Dear Mom

It’s hard to believe it has already been a month since you left us. Feels like it was just last week we were all by your bed­side; singing to your favourite Car­pen­ters tunes, feed­ing you meal after meal, stroking your hands remind­ing you we’re around, stay­ing up all night with you when you just couldn’t sleep as a result of steroid doses.

When Dad called me that night you slipped into a crit­i­cal con­di­tion, I froze in utter fear. I wasn’t pre­pared at all. Not now, not this early; was the only thing I had in my mind. I booked the first flight out of Mel­bourne the next morn­ing as Dad flew to KL that night itself.

It was the worst flight I have ever had in my entire life. Eight whole hours of pure agony; com­pletely cut off from the out­side world while all the while know­ing that you might leave any­time, any­time at all. I prayed, and prayed hard, if only you could hold on.

I kept revis­it­ing the day I left KL. You were lying down, with a blan­ket of nee­dles on your body as you were sched­uled for acupunc­ture that morn­ing as part of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cine treat­ment you held on so dearly in hope when West­ern oncol­o­gists waved the white flag on the relent­less progress of can­cer in your body.

Uncle was wait­ing out­side the hos­pi­tal with my lug­gage all loaded into his car. I held your hand and gave you an awk­ward hug all the while try­ing not to bend any nee­dles. I gave you a long, hard look know­ing it would be another six months before I’d see you again. I couldn’t remem­ber what we said, but that moth­erly smile you gave stuck in my head all throughout.

I walked out of the hos­pi­tal doors with a heavy heart, towards uncle wait­ing in his car. Lit­tle did I know my two-week stay with you in the tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cine hos­pi­tal would be one of my last mem­o­ries with you. “Don’t worry about mom,” uncle told me on the way to the air­port, “Live every moment while you’re there in Aus­tralia. Your mom would’ve wanted that.” Every inch of me thought six months would just come and go, and then we’d be reunited again. I was so sure of it.

Eight hours did go by, and soon I found myself run­ning past doc­tors and nurses, hos­pi­tal beds and wards, stop­ping short just before the door to your ward in Pal­lia­tive Care.

You were all smiles when I walked in. I clasped your hand in mine, while imme­di­ately notic­ing the tubes attached to you and your swollen right arm as a result of the upper arm frac­ture you suf­fered from the fall you had back in the tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cine hos­pi­tal. My heart sank.

I remem­ber just say­ing, “Ma.” I know you’d recog­nise me, but you were hardly able to speak. Nei­ther was I, for your moth­erly gaze and that smile you wore was more than enough to sent me chok­ing with emo­tion, tears, and a lost for words.

You were both atten­tive and alert, and had the com­plex­ion of a per­fectly healthy per­son. How you man­aged to pull through the night before; cold, life­less and gasp­ing for air, only God and his grace knew. But the next few days we spent together in the ward with you as a fam­ily, dad, sis­ter and I, was one of the most ful­fill­ing peri­ods in my life.

I’m sure you’d already know this, but we have the most amaz­ing rel­a­tives around. Your sis­ters, despite their hec­tic office hours, braved through the noto­ri­ous KL traf­fic to visit you every sin­gle day. So did cousins and grand­par­ents who fre­quently tagged along when­ever they could. Every day with­out fail, your ward would be filled with friends and rel­a­tives as we dec­o­rated the win­dows and walls with origami cranes and hearts, fill­ing the room with love, songs, laugh­ter and hap­pi­ness all the while try­ing to keep that lovely smile on your face, which really wasn’t hard to main­tain at all. And all these sim­ply wasn’t pos­si­ble with­out such warm and touch­ing fam­ily ties.

This room is full of love,” Dr. Tan would say as he con­cluded his morn­ing check-up on you, look­ing around at all the hearts and cranes on the walls he con­tin­ued, “Can you share some with me? I lack of love.”

