(Readers of this post who do not know who Lydia Shum was may like to visit this site to get an idea of the person this post writes about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydia_Shum )
What’s the life expantacy of a Hong Kong female? The CIA World Factbook says it’s 84.6 (as at 2007) (source: http://www.indexmundi.com/hong_kong/life_expectancy_at_birth.html). Although the life expectancy for a person born in 1945 would be a few years shorter than 84.6 (the writer of this post could not find the exact figure), I would still be inclined to consider that Lydia Shum, who was born on 21 July 1945 and passed away on 19 Feb 2008 at the age of 62, lived a life much too short to deserve God’s early summon to leave this world.
However, for a person who began her career in Hong Kong’s entertainment industry at the age of 15 (in 1960), Lydia Shum made her continuous presence to the people of Hong Kong for a period of 47 years, i.e. almost half a century. And who in the world (not to say Hong Kong) has been able to stay active in the entertainment business in its history for a period longer than Shum did? What is more, what Lydia Shum did for the people of Hong Kong and for those in the wider Chinese community throughout the world, is that throughout her performer career she brought laughters to her audience. Laughters do not necessary imply happiness. The writer of this post buys into the Buddhist notion that life is suffering, and that happiness in life is unachieveable for people who lead only a mundane life. However, this should not prevent one from living a life of laughters, albeit admist suffering. Indeed, the fact that life is suffering makes laughters and fun all the more valuable for ordinary people like the writer of this post. Thus the loss of performer Lydia Shum is saddening, for throughout her entertainment career her presence always brought her audience joy, fun and laughters. Lydia Shum was large in size, and for that reason she was nicknamed “Fei-fei” by people of Hong Kong (a side-note for English readers who do not know Chinese: “Fei” means “fat” in Chinese). But every time when they refer to her with this nickname, whether it’s when she was alive or when now that she’s gone, most of them call Shum “Fei-fei” with sibling-like affection. And it’s beyond doubt that she deserved that.
Despite her always-fun-provoking image in front of her audience, Shum probably lived a life much gloomier than she appeared on stage after suffering understandably the most serious setback in life, when her husband Adam Cheng Siu-chow left her for another woman in early 1988, only eight months after she had given birth to their daughter Joyce Cheng Yan-yee. But Shum was a brave woman. She recovered fast, and kept on entertaining her Chinese audience in Hong Kong and Chinese communities in other parts of the world with her unique laughters. This bravery in her won the heart of probably every of her audience.
It certainly is extremely sad and unfortunate for an eight-month-old baby girl to lose her father and for a twenty-year-old young woman to lose her mother. Both things happened to Joyce Cheng, Fei-fei’s daughter. Joyce was never given a chance to enjoy her father’s love in the way most children do during their infancy, childhood, and adolescence. And now, having just passed her teenage, her very dear mother has been taken away from her. All parents with children would certainly have their hearts gone out to Joyce (the writer of this post parents a nineteen-year-old young man). In that regard, it’s comforting to see in the past few weeks since Fei-fei’s passing away how maturely Joyce has handled her mother’s passing way. Fei-fei would have smiled with great satisfaction upon seeing the way Joyce has been handling the misfortune of losing her at such a young age.
Without doubt, Fei-fei’s laughters will be fondly remembered along her name among all Chinese who have seen her performance in the past 47 years. Who hasn’t?
(P.S. Just a side note: Lydia Shum received her high school education at the Shanghai No. 3 Girls’ Middle School (http://www.ssnz.sh.cn/), which is probably the top high school in Shanghai. I happened to have visited this school in 1996 and 1997 and lived inside its campus for two weeks, when I was Head of the Chinese Department at Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School (http://www.bggs.qld.edu.au/) and took my students to visit this school in these two years, because the two schools were sister schools at the time. So I’m connected to Lydia Shum not just as an admirer of her character and talents, but also in having had some common experience in a very remote way.)