My father passed away on 2 March 2019. It was a Saturday, and one day after I resigned from a Middle East company. It was unexpected because we had a false alarm back in December 2018. That false alarm took place in Singapore General Hospital (SGH) at Ward 58, a high-dependency ward.
I remembered that day quite clearly. I received a call from my mother at work around 11am, and she told me the doctor told us to get ready to be by my father’s side because all his readings and indicators did not look good. I immediately went to my boss, informed him and was out of the office within 5 minutes. The fortunate thing was I was at Central Business District, so getting to SGH was very easy – 4 bus stops away.
We started informing our relatives, and more and more came down to the hospital. A few of us got mad because the high-dependency ward restricted only to 2 visitors at a time per patient. Each high-dependency ward can accommodate 5 to 6 patients. We also had to wrap ourselves with gown and mask before we can enter the ward.
However, my father pulled through with tons of antibiotics and fluids pumping through him. We stayed overnight for a night, and 2 more days in hospital to ensure he was ok. I went to take Medical Leave (for 2 days) and split my off-in-lieu into 2 half days to account for my missing in action at work.
Therefore, when my father was transferred to St Andrews’ Community Hospital (SACH) on 4 January 2019, we thought it might be another false alarm (on 2 March). I went to Expo to attend the Reno Fair, but left within 15minutes after getting a call from my sister that my father’s condition was starting to deteriorate rapidly. The rest of the day we stayed in the ward with him. Fortunately, this time round we had a single room to ourselves. Hence the experience was way better than SGH. We bought food and my family went back home (it was much closer to home at this hospital) to take his clothes and portrait (in the scenario that he passes away and we need to pass to the casket upon his death).
That afternoon, my father started displaying the same symptoms as he had in SGH. He had breathlessness and was given oxygen tube. They monitored the amount of morphine given, and increased it steadily. From half propping up, my father had to lie down. But he did manage to drink a bottle of bird’s nest before he started to lie down. More morphine and another painkiller were administered intravenously. Oxygen tube was replaced with oxygen mask for higher concentration to relieve his breathlessness. My sister and I wanted to get some drinks from the vending machine at ground level after our dinner so we left for around 5 to 10 minutes. Once we went back up, the nurses quickly came to us to tell us our father was not feeling well. They were changing his diapers and monitoring his eye motion. It was still and he was staring into blank space. We already noticed this around 5pm that afternoon.
At 7.55pm, my father was declared dead. We were all around him, with me whispering into his ears to follow the first white light he sees. A quick short emotional process followed, and we quickly called the casket. From his death to the 4-day funeral wake, it was smooth. Yes, I did experience some bouts of sadness and did properly grieve in the wee hours. At one point, I was wondering if I would feel any sadness because there were too much shouting and anger during the past year.
At this point, I could only say that I do feel sad because after he was my father, but I was very relieved because we can finally close this chapter and move on with our lives. I always believe that if there is no hope for recovery and quality of life is non-existent (he was bedridden towards the end and couldn’t eat at all), it is better to pass on as quickly as possible to reduce pain and suffering. I was also very grateful and glad that we managed to get my father in an in-patient hospice environment because the nurses and doctor helped us a lot during the very last few moments before my father's death. They explained to us the symptoms displayed and we felt less frazzled. Their constant checks and comfort/consolation to us played a very very great role. Hence, my mother decided to make a donation in my father's name to express our heartfelt appreciation to them.
Right now, we are just following the Chinese rites of 49 days where we go on alternate 7th day (the first 7th day, third 7th day, fifth 7th day and the seventh 7th day) to pray. Thereafter, since my new home will be closer to the temple which houses my father’s tablet, I will go and pay my respects on a yearly basis. Even if there are any days that we cannot, at least the temple will be able to do it on our behalf.
Life has resumed very quickly back to normal for my mother and I. For the past 2 years, especially 2018, my father was spending most of his time in hospital. Hence, we already got accustomed to living without my father for a long time. I am now back on active job hunting and my mother is now planning for her own holiday with her friends.
But my sister and I did fulfill our promise to her by bringing her to Penang for a short getaway after a long and tiring caregiving period. I shall devote another post on our experience in Penang shortly!