Due to your brain con­di­tion and lack of energy for speech, you were slow and remained mostly quiet — in speech. But one of my fond­est mem­o­ries of you dur­ing those days with you was the lit­tle nods and expres­sions you’d make when­ever we’d try to com­mu­ni­cate or ask you some­thing. There were times you’d mut­ter hilar­i­ous single-replies that sent every­one in the ward into laugh­ing fits. You’d greet every vis­i­tor with that gen­er­ous smile of yours and even occa­sion­ally with a soft “Hello.” when­ever you felt a lit­tle better.

Mom, such pos­i­tively is what you instill in oth­ers with­out much effort, even when you’re the one who is bedrid­den. Your spirit and willpower is with­out a doubt, the strongest in any­one I know. No one I know has the capac­ity to pull through six years of such a dam­ag­ing dis­ease with­out a sin­gle com­plaint. But you did.

When doc­tors took you off steroids later that week, you fell into a deep, serene sleep. That night, aunt cel­e­brated her birth­day with all of us in the ward in front of you. Every­one was there, grand­par­ents, uncles and aunts, cousins and all. You were so tired you slept through the whole party. Pho­tos of aunt cut­ting her cake with you sleep­ing away in the back­ground still bring tears to eyes to this day.

You never really did wake up. We never really found out how con­scious were you. You did man­age a sip or two of milk the next morn­ing with your eyes closed. But you looked so serene sleep­ing away all day and night we felt it was bad to wake you up.

You were deep asleep when you took your last breath.

It took awhile for us to notice some­thing was amiss as you spat out water you failed to sip on. We started call­ing out to you, shak­ing fran­ti­cally for you to wake up.

I ran out to the nurse’s sta­tion, chok­ing with tears and dis­be­lief, stam­mer­ing at a bunch of nurses, “My mother. Breath­ing.”, I swal­lowed hard, “Stopped breath­ing. Please, come!”

It was the 9th of April. And we were all by your side.

With six years of can­cer under your belt, it was a mir­a­cle you were in lit­tle or no pain at all.

Your wake was unlike any other. Not that I have attended one before, but close friends of yours came up to us say­ing there was def­i­nitely a joy­ous air sur­round­ing the oth­er­wise solemn aura of funeral par­lours. “I wouldn’t worry about your Mum now,” Aunty Gui Li told me and Shuyi, with a slight smile as she gazed towards you.

It was like a grand finale of a the­ater play; where all the cast make a grand reap­pear­ance on stage and when we’d feel a tinge of sad­ness upon know­ing that the show has come to end.

Char­ac­ters of the sto­ries you have been telling us of your child­hood; your adven­tures with high school friends, of your pop­u­lar­ity among boys in school, all showed up in real life. Peo­ple we’ve never met before walked up to sis­ter and I, “I sat beside your mother way back when we were in Pri­mary One,” a for­mer class­mate of yours would tell us, “You should know that she was an amaz­ing friend to me.”

Mom, Melbourne’s such a lovely place. I wish you could see the things I see, go to the places I’ve been. It’s a whole new world out here, and I’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things. I had been look­ing for­ward to you com­ing, wish­ing I’d be able to show you just how beau­ti­ful Mel­bourne is. But that’s okay, Dad and sis will still be com­ing over after my finals and I’m sure they’ll very much enjoy their time here.

Dad’s at the height of his career. His efforts in his field are start­ing to gar­ner atten­tion through­out the coun­try. Some­thing I’m sur­prised that it hadn’t hap­pened sooner, given how ded­i­cated and metic­u­lous of a man he is. You know him bet­ter, Mom. After all, you’re the one who chose him.

Shuyi’s doing great, too. She’ll be doing her A-Levels really soon and frankly, nobody’s wor­ried about her given her track record in aca­d­e­mic suc­cess. I see a lot of you in her, Mom. And and that only means she’ll be shap­ing up into a fine young woman by the time she com­pletes her stud­ies in the UK.

Don’t worry about us, Mom. As you can see, we’re cop­ing fine. We take com­fort know­ing that death is just the end of one life, but the begin­ning of another; a begin­ning of some­thing more.

