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All prepared to face what lies ahead
03 May 2016

Seah Ah Lay, 67, migrated (in the words of Ting Ting, his older daughter) to another world on 25th March 2016, coincidentally on Good Friday. It was a bittersweet moment for the family of four.

“It seemed like he chose the time of death (on a long weekend) for the convenience of everyone,” says Ting Ting who expressed that the love of her father for the family is boundless even till the point of death.

Seah and his wife, lovingly married for 37 years have two daughters, Ting Ting and Tian Tian. They share an intimate connection and are closely knitted – always caring for one another.

“Stop smoking,” says Ting Ting who used to reprimand her father whenever he lights a cigarette. Even though her words seemed piercing, her actions spoke otherwise. She cares for her father and shares a deep connection with him. Being a smoker for almost his whole lifetime, he willingly quit.

“His determination to quit smoking was very impressive,” shares Ting Ting.

Seah was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer which spread to his liver and pancreas in February. From a robust well-built man, Seah lost his strength to walk overnight. As a family, they had to adapt quickly to the changes – to care and be there for Seah physically and emotionally.

His deterioration was rapid and he passed on peacefully in March, after he caught a glimpse of Mrs Seah and Tian Tian, his younger daughter dozing off after staying by his side the entire night. They believed that he did not want them to suffer the pain of seeing him fade off.

“We were prepared at his last moments when the doctor advised us that my father only had two months left. Immediately, we looked for undertakers, a monk and a mugshot of him for the funeral,” says Ting Ting who did not want to be caught up in a situation when death hits her father. “We wanted to give him the assurance that everything is well taken care of.”

The tight knitted family managed to capture family portraits, requested by Tian Tian. Despite being tired from the photography session, Seah still waited patiently for his son-in-law to arrive from work just to have a complete family photo.

The family talks about their loving father as an adventurous and determined man who went through many hurdles in life. “He even swallowed his dentures,” exclaimed Seah’s wife jokingly.

Previously, he helped devotees interpret the meaning behind their divinity lots drawn, at the temple along Waterloo Street. He never stopped even after he fell ill. People would still ring him up to ask about their divinity lots. Thus, Seah’s phone line was not been terminated for a month even though he has passed on.

“My dad has gained the trust of many and I do not want to leave them hanging. At least, I should do my part to give them proper notice,” says Ting Ting.

The family also receives calls from strangers testifying about the good deeds that Seah has done. He has definitely left an imprint in many of their lives.

“I guess kindness begets kindness. My dad was fortunate and grateful to have Nurse Amy throughout the journey. Although official hours were over, Amy did not switch off her mobile. Instead, she advised me to call her late at night should anything happen,” says Ting Ting. “The night before my dad migrated, I called her a few times after 10pm and Amy guided me through every step.”

Seah had the luxury of time to decide on the type of funeral he wanted, the clothes to wear in his coffin, the mugshot for his hearse and even the method of burial.

His last wish was to die at home and he did, with no regrets.

PHOTO POSTED ON FACEBOOK BY SEAH TIAN TIAN BEFORE HE PASSED ON

“As a caregiver, we really do not know what to do, heavy hearted and empty when we see dad suffering,” says Ting Ting as she recounts the many precious moments spent with her dad. “But we knew that dad faced death gracefully and we did what was best for him.”

The bond and love abounding in the Seah family is irreplaceable and they are overwhelmed with gratitude to have spent the last days with Seah meaningfully. Despite the illness, they had the luxury of quality time together– a gift that every family should cherish.

You may drop a word of encouragement for the Seah family at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg. If you have any difficulties as a caregiver, feel free to visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/services/palliative-caregivers-programme to find out more about the support HCA Hospice Care provides.