Your Great Grand Aunt, Ah Poh, has died. She was 75 years old.
Her demise was somewhat expected as she has been plagued with a number of ailments, diabetes, kidney failure, and finally gastro-intestinal cancer, which was certified by the doctor to be the cause of death.
As much as I am sad for her passing, honestly, I didn’t feel much sorrow for her; rather, I felt that death was a kind of release for her, and also for your grand Aunts too. Your Ah Po wasn’t married, and relied on her 4 nieces and 1 nephew to do most of the care taking, and when it became too much for them to handle, they employed a maid for Ah Po, but even that, your 3 grand Aunts and your Grandma, still make an effort to take care of her, especially in the twilight of her life. Despite of not having kids, her nieces and nephew were her children, they cared for her every needs and wants.
She was a simple lady, with not much needs and wants. Quiet and unassuming, she helped your grand-uncle at his pork stall, until she is no longer able to. For all family gatherings and occasions, she has never made it a grand fanfare or trouble anyone too much. We always enjoyed her presence as our grand dame and of course, her occasional humor.
She belonged to that generation where she don’t display much affection publicly, but she dotes on all her great grand generations, and please remember, part of your Ang Pow coffers comes from her, she never fails to give the both of you every Chinese New Year.
Her final days
She was in the hospital for more than 3 weeks, and through the barrage of tests the doctors made, they found out that there is a cancer growth around her diaphragm, which is physically obstructing her ability to swallow food. Whenever she tried she would vomit.
The cancer growth was aggressive and it was beyond any treatment to save her. By then we knew the eventuality.
Death or the process of dying can be very unpredictable. The dilemma was whether to continue with her dialysis which helps her clear her toxins in the body, but her blood pressure will plummet to a life threatening stage, and if she is taken off dialysis, she will bloat up. The doctors, being the experts in matters of life and death, gave her expiry as a matter of days to live, so her caretakers came to a consensus to take her off the machine and let nature takes its course.
It was on a Tuesday morning when the caretakers were summoned to SGH as they deemed she is at her final hours, it was not to be. Your grandma, through the discussion at her bed side, noticed that she was visibly stirred at the mention of ‘home’. She wants to go home!
What I heard from your mum, was that Ah Po was so happy to be back home, lying on her own bed, stretching and kicking her bolster, feeling so comfortable to be back home. Her caretakers did what they could to prepare for the eventuality to catch up.
We brought the both of you down to see her on Thursday and she is already drifting in and out of her sleep, sometimes she would open her eyes to acknowledge, sometimes, she would just sleep. We were glad we saw her on Thursday, because on Friday, evening she quietly slipped away, while everyone was outside, about to take their dinner.
We weren’t there, your 4th grand-aunt post a message on our whatsapp group that Ah Po has passed away.
When we brought the news to the both of you, already tucked into bed, Ian, you’re the first to cry, followed by your little brother. I think it affected you more than your little brother, because, Ian, you’ve always been the more emotional one. Your little brother cried, perhaps because you cried. But I guess the bottom line is we were glad we brought the both of you down to see her before she died.
The cremation was slated for Monday, 2 November, and all of us tried to be there, for her final journey. the mood is obviously somber as the monks performed the funeral rites. the both of you have to go to school, but your mum and I decided to pull you out to make sure that the both of you attend the funeral. It’s an obvious no-brainer, She is your Great Grand Aunt, this is her funeral, period.
Remembering our past
I think we as Asians, don’t talk much about death as if it is a taboo, I agree with that, but I want to make sure that you boys remember your elders who has passed away, these people are the reason you boys are here. Without our past, without these elders, whom have shaped us, we will not be able to carry on the values and ethos to the next generation.
More importantly, I want you both to remember and talk about your senior generations, it is obvious that when (if) you both have kids, you will tell them about your Ah Po, whom they have never met before. And you will tell the people you’ve met about your Ah Po, the kind things she have done for you both. You cannot have a beautiful future by not telling a story about your beautiful past. sometimes the past is sad as it contains death and destruction, but these are events no one can escape from, we all will die, and we all will depend on our future generations to tell stories about us, so that we can live forever, in the stories you children tell the next generation