A splash of oil into the sizzling wok, followed by a generous mound of spice paste.
These are familiar sights and sounds for HCA Day Hospice patient Safbrinah Yusof, 53, and her second son, Ahmed*, who often prepare dinner together for the family. Cooking for her family of five is a simple joy Safbrinah relishes.
The loving mother with her husband and daughter at the Family Foto Fair, a biannual event HCA organises for patients and their loved ones.
On the days that Safbrinah does not attend the HCA Day Hospice, the avid cook painstakingly whips up three meals for her family, an act of love she has lavished upon them for as long as she can remember.
Author Fleur Conkling Heyliger once said, “Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart but in it.”
To any outsider, Safbrinah’s family does not look different from that of any other nuclear family. In actuality, all of Safbrinah’s three children, aged 26, 24 and 11 respectively, are adopted.
Safbrinah and her husband had no prior plans for new additions to their family – rather, it was a twist of fate that brought them together. “I was helping my friend to look after her two sons,” Sabrinah explains. “Subsequently, I wasn’t able to reach her anymore; she didn’t pick up my calls.”
The boys’ biological father had also passed away by then, leaving them stranded. Having grown attached to the boys, Safbrinah and her husband decided to adopt them officially. The elder of the two, Farid*, has cerebral palsy but that did not deter Safbrinah. “I don’t find it very difficult to care for them,” she says humbly.
Mdm Safbrinah and Maisurah on a fun day out at the Family Foto Fair.
Safbrinah’s youngest daughter, 11-year-old Maisurah*, was just 24 months old when she came to stay with her after her biological father was incarcerated. “She was eight years old when her father was released and asked to take her back,” Safbrinah shares. “But Maisurah said she wanted to stay with me.”
Reserved by nature, Safbrinah is not one to overtly display her love. Instead, her greatest act of love is to instill independence in her children and to keep the household running like clockwork. “I created a timetable for them; Farid usually helps to do the laundry and wash the dishes,” she says. “My parents taught me to do things on my own, and in turn, this is what I am teaching them to do.”
Maisurah often goes grocery shopping with her, a simple routine the pair enjoys greatly. “The children have become more disciplined and obedient after they found out about my illness,” Safbrinah shares.
Safbrinah remains stoic about her illness and what the future holds. “My parents and brother-in-law all had cancer,” she says. “I saw how stress made things worse.”
“Right now, I am just focused on being as healthy and happy as I can be.”
*not their real names