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Remember Me… Or What's Left Of Me.
13 March 2013

"Today, I am glad to have this opportunity to speak up against drugs, alcohol, smoking and youth delinquency," says 53-year-old Mr Mahmood Salleh, a beneficiary of HCA Hospice Care's home hospice service.

As unlikely as it seems, this soft-spoken, frail-looking man used to lead a drug-ridden lifestyle.

"Take a look at me and listen to my story – don't repeat my mistakes and make it your story," he says. "I hope my voice will reach out to families who will help their daughters and sons stay away from drugs so their future stays bright and full of life."

"Throughout my conversation with Mahmood, he never failed to smile even though he may be in pain," recalls Ms Nuraisha Nassir Teng, better known as Aisha, volunteer writer of What's Left of Me: A Former Addict's Pilgrimage To Forgiveness In His Final Days, a photo diary put together by a group of volunteers for Mr Mahmood and his family.

"Mahmood never complained and he never asked for sympathy," says Aisha who had the opportunity to document the patient's life journey as a filial son, a caring brother and, today, an ardent advocate for a drug-free life.

Cherished memories:

Mr Mahmood Salleh, seen here feasting and making merry with his family during Hari Raya Haji in 2012. He hopes to dedicate What's Left of Me: A Former Addict's Pilgrimage To Forgiveness In His Final Days  to his family whom he refers to as his "pillar of strength through [his] troubled days."

Regardless of the struggles that Mr Mahmood faced throughout his dangerous dalliance with drugs, Aisha says she is impressed and moved by the consistent support that his family has shown towards him.

The freelance writer who is a full-time media research analyst adds that she is heartened by Mr Mahmood's strength and courage to share his story with others.

"For me, having the opportunity to write about Mahmood meant rediscovering life and what it means to love and to be loved," says Aisha.

Acknowledging that Mr Mahmood had wanted to do his part to raise awareness and educate youths on the dangers of drug use and abuse, Aisha reflects on how she was humbled by the experience of volunteering for this project.

"It was through his [Mr Mahmood's] simple yet poignant message that I felt we needed to serve as the medium to relay his message to others," she says.

Even though she admits to feeling nervous about coming across as "intrusive" initially, she says Mr Mahmood had assured her that this was, indeed, "his last wish."

"This is the first time I'm volunteering with HCA Hospice Care and I truly look forward to more opportunities like this," says Aisha who enjoys meeting and writing about people from all walks of life.

"The act of giving and expecting nothing in return is the best form of love you can present to a stranger," she adds.

The best form of love:

Aisha says "the act of giving and expecting nothing in return is the best form of love you can present to a stranger."

"It is the first step that matters":

Ray [right] says Mr Mahmood [left] has inspired and touched him in more ways than one. He encourages others to take the first step to volunteer to bring joy, warmth and hope to others in need.

For Mr Ray Chua, the photographer who was responsible for capturing some of the most private and pivotal moments in Mr Mahmood's life, this is his second time volunteering.

The engineer-turned-photographer who has 15 years of newsroom experience as a photojournalist first began volunteering with Singapore Hospice Council. Together with three other photographers, Ray had helped to document the lives of eight hospice patients for a coffee table book, titled, Departure.

Later, he came to know of Mr Mahmood through one of HCA Hospice Care's nurses who had worked with him on Departure previously.

A firm believer in sharing his knowledge and expertise, Ray says others should also step forward to volunteer their individual skills and services, and this need not be limited to monetary terms.

"It is the first step that matters," he says. "By volunteering, others can bring joy, warmth and hope to the needy in our midst."

After meeting Mr Mahmood for the first time, Ray went home to share with his wife what a good person he thought Mr Mahmood was.

"I applaud his [Mr Mahmood's] courage to share his story," he says. "Agreeing to open up and allow a stranger like me to snap photos of him and his family when he was at his most vulnerable must have been challenging for him, too."

"Hopefully, the documentary effort can help raise awareness on the harmful consequences of drug abuse and deter others from stepping into [similarly] muddy waters," says Ray.

Through the experience, Ray says he is now able to better appreciate the importance of family.

"It is common for people to make mistakes, but to have family members who choose to forgive and to forget, and to extend a helping hand and their unconditional love to us during difficult times is something that's hard to come by and should be cherished," he says.

To view a copy of What's Left of Me: A Former Addict's Pilgrimage To Forgiveness In His Final Days, visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/wp-content/uploads/Whats-Left-of-Me_Final-Low-res.pdf.