Hertha and Daisy Liong-A-Kong

A Poem for My Mother: Hertha

Hertha and Daisy Liong-A-Kong

Hertha and Daisy Liong-A-Kong

On January 1, 1994, a few months after I graduated, my mother Hertha Gladys Liong-A-Kong - Ritfeld, passed away. Less than a month before that, she had been admitted to the Diakonesse Hospital after months of research had revealed stomach cancer. In those months of research, she was in pain, a lot of pain. My father kept my brother and I, who lived in the Netherlands, informed.

Once the disease was diagnosed, my brother and I flew to Suriname almost immediately to assist her with the rest of the family for the operation. I couldn't imagine a life without a mother and not a hair on my head had thought for a second that she wouldn't recover.

My mother was never sick as far as I can remember. In all my life my mother was once in the hospital for an appendix infection, but otherwise she was a super healthy person.

Healthy food, vegetables and sports every day are ingrained in us. Even at 55 she played basketball three times a week at Oase with her ladies club. When she wasn't playing basketball, I would go for a run with her. Sometimes we went to the Culture Garden, but later we just walked around the project where we lived. Shorts on, patas on and off you go. Looking back, it was quality time. I also have to laugh when I think of the time we still lived in Wagenining in the Nickerie District.

mon-and-pa-liong3One night, I don't even remember how we got it, we would go for a run with the whole family. Everyone, everyone, five of us, my brother, sister, father, mother and me. We lived Parkweg number five and would run circles around the park. Even me who wasn't really fond of jogging was in the mood for it.

What I can remember is that my dad, who has always been super healthy and, thank goodness, is healthy to this day, was sitting on the couch with a beer when we, the rest of the family, came home sweating exhausted. When my mom asked "Where were you?" was his answer, I did a round. You know, you have to build these things. I'm going to build it up slowly. You understand that was the last time we ever tried jogging together, but otherwise we were a sporty family. 

Except that my father, as it was a founder of Real Sranan befits, has always played football, my parents often played sports together. They have played volleyball, tennis and basketball together.

Healthy eating was at least as important. My mother, who was a very good cook, my friends still talk about her Pom and Bruine Beans, prepared delicious meals every day. She insisted not to use too much oil and fat, not too much rice, but more vegetables. Fruit was also an important part. In addition to having apple trees that were almost always in bloom, we also always had oranges, manjas or other fruit in the house. You can imagine it was a shock when cancer was diagnosed. 

I arrived in Suriname a day before she went under the knife. My dad then took the whole family to the hospital to encourage her. How happy I was to see her. We all were. It was a wonderful get-together. I didn't realize that was the last time we would all be together.

The cancer had spread too far. All the way to her lungs. That caused the pain. Suddenly she was no longer there. The rest of the days passed in a flash. I can't really remember much, but it was the first time that I experienced a Surinamese funeral up close and that also touched me deeply.

Her beloved sisters had come over from the Netherlands, but neighbors, friends, friends from far and wide also came to offer their condolences, sing, bring food, we really didn't have to lift a finger. Roy and Patricia, age-old friends of the family, were in full control. Until the day of the funeral, we commemorated my mother with stories and songs. That support really carries you through everything. 

The day of the funeral haunts me. What I do remember is the neighborhood kids, holding pink and purple Bouganvilles, waving a song to say goodbye to my mother. That was beautiful, beautiful I will always be grateful to them for that moment. 

I have tried to capture my feelings in the poem below.

Mi Mama

Mi Mama

Wan bun, bun libi suma

Mama Mama, Mi wan tak so furu

Fa un lobi yu, ma mi no man feni wortu


Fu tak sa mi firi na in' mi ati

Ma, grantangi fu alla sani

Alla lobi gi yu pikin, nanag yu masra

Always yu ben de nanga wan Zorgu brasa


Always yu ben the na unu sei

Cowardly ten and ten di un ben krei

Mama nanga un ati un sa brasa yu

Lek wan gudu sa ben lob lafu, leisi nanga ala ten jepi suma

En baja nang yu lobi wan, un papa


Mama, un na wan pisi fu yu

Ma yu na wan pisi fu unu tu

Bika yu sroto na un hati

So un heri libi un sa tjari

A lobi, krakti, nanga pasensi na ini wi

Da wi sa memre yu nanga bun fur prisiri


Mom we will never forget you

Daisy, Jeffrey, Tineke, Mireille



I wish everyone who is still a mother and or mother a very happy loving Mother's Day.