Mom was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in early 2000. The news came as a complete shock to my family. She was to spend the next eleven months at the Ipoh General Hospital. Weekdays were spent in the hospital undergoing peritoneal dialysis and blood transfusions; weekends at home resting. I was the one at her bedside most of the time, taking care of her, comforting her and praying with her.
Renal failure can be extremely devastating on the body. At the beginning, the built-up of toxins in her body rendered Mom very tired and without much appetite to eat. As a result, she became anemic, thin and frail. She was left with just bones and skin. I remember being very angry and frustrated to see her like this. “Why does it have to be my Mom, why does a kind soul like her have to suffer like this?” I kept asking myself.
But over the months, with proper medications, constant blood transfusions and most importantly, dialysis, she began to regain some appetite to eat again. By early November, she got back some strength, a pinkish glow on her cheeks and was able to sit in a wheel chair. She could even talk softly or smile lightly too. We were so happy for her and hopes of her leading a normal life began to fill our hearts once more.
That night was November 23rd 2000 around 10 p.m. when the lights went out at ward 8 which was the ladies ward. “No need to stay with me here tonight. Just go home and have a proper sleep. Bring me some dim sum tomorrow. I don’t want to eat the breakfast from the hospital anymore. They tasted so terrible,” Mom said to me mischievously. I nodded my head gladly, very happy that she was asking for food again.
Early the next morning, November 24th 2000, I got Mom’s breakfast from her favorite restaurant behind our house. I bought Hong Kong chee cheong fun with fresh shrimps, century-eggs and minced pork porridge and of course, her all-time favorite char siew dumplings. I thought Mom will be very thrilled to see the food I am bringing her but I was wrong.
When I got to her bed, she looked very sad and gloomy.
“Good morning, Mom, did you sleep well last night?” I asked while showing her the food I have brought her.
She shook her head and gave out a sad sigh. “No, I didn’t sleep at all, from the moment you left until now,” she replied softly with a worried look on her face.
“Why?” I was curious to know. “Is it too warm here or did the mosquitoes kept biting you?” I asked her again.
“No, it’s not that. I could not sleep because I saw the Grim Reaper standing at my bed-side last night. He was dressed up like a nam moh lou (Taoist priest) and kept calling out my name, I think he’s here to collect my soul, I think I’ll die very soon, you know I don’t want to die yet,” she answered sadly, trembling with tears by now.
“Oh no, it must have been the medications you have been taking all these while. They are making you hallucinating, don’t worry Mom, you’re getting better each day, and you won’t die, not yet!” I tried to comfort her gently although I felt so wretched to hear what Mom had said.
I refused to believe her. It made me very frightened. I was afraid to lose her and I don’t want to lose her.
“Ssshhh…….don’t talk anymore. Go on; eat the dim sum I’ve brought you while they’re still warm,” I tried to divert her.
Mom ate her breakfast in silence but her emotions showed through. She was sad, worried and frightened. Her tears mingled with her breakfast and it broke my heart to see her like that as I fed her. She could not finish them. She only ate the porridge and turned down the rest.
Hours later, I gave her a gentle massage to help calm her down. Then, I put the headphones to her ears and played her favorite songs while she closed her eyes. Exhausted, she finally drifted off to sleep.
That evening, Mom was discharged for the weekend. When we reached home, I placed her down on the sofa. Then, Dad and I had our dinner in the kitchen. While eating, I suddenly heard a strange sound coming from where Mom was. Putting down my bowl of rice, I ran out to find her struggling with her breathing. I screamed out for Dad.
Mom just had a heart attack. Her mouth was foaming and her eyes rolled up. Her face and hands quickly turned blue. Grasping her chest, she slowly opened her eyes to take one last look at us before closing them again. She did not answer when we called her name. We have lost her forever even as I was calling the ambulance. All it took was less than six to seven minutes and she was gone. The clock on the wall showed it was 8 p.m. When I finally put her lifeless body down on her bed, she looked so serene and peaceful. Beautiful even.
Only then I began to realize that what Mom had told me earlier that day at the hospital was true. She was not hallucinating after all. She did saw the Grim Reaper the night before. He had come to take her away and there’s nothing we can do to stop him. Her time had come. Birth and death is written in the Book of Life.
Mom died on the same day she and Dad were supposed to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. This coming November 24th will be the twelfth year since she left us but I still feel the pain and void her departure had created. But I knew she is in a better place now. May her soul rest in eternal peace.