Poet Khalil Gibran once said, “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, for in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”
For HCA Day Hospice patients Sim Beng Hoon, Poh Ah Guay and Lim Jin Lee, friendship is a well of joy that never runs dry. “The three of us give each other hope,” Beng Hoon says. “We all live in the east and take the same van to and from the Day Hospice. We laugh and chat along the way.”
Friends who have found kindred spirits in each other: (from left) Sim Beng Hoon, Lim Jin Lee and Poh Ah Guay.
Beng Hoon distinctly remembers her first day at the Day Hospice in early 2019. “Polly [HCA Assistant Day Hospice Supervisor] picked me up from my house,” she shares. “She warmly introduced herself and said, ‘Don’t worry about falling down, we will take care of you’.”
Polly’s words offered comforting reassurance, as Beng Hoon had repeatedly expressed concerns about losing her balance at home to HCA Senior Resident Physician Dr Richard Yap, when she was still under home hospice care.
Beng Hoon soon found a kindred spirit in Ah Guay, who readily struck up a conversation with her. “Ah Guay encouraged me to make myself at home and assured me that we would take care of each other,” she says. “She also shared her own experience with cancer and the treatments.”
When cancer struck in 2017, Beng Hoon was given a short prognosis of just three months. “There was still so much I wanted to do – I loved dancing and singing and I also wanted to spend more time with my grandchildren,” she shares. “I was worried and heartbroken for my children; they travel often for work and they had to shuttle back and forth to take care of me.”
The emotion in Beng Hoon’s voice is not lost on Ah Guay, who reaches over to pat her arm gently. “I told her, ‘We didn’t choose to be ill, but it is beyond our control and we just have to be strong’,” Ah Guay says.
A familiar face at the HCA Day Hospice, Ah Guay is always eager to help the Day Hospice staff with tidying up the place. Her affinity for the afternoon karaoke sessions has earned her the nickname of “The Queen of Hokkien Songs”.
Jin Lee (center) with fellow Day Hospice patient Eric Ong (foreground) and volunteers from KFC.
The only thorn among the roses, Jin Lee, believes that the shared experience of terminal illness has enabled them to better understand and empathise with each other. “I think my role here is to be a friend to others,” he says. “Our days are numbered – we should all try to be happy and kind to others.”
The word “hospice” often conjures depressing notions of death and dying. But any regular day at HCA Day Hospice tells a starkly different story: one of friendship, warmth and camaraderie.
Outings for the Day Hospice patients are often filled with chatter and laughter.
Beng Hoon sums it up simply: “The Day Hospice is such a happy place. In this last stage of my life, I am filled with contentment.”