Some­times we’d grief or cry, but that’s just us try­ing to adapt to that void; lit­tle things we’d come across on a daily basis that inad­ver­tently leads us to be reminded of you. You were, after all, our mother. And there’s no deny­ing a mother’s place in a child’s heart.

But Mom, though you are no longer with us, your spirit and legacy will live on.

Mom and us


Happy Mother’s Day, Ma.


by shenghan in Life on 8th May, 2011 at 5pm, Sunday, May 8th, 2011 05:08 pm GMT +8

41 Comments

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  1. It’s touch­ing… T___T
    I’m sure your mom will proud of u :)

  2. wying said

    you know, we used to call you han di di. But when I saw you and heard your story the other day, I real­ized you were so much more mature than most of us. I couldn’t imag­ine myself being in your shoes. I’m sure your mum is very proud of you.
    Take good care of your­self and all the best in your stud­ies, and enjoy your life, of course. Hope to see you soon in near future. :)

    • Thank you for com­ing over that day, wying. Really means a lot.

      Well don’t say I’ve never tried to stop you guys from call­ing me that, haha! But I def­i­nitely wouldn’t say I’m more mature. It’s just part of life. We all have dif­fer­ent hard­ships to face, I’m sure you have yours.

      For you to make such an effort to attend my mother’s wake when it was so hard to get to for you; showed matu­rity in you that I wouldn’t even have matched. =)

  3. Michelle said

    一天的妈妈,一辈子的关系。经历这样的事,你长大了。她在父那里会感到欣慰的。加油!在那里一切顺利。

    • shenghan said

      Thank you, Michelle! It takes me to expe­ri­ence it myself to really look up to peo­ple like you who lost their moth­ers at such an early age. I can’t imag­ine how hard it must be for you. Thank you for the words of encour­age­ment. All the best to you too!

  4. Con­do­lences ember, been really long since I last saw you, didn’t know that your mom left 2 days after my dad…

    Hope you are doing fine!

    • shenghan said

      I’m so sorry to hear that, kiam. Sorry I didn’t know about your dad. My con­do­lences to you and your fam­ily too. I hope you’re cop­ing fine.

      I’m doing stu­dent exchange in Mel­bourne now. Should really catch up with you when I return to Kuch­ing by August!

  5. My dear friend,

    You mom would be very proud of you, do con­tinue to make her proud and to be the great­est per­son you mom has ever seen :)

    May you con­tinue her legacy and her love, her smile and her mem­o­ries will always be in your hearts.

    You know you can! Ganbate!

    Regards,
    Kendrick

    • shenghan said

      Thank you, Kendrick. You’ve been a great friend to talk to now and then, and espe­cially when I have some­thing to share about my mom. Thank you for being there! =)

  6. kimberly chew said

    This is the loveli­est mother’s day mes­sage i read, Sheng Han! I know your mom and what you said about her is so true. She’s brave n cheer­ful all time through­out.…. You made me shed tear every time i read this. We all miss your mom. We miss her cheer­ful voices and gen­tle smiles around. I believe she is with us and is watch­ing over all the activ­i­ties down here. My fam­ily n I would like to wish your mom a “very happy mother’s day” too!

    • shenghan said

      Thank you Aunt Kim! Thank you for being such a car­ing and sup­port­ive friend of her. I’m sure she wouldn’t be who she was if it wasn’t for your love and sup­port and also those of all those in the cen­tre. Thank you!

  7. Uncle FuLin said

    I like your state­ment :
    “We’re cop­ing fine. We take com­fort know­ing that death is just the end of one life, but the begin­ning of another; a begin­ning of some­thing more…“
    Do cry if you feel you need to, the tears will bring you more energy.
    Do share more if you can, your story can help a lot of families.

    • shenghan said

      Thank you, Yee zhang! Words can’t express my grat­i­tude to you and Ah Yi and all our rel­a­tives for being so car­ing and sup­port­ive. We are truly blessed to have such won­der­ful rel­a­tives. Thank you! I’ll def­i­nitely try to share what I can with others.

  8. DAD said

    I’m proud of you to able to share this.. It brings tears to my eyes too. Mum has indeed touched us in more ways that can be imag­ined. Her legacy lives on in us all.

