

“Sweet Yolanda” is how I remember her when we first met in 1998 and always will. She went out of her way to take me to different churches each time I visited Singapore. It was a big treat for me to be able to enjoy different choirs, different sermons from different churches she took me to.

We accept her as our big sister and my niece’s god-mother. I cherish the moments we had shared together on Sundays over lunch and dinner with my family.

I will always remember her in a red dress on her birthday on 6 September 2010, not realizing that it would be the last time that I would see her. It is a big loss for us – like losing a family member.

Contributed by Esther Rose Gyan in Yangon