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“Precious Gems 10″ – Mom’s Love
01 March 2017

When we arrived at Aunty Chan’s* home, two domestic helpers greeted us at the door. The house was spick and span. The helpers had done a great job in keeping the place clean and tidy and the entire home had a very pleasant fragrance. Hanging prominently on the wall, was a large photo of Aunty Chan and her two daughters proudly clutching their graduation scrolls in their graduation gowns. Lying quietly in the corner of the hall, was a Maltese and I learnt later from Aunty Chan that the 17 year old dog belonged to her daughter, Irene*.

Aunty Chan was in the living room and she immediately directed us to Irene’s room. Irene, in her forties, was suffering from breast cancer, which had spread to her brain. Our nurse held Aunty Chan’s hand and asked her if she had done what we had recommended her to do – to say “I’m sorry”, “Please forgive me”, “Thank you”, “I love you” and “Goodbye” to Irene. With tears rolling down the sides of her face, Aunty Chan sadly told us she had, but lamented that Irene was unresponsive. “Aunty Chan, even if Irene doesn’t answer you, she can hear you,” our nurse consoled Aunty Chan.

Our nurse asked Chachi*, one of the helpers, how often Aunty Chan would speak to Irene and she told us that she would bring Aunty Chan into Irene’s room every morning. However, Chachi said that she was very sad and could not bear it, as Aunty Chan would cry so much, that it broke her heart. She would quickly ‘wheel’ Aunty Chan out again. Aunty Chan is lucid but immobile from the waist down. She has a hospital bed of her own in the living room and….. Aunty Chan is also our patient.

Our nurse then patiently ‘tested’ Chachi and Flores*, the other helper, asking them what they would do and what medication they would give in various scenarios, like if Irene was gasping, if Irene had a fever and even if Irene were to stop breathing. Our nurse was satisfied with the answers given. She cheerily graded them 70 out of 100 and told them that she would be back in three days and would like them to score 100 out of 100 by then.

Aunty Chan, who also suffers from Glaucoma, requested our nurse to help postpone her eye doctor’s appointment the next day, as she didn’t want to be away from Irene. She was very aware that Irene had a very short time left. Even Chachi understood the situation and told us that she would not be taking any days off, in the next few weeks. I held Aunty Chan’s hand and she gripped mine tightly. With tears still rolling down her cheeks, she told me that this situation could not be helped. I understood her emotions fully, how it felt for a mother to lose her child. I felt sad and could only hold onto Aunty Chan’s hands tightly.

I felt even sadder when I learnt that while Irene is the single, older child of Aunty Chan’s two daughters, Emily*, the younger daughter had just over a year ago, passed on due to cancer. Despite all that has happened, Sam*, Emily’s husband, is now supporting his mother-in-law and sister-in-law. A heavy toll on Sam, but he caringly does his part and continues to love and support his in-laws. Kudos to Sam, Chachi and Flores – they are true GEMS!

*Not their real names