Thanks for the care & concern you have showered upon me over the last 22 odd years in my life. I know you have taken care of me in the earlier days of my life back in your old home of blk 407. However, the defining years whereby there was significant progress in our relationship were probably during my junior college, national service & university years. The only catalyst I can think that set off this process was probably the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I begun to spend more time at your place, the memories of new year visits & weekly visits were much more clearer.
I shared many fond memories with you but they can be grouped under the frequent & usual conversations I had with you, the memories of your expression of love to me and the progression of your cancer. I clearly remember the usual advices you had dispensed to me:
• when I gave money to you “don’t give me money now, save them and study hard, then you can afford to give me more money when you got a high paying job”
• when you wanted me to work hard for my studies “ don’t look for a girlfriend so soon, study hard get a good job and then look for a girlfriend”. I remember a particular incident whereby I actually replied I had a girlfriend, you look shocked but had a good laugh when I said her name was “Ang Ai Thiam”
• I remember you often told me not to get mad & learn to endure my dad’s antics whenever I complained because “he was my father after all, he worked very hard to support our family and send me through university, and something not all fathers will do”. You can also empathize with my feelings.
• And the funny stories you shared with us regarding the unhygienic hospice or it colorful inhabitants and the times you got into incidents, be it in your younger or senior days.
I remembered the promises I made to you. To bring you to church, to give you a good life and to bring you overseas to enjoy once I made my big bucks. I am so sorry that I could not fulfill it, this is something I deeply regretted & I will not make this mistake with my mother, no matter how she may treat me. I also feel so appreciated & affirmed that you enjoyed my company & I mattered so much to you. This was evident when you praised me in front of your friends and relatives. Perhaps it is true that life is meaningless if you do not have someone who you matter to.
Your unconditional love was expressed to me in the form of the delicious food you had prepared for me, your concern about my physical & financial well-being and how you put my needs above yours. I have very fond memories of the dishes you prepared, at times, especially for me.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, I can better appreciate your effort when your dropped by my place: the bus trip, lugging of groceries and ascending the stairs to my place. There were couple of times whereby I saw you panting, and I actually thought it was the weather…. To think I even told you once that exercising is good for your health when this was such an arduous task for you. Even so, there were many times when I could not be around when you enquire about me or when I prefer to keep myself occupied with the computer; I had let my addiction get the better of me.
I also remember how readily you would cook my favourite dishes: the muay chai, bah ku teh, hebi hiam and the papayas or water melon. You had shown yourself to be such a caring mother, that is so unique and irreplaceable in my heart. I also remember you reprimanding my mother for going shopping always, forgetting about the kids meals. That is my definition of a mother & my needs.
I can also remember the time when you struck 4D and treated me to delicacies, you were so adorable & the experiences were priceless when you told me to keep it a secret that you had treated me after striking 4D. there was café cartel, KFC, you treat me to the pork ribs & zinger meal (hanbaobao). You don’t work, you income is limited, but still… This was something so firmly etched in my mind & the feelings are so strong! I was devastated and could not reconcile the fact when I knew that you were gone forever. But I am glad you are in good hands. As I am.
The period you were ill and had to spend time in the hospital was one of the most eventful period in my life when I got to understand my family members and you better. There was a swift degeneration of your health, how you became bed-ridden and robbed of your freedom to perform your daily activities like walking, cleaning yourself, marketing, doing the housework and cooking. Reflecting on the events that had happen, you must have been so brave as it must have been such an isolating period of your life. Leaving your home of 6 years, leaving your close ones, sleeping at an alien place filled with people diagnosed with terminal conditions, losing the freedom of doing your daily activities, taking the medical cocktail and all those painful medical procedures which deprived you of a decent meal. Even then, you also put our needs above your’s by telling me to go for classes instead of visiting you, and chasing us off early so as to allow us to have a good rest. I do not know whether you truly meant it, but deep in my heart I believe I already have the answer: that you will prefer people who are dear to you to support you if possible.
I remember the fear & shock in my heart when I saw you delirious after taking the medication…I was utterly devastated scared that I might lose this mother I have known and looked up to. Fortunately you recovered and the steroids managed to induce your appetite. I remembered the prawn noodles, baked potatoes & croissants which you so eagerly relished. I was so happy I could do something substantial for you, to feed you & provide emotional support in return in your time of need.
Soon, you were back at home and the threat of impending death didn’t seem too real after all; though you lost your curly hair and your body substantially weakened, you were with us. As much as I regretted reducing the frequency of my visits due to my other commitments in your last days, I am really glad I got to spend quality time with you, comfort & understand you before you slipped into a degenerated state. As the steroids were reduced, you lost your appetite, recovered strength and the headaches returned, very soon you couldn’t speak coherently, lost your basic bodily function and could only look listlessly at the ceiling. I felt so hopeless as I realized your condition will only deteriorate. The inevitable has finally arrived and I saw your lifeless body on the bed, it struck me so vividly that I took a while to digest the picture. It was only when aunty cat told me to say some last words to you when I realized how much I loved you! I cried.
Everything went by so smoothly and the next moment you were embalmed before me. The only thing that left I could possibly do to help you would be to take care of the visitors and keep a lookout for your wake during the night.
You will remain deep in my heart because you had changed me. You could not write and teach but you had showed me through your life the meaning of unconditional love. I can see you in myself and I promise to make my life a tribute to you.