  9. DAD said

    Words like this bypass the brain and go straight to the heart. I have put the link on my other FB for my stu­dents to read as well as my dept. FB. Aunty Kim­ber­ley put it on her wall. Uncle Lin shared it with his 2 boys. U have indeed touched hearts with this mes­sage. Mom must be smil­ing now…

    • shenghan said

      Thank you Dad! You have no idea how hard it was to write this. I spent a few days pen­ning it try­ing to revisit the days a month ago. I wrote a much longer ver­sion on my lap­top but later trimmed and adapted it for this post. There are still so many things left unsaid, both here and to mummy.

  10. Lynn Wong said

    Shen hang, thanks for shar­ing this. It brings tears to my eyes and I will share this with my other friends and fam­ily. Hope they will learn from you and your fam­ily. Your mum is lucky to have you as a son, I’m sure she’s proud of you and Shuyi. She is free now — no more suf­fer­ings or pains and best of all, she is closer to Su God than any one of us. Hope you con­tinue to be the per­son you are and study hard. We all wish that your mum will have a ‘Fan­tas­tic Moth­ers Day’ where ever she is.

    • shenghan said

      Thank you! Really means a lot when peo­ple can relate to my mother’s story. Yes! My mom’s def­i­nitely in a bet­ter place now, def­i­nitely closer to God!

  11. shuyi said

    You always write so well!! You couldn’t have said all these better. :’)

    She has always loved your works and has always been very proud of you you know.. I wish i could say “mummy see what kor wrote about you!” But i am sure she has read it already and she must be so happy, i’m sure. ♥

    • shenghan said

      Haha, I can so pic­ture you say­ing that. Well yeah, this only touches the tip of the ice­berg of the things I’d tell her. By the way, I think your wardrobe’s other door could use another print-out stick­ied onto it hehe.

  12. Angelina said

    Indeed her legacy lives on. I’m happy to see all of you, each fam­ily mem­bers stay­ing strong through all these. I’m very sure your mum is proud of both u and shuyi :) She’s is good hand i believe.

    • shenghan said

      She is! Thank you Angelina. I’m totally envi­ous of my sis­ter for hav­ing such won­der­ful friends. Thank you for being there for her.

  13. Denny said

    So touching~~Your mum will proud of u
    God bless u all~~

  14. Aunt (Hooi Fen) said

    Wei Han showed me your blog just now and he said I would cer­tainly cry when I read this, as he did break into tears. The parts I felt most touch­ing was towards the end, when you were men­tion­ing about your dad & your sis­ter, as I felt you have learned to extend your love & care to oth­ers. As what Uncle Fulin said — do share your sto­ries as it will help a lot of other people,..that’s the power of shar­ing…
    well done! 我愛你!

    • shenghan said

      Thank you, Ah yi! I’ve really learnt a lot from you all this trip back despite every­thing that has hap­pened. It’s not hard to see where a large part of my mother’s strength came from, from such a lov­ing fam­ily of hers. Thank you so much! I love you too!

  15. Latrina said

    Ember. Thank you for shar­ing this as I’m sure it may not have been the eas­i­est thing to do… I am in tears right now. I, too, lost my mom to can­cer. It’s been eight years but it only feels like yes­ter­day that she was here crack­ing jokes & being her won­der­ful self. The pic­ture of your mother reminded me so much of my mom… her sweet sub­tle smile & those plump cheeks. I love it.

    I am so very proud of you — you have no idea. I admire that you’ve taken some­thing pos­i­tive from your mother’s pass­ing. It’s not hard to do — trust me. I’ve wit­nessed fam­ily mem­bers drown in agony & fall into depres­sion. But… well, you said it best.. “We take com­fort know­ing that death is just the end of one life, but the begin­ning of another; a begin­ning of some­thing more.” You could not speak more truth than that. You will amaze your­self over the years with a mind­set like that. Con­tinue to make pur­pose of her life & even her death. There is always joy in sad­ness… and life in death, I say.

