He was a family friend. He knew my parents way back even before they started dating. They worked in the same company. He watched us grow up, right from when we were babies, till we were almost adults.
He was single. Workaholic, my dad would say. He never drank, nor did he ever smoke. We visited him during the Lunar New Year every year, at the same property, which had the exact furniture for as long as my memory allows me to recall. The only thing that changed was his car. He liked to change cars every year or so. My parents thought it to be extravagant, but i’d say Why not? He’s single and he works hard.
We often had meals in the shopping centre nearby when we visited. The KFC would be such a lonely place during the Lunar New Year, but we didn’t care because we couldn’t find places to eat. We ate teochew porridge nearer to our place one day. And we laughed because his car and my dad’s car were parked right next to each other, without parking coupons. My dad received a summon, while he didn’t. We found it amusing that the warden would fine someone just because his car was as good as scrapped metal.
He was generous. He smiled a lot. He’d make jokes. I’d like to ask, when i was younger, what if Uncle H dated mum instead of dad? Would they get married, and then would my father be him instead of dad? Silly me, but kids had their insatiable curiousity.
2 years ago, we were told that he had cancer. Liver AND lung cancer. Uh oh, was all i could manage. Prognosis wasn’t good with both liver and lung cancer. I found it weird because he neither drunk nor smoked. But fate works in its own ways, and i guess a lot could be attributed to his stress. Workaholic. Right.
I, being the pessimist, didn’t think he’d live for long. It was stage 4. It finally metastasized to his brain and his bones. Doesn’t sound good at all, i’d say. And honestly, i was surprised he’d survive that long.
He refused chemotherapy initially. He let it drag. He turned to his faith- Buddhism- and drank some ‘water’ in hopes of curing it. My parents were vehemently objecting to his stance of letting faith do the job. It’s gonna kill him. But i said, let him be. I told my parents that they couldn’t take his faith away just like that. They had to respect his decision.
He gave in to medical treatment eventually, going for chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He was alone. His mother, who lives with him, doesn’t know about his condition. He kept it mum. He grew weaker and weaker. By the time i saw him, he was VERY CACHEXIC. It ached me so much to see him in such a state. The cachexia was bad. It didn’t help that he wasn’t eating- it was too painful for him.
He got better for awhile. I being the cynic, felt like they were only dragging his life for a little more. It was like a joke, prolonging his suffering. He became well enough to drive, and he picked me up from teaching, together with my mum and brother. We were gonna have sushi and ramen. Clementi Central was a bad place to park. I recall him saying that he’d rub the jade that hung on his rearview mirror and he’d get a lot right away. Right away it was, and we had a parking lot. We laughed because damn it was so coincidental!!! We had fun eating, and even had room for desserts that we all shared. I spoke to him about his treatments, and the drugs used and such. I had already finished 5 weeks of oncology postings, and i was keen to hear from him.
The last time i visited him was back in June in the hospital at Outram. Because it had already metastasized to his brain and finally his spinal cord, his bladder and bowel movement were affected. The bone metastasis also caused a lot of pain, and he had a lot pain due to compression on the spinal cord. I remember rushing down from a whole day spent in school doing our project and scolding profanities at the Cisco guard who didn’t let me go up to see him. He appeared jovial despite of his pain, and even asked us for help connecting his iPhone to the WiFi.
He still had his job at an MNC. The place where he slogged his guts out. They granted him long-term leave, paid him the whole time he was on medical leave, and even helped with his bills. When his medical leave ran out, he had to extend it by another month. And then again. I think. Then the company let him go. He was crushed i guess.
That was when he started to deteriorate. He fell several times, because his legs were too weak. He didn’t tell my parents. He went for surgery for his spine. He moved home. Then to a community hospital. Then finally to a hospice. Dover Park Hospice. And i knew it was almost time. He gave up on medical treatment.
He was suffering. He should be on palliative care. Was he? He was constantly in pain. What are they doing with him? I’d always asked myself that, because his quality of life was so diminished. His battle with cancer was a tough and long drawn one. 2 years of pain, misery, cachexia, malnutrition, keeping it from his fragile mother, coping and drawing strength…
He passed away in the morning today, i was told. Finally. I said. He was fighting too hard, too long. He is liberated now. From all the human pain and suffering. He didn’t have to, and he could’ve resisted treatement all the way, but he didn’t and he chose to be treated and fought, prolonging only his suffering. He gave up on treatment in the end. But i figured he is better off if he was relieved from his suffering. I don’t know if he passed peacefully. I only know that he is released, and that is the only thing i can take heart in. Good-bye is never forever, and i’m sure some day, some time, i’ll see him again with the smile that i miss.
Rest in peace, Uncle H. You’ll be dearly missed by all of us.