Monday, January 21, 2008


Babe told me, “You have to be strong this weekend. You must be strong.”

I had decided to leave for home, despite it being merely 6 to 7 weeks since I last saw gramps. Nevermind that my tix were already booked for CNY a fortnight away. Chatting to dad and Uncle YW on MSN, I had mulled over whether I could risk delaying seeing gramps for another fortnight away. And when even mum said, “If she wants to come back, just let her.” I realised that I may not have the chance to if I didn’t this weekend.

Babe made me see that very clearly. He chided me, “I cannot believe it is a consideration at all. He is still alive. And according to Uncle YW, alert enough to complain and scold the nurses. What else are you waiting for? ”

Yet I was concerned. About it affecting my work. About it affecting finances.

Babe reassured me not to worry about money, “Money can be earned in the future. You should just go. I will make the necessary arrangements. You just go.”

I was so strung up at work. I looked absolutely nightmarish, with blood shot eyes and hair which seemed to stick out at all the wrong places. Boss thought it was attributable to stress at work as coincidentally, there was an internal deadline to meet. He kept asking me whether things were going ok. And in the end, I just confided and told him I had a family emergency and that I would need the weekend away.

Boss was really good about it. He said it was a 4-day public holiday anyway, so it was mine to spend as I wished. I could take longer if need be. But I politely said nay, I’ll be back by Tuesday. I don’t think Gramps will die this weekend. So matter-of-factly said. I don’t know why I felt the need to verbalise that. Maybe it was more to reassure myself than to inform him.

Anyway, I left via Qatar Airways back to Malaysia. The trip back was really smooth. Flight connections and all were like clockwork. Minimal amount of waiting. I tried sleeping on the plane, but was rather fitful. But I had to sleep. To synch my time with Malaysian time. I couldn’t afford jet lag. Not when I had so little time.

My family picked me up at the Penang Airport and whisked me off to Lam Wah Ee Hospital. Gramps was on the third floor. Room 363 at the Cardiac Unit.

When I saw him, I was trying so hard to fight off tears and swallow sobs. He was hooked up to tubes and was obviously struggling to breathe, even with an oxygen mask. He opened his eyes occasionally. But his eyes were grey and glassy. Unfocused. I wasn’t even sure whether he could recognize me anymore. And that upset me. I had so desperately hoped that he would be well enough to scold me for wasting money flying back at such a “whim”. I really wish he had.

I held his hand whilst he was restless and in much discomfort. He flails his arms, randomly. And kept shaking his head. We could not phantom what he was trying to say.

His eyes were shrunken and his body thin and shriveled. I was not used to the sight of strong Gramps, fit and robust, reduced to such a sight. I felt really really frightened and yet knew that I must remember to be strong. As strong as I could anyhow. Strong for him. Strong for mum.

According to Uncle YW, he may have suffered some minor stroke. We could not tell as Gramps would not keep still enough for a CT scan. And even if so, what little good would it do to know?

His mouth and teeth was a mess of blood. Uncle YW reassured us that it was due to the blood thinners given to him to prevent blood clots. The downside of which would cause his gums to bleed. It was “normal” in such circumstances.

The unresponsiveness was quite a worry. His vitals were ok. Stable. But not particularly great. The question being, was his mental capacity affected? And if so, what should be done, in the event his organs start to fail? Should he be hooked on to artificial life support? Any active resuscitation?

These were questions which are impossible to answer. For my uncles who are both doctors, I think this is particularly tough. Uncle YK was trembling, hands white as he broke the news to us for discussion.

We all knew Gramps didn’t want to live. Three days ago, when he was still alert, he had summoned mum, uncle YW and uncle YK to his bedside at his hospital at the unearthly hour of 2:30am. And asked to be given an injection to be “put to sleep”. “I am ready to go to heaven”.

My poor uncles. Doctors as they are, how could they do that. And to someone so dear!

And despite all this, I am positive that Gramps can be persuaded to live. As evident last April. He recovered miraculously. It would be audacious to ask for so much, but there was hope. If last April taught me anything, it taught me that willpower is very important. With family support, love, care and rallying, I was adamant that we could make him want to live. And keep on fighting.

But on the other hand, this time was quite a bit more serious than April – physically. As powerful as willpower maybe, there would always be physical constraints. It wasn’t always a case of mind over matter. You just cannot run software without functioning hardware.

Gramps was struggling to breathe. And it was obviously very very uncomfortable for him. Would it still be considered love to sustain him and let him continue to suffer or was it just pure selfishness?

Still, surely we cannot give up. Apparently Aunt L had consulted a “medium” who confirmed it was his time to go. And yet, this is something I cannot accept. We cannot give up. If we do, he definitely will. We cannot stop fighting so easily. Not if we loved him like we do. We really shouldn’t. We are supposed to support. Not to reaffirm the naysayers.

Ah Gong. We all love you very much. And as much as you struggle and wave us away, gesturing us to leave you alone to die. We cannot. We simply cannot. Please don’t make this any more difficult than it is.

Sometimes, it is really god’s will. But please, not yet. Your physical signs are improving. I am confident that we will pull through this together. Be patient. You will get well. Don’t worry about things. About having to be put in a home (if medical care is required). About money. About being a burden. It is not. We love you so much and do not think of it in that way at all. We just want you to continue being a part of our lives. To share our joys and achievements. To be the proud patriarch you are.

Please. Give us a chance. To shower you with love so that you can recover and be strong again.

God, please send a guardian angel to watch over Gramps. Guide him back to us. Please.


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