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Keeping Traditions and Memories Alive
13 March 2013

Just a few days before the first day of the Chinese New Year this year, Ms Jacqueline Ang, Medical Social Worker at HCA Hospice Care, visited Mr Cheok Georgie Boy.

Mr Cheok is the widower of Mdm Chua Ah Moy, a former beneficiary of HCA Hospice Care’s home hospice service.

“I call her [Mdm Chua] ‘Ling’… ‘Ling’ as in the short form for ‘Darling’, and also because it reminds me of our bond, like a chain [similar-sounding to the word ‘link’],” shares the bubbly 77-year-old.

Mr Cheok recounts how he had cared for his wife tirelessly despite his frequent back aches. He was her primary caregiver for seven months.

The former fireman is hard of hearing and requires hearing aid for both his ears. Because of this, he bought a horn that was loud enough for his wife to wake him up at night if she needed help.

These are a few of her favourite things:

Mdm Chua’s pillow would be propped up high to help ease her breathing; a horn that Mr Cheok bought for Mdm Chua to alert him in the middle of the night if she needed any help; a heart-shaped pillow that Mr Cheok bought for Mdm Chua on Valentine’s Day years ago; a golden pendantthat Mdm Chua bought for Mr Cheok as a keepsake just a month before she passed on; and, a letterthat Mdm Chua left behind for her husband, detailing her final expression of love and gratitude towards her husband.

Turning to and gesturing at the empty bed behind him, Mr Cheok describes how difficult some days can be for him.

“After she passed away, one week or two weeks, every time I turned behind [to see her bed empty], I feel lost… makes me question the meaning of life,” says Mr Cheok, his lips quivering.

Wiping tears from his eyes, Mr Cheok shares that he has come a long way since his late wife’s passing last February.

For one, he has been open to accepting help and support from the community, including embracing the Christian faith and enjoying the companionship of his new friends from the activity centre for the elderly downstairs.

And, of course, there’s the ‘love’ letter which his late wife had left behind for him.

With the help of Ms Ang, Mdm Chua, who is illiterate, had the chance to put into writing (and drawing) her fondest memories of and wishes for her husband just before she passed on.

When I was helping Mdm Chua to write this letter for her husband, I wanted her ‘voice’ to be ringing in his ears… much like what she would actually say to her husband [if she was still alive]… so whatever she said, I just wrote down.

– Ms Jacqueline Ang, Medical Social Worker at HCA Hospice Care.

There are times when… at 2am, [I am] not able to sleep… I will read the letter she [Mdm Chua] left behind for me… and I feel I have the strength to go on.

– Mr Cheok, widower of Mdm Chua, a former beneficiary of HCA Hospice Care.

“There are times when… at 2am, [I am] not able to sleep… I will read the letter she left behind for me… and I feel I have the strength to go on,” says Mr Cheok quietly.

“Then I remember Ling calling for me and telling me one day, ‘I hope I can enjoy Chinese New Year with you,'” says Mr Cheok, teary-eyed again.

So, how did the couple spend their last Chinese New Year together?

Beaming from ear to ear, Mr Cheok describes his wife’s excitement, “From the bed, my wife would tell me exactly what to do, you know!”

Smiling at the mere memory of events leading up to their last reunion dinner together, Mr Cheok recalls the conversation that transpired between him and his late wife:

Mdm Chua: OK, now you take the basket, you go to the market.

Mr Cheok: What to buy?

Mdm Chua: We two persons only celebrate, the best [is] make yong tau hu*!

After ‘inspecting’ all the ingredients that Mr Cheok had bought from the nearby market, he says Mdm Chua simply could not contain her excitement then. She exclaimed, with an approving look on her face, “Good! We celebrate!”

For the next ten to fifteen minutes, Mdm Chua would give step-by-step instructions from her wheelchair to her husband in the kitchen on how to go about preparing the dish.

Even in the absence of an elaborate candlelight dinner, memories of their blissful ‘bonding’ over a simple, home-made dish that evening would last them both a lifetime.

“We had a very enjoyable reunion dinner, just the two of us,” says Mr Cheok who does not make an effort to hold back tears of joy.

*A Chinese soup dish with stuffed beancurd.

Till today, I haven’t spent it.

Mr Cheok shows the birthday red packet that was given to him by his late wife during his last birthday celebration with her over a year ago.

She’s the best wife… you can never find another like her

Mr Cheok bought red roses and pink, heart-shaped decorative items in loving memory of his late wife during her death anniversary this February.