We were warmly welcomed into the home of Uncle Lim. Doreen*, his sister showed us to Uncle Lim’s well-kept room. Uncle Lim was seated on the edge of his bed, looking out the window. When he saw us, he smiled warmly and immediately requested Doreen to get us some drinks. “How is everyone? Thank you for coming to see me”. Uncle Lim was stricken with cancer of the lungs and just at the end of last year, had his right leg amputated. All he had remaining of his right leg, was just a 20cm stump below the hip socket.
Our nurse asked Uncle Lim to lie down so she could examine him. He said, “You have to wait, please. I need to travel from Jurong to Sembawang!” For a moment, I was stumped and then realised what he meant. Uncle Lim meant he had to take time to shuffle on his bed from a sitting position to a lying position, preferring to do it on his own, without assistance from anyone. Our nurse replied, “No problem, we will wait. Later, you need to travel back to Jurong!” We all had a good laugh.
After examining Uncle Lim, he then had to ‘travel from Sembawang to Jurong’ and after a bit of a struggle, got back to a sitting position. I looked around his room and standing at one corner of the room, was a prosthetic leg. He had previously told our nurse that he would never have the chance to use it since he did not have the strength nor energy to put it on to walk. But he wanted it, so that he could have it put on when he passed on and that he would be ‘whole’. “Everyone wants to look nice even in death” he said with a chuckle.
When asked if he needed anything, Uncle Lim asked for a letter from us, to indicate that he was not fit to travel to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to collect his new Identity Card (IC). He told us that his IC was to be changed since last year and he had refused to do it. “I may as well not waste resources since I will be ‘surrendering it’ soon”. Given the grim prognosis of his cancer, he was unwilling to change his IC. But the one year grace for his IC change came to an end, and he had no choice. He showed us a photo his niece had taken for him at home, for his new IC and asked if he looked handsome. We all agreed he looked very nice. He said, “You know, with this face I could go to Chinatown and all the Samsui women would fall in love with me. But I would never be able to go to Orchard Road. All the women would run away from me”.
In the face of adversity, Uncle Lim was realistic about his impending death. He was stoic when he shared with us how he lost his leg, showing us quite gruesome photos of how a small pimple on his knee, grew to become a lump as large as a honeydew. He did not shy away from talking about his readiness to die. He said everyone has to face death, we just need to make the best of our remaining days. I was so encouraged and impressed with his inner strength and will.
Uncle Lim is down-to-earth, he is jovial and cracks jokes at every opportunity in spite of his condition. He made it so easy for us to converse with him. Uncle Lim is indeed a jolly good fellow!
*not his real name