    Again, I’m very proud of you. And thank you again for shar­ing this… I keep a jour­nal that I write let­ters to my mother… I have not writ­ten in it in a long, long while… but this blog entry of yours has inspired me to start back. It’s ther­a­peu­tic & in a way — it keeps my mother & I close. So thank you!

    I am, though, extremely sorry Ember… I was not even aware your mother was ill. You & your fam­ily are def­i­nitely in my thoughts. <3 I may be miles & miles away but if you need any­thing at all, let me know. <3

    • shenghan said

      Thank you, Lat­rina. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your mom to can­cer too. I think I remem­ber you writ­ing about it. I didn’t under­stand how it was to lose some­one so dear then, but I do now.

      You are absolutely right, Lat­rina, that there is joy in sad­ness and life in death. My mom had such a beau­ti­ful pass­ing it wasn’t hard to be grate­ful for it. The last few days we’ve had with her and every­thing that hap­pened even after her pass­ing was so beau­ti­ful. From our extremely lov­ing rel­a­tives to dear friends of hers, was where we really wit­nessed joy, in sadness.

      I def­i­nitely felt a cer­tain close­ness when I penned this blog post too! It really warms my heart that you’ve been writ­ing let­ters to your mom. What a sweet thing to do. I should really start this prac­tice too.

      Please don’t be sorry about not know­ing about my mother’s con­di­tion. I’ll take full blame for that. You couldn’t have known for I have never men­tioned it in my blog or face­book or any­where else. But thank you for your words of encour­age­ment! Really appre­ci­ate it.

      Please take care!

  16. mario64 said

    My con­do­lences to you and your family.

  17. Ced said

    I’m so sorry for your loss Sheng Han. Please take care, and draw strength from all who are think­ing of you and your fam­ily, in your time of need.

    /sends love from Singapore,

    Ced

  18. shenghan said

    @Kim Hang, thank you!

    @mario64, thank you!

    @Cedric, thank you. Really appre­ci­ate your encouragement.

  19. My con­do­lences bro =( May her soul rest in peace. Amen.

  20. 贝芳 said

    止不住眼泪,原来你们如同彩云一样坚强勇敢。声瀚,彩云看见你coping fine,她一定笑得灿烂。

  21. caren said

    Sheng Han, i am proud of you … i keep read­ing this blog again and again …even could not ever to con­trol my tears …I be sure your mom is read­ing and felt proud of u too ..any­way do take care in melb k …and hope u enjoy over there too …all the best to u :) hugs

    • shenghan said

      Thank you Caren — both for your com­ment and for your efforts vis­it­ing my mom while she was in the hos­pi­tal. You’ve def­i­nitely made a mark in my mother’s life when she was still around. Thank you so much! Keep being an inspir­ing youth you are and all the best to you too! Take care.

  22. Seng said

    i cant imag­ine what is the feel­ing if this hap­pened to me…i wish that day never comes… : (
    Touch­ing arti­cle!
    It made ​​me cher­ish my fam­ily!
    thanks for the sharing!

  23. My mum passed away because of can­cer as well, and I was shocked too when I saw the news in your Face­book. You might not know me, and I don’t know what to say as well. Just wish you and your fam­ily to stay strong. :)

  24. You are a great son, she must be proud of you.

  25. sonya said

    really inspir­ing piece Sheng­Han. you’re so brave.

    i didn’t know you BLOG! :D

  26. Ida said

    I cried read­ing this, please be strong. I wish I could spend more qual­ity time with my par­ents, but like you, I am over­seas and can’t do much about it. Cher­ish­ing my par­ents with a phone call is all I can do :(

  27. James S. Phang said

    Hey bro… it seems like it was only yes­ter­day we were check­ing out your legos and micro­scope at your place while our moms are still down­stairs revis­ing stud­ies, and also the 1st time I saw peo­ple who were delighted eat­ing the bit­ter minty “Lui Cha”. You had a great mom. Even though she’s phys­i­cally gone, a part of her is liv­ing within you guys. (trust me, at times you’ll do/think/act like her did) :) She’s never apart. Peace out.