Before she passed on, she told me “I just want to look at you one last time".

The most memorable experience I had with my mum was the last few weeks before she passed on from cancer. I still remembered myself vividly before we had to send her to the hospice because she was getting delirious already. I remembered on that day, my grandma cooked fish stew porridge for her and I went to my grandma’s house to get a tub back. During then, my mum, given her frail and feeble self, was unable to finish the entire tub. I scooped some out into a bowl for it to cool faster, and then knelt down to feed her so that we could see each other on an eye-to-eye level. After eating three spoons of the porridge, she then transfixed her gaze at me. I then asked her if she wanted anything in particular. She replied to me in Chinese, “I just want to look at you one last time”.

That experience was quite memorable for me because it really depicted to me the cycle of life, like how my mum used to feed me as I was a child and now the roles had been reversed. It really shaped me to become a more patient person as well. In the past, I was quite a happy-go-lucky and boisterous person; I used to talk a lot and was very hyper active in whatever I do. I used to be nonchalant and not properly sieve out my words so I ended up hurting people a lot. But then after this episode of taking care of my mum, I really began to contemplate whether my words will be of use to the person, be able to amplify or value add the person in some way or another, or even hurt the person.

Also, through my mum’s illness, I learnt that there are some things where you will have to coat it with a white lie. There are things that you know which are bitter truths, but you have to sugar coat your words so that people don’t feel hurt. Even though as a Christian I am strongly against telling lies, there are cases when I had to mince my words so that my mum will be encouraged and not be defeated by the throes of cancer. There was this instance where I came back from school and she prepared a very succulent meal of fried rice. Then she handed me the report of her cancer cell marker called Cryo Embryonic Antigen (CEA), and she asked me to google why did her CEA levels increased to 300mg per litre of blood. I was actually quite flabbergasted by the result because to categorize as a stage 4 cancer, the CEA level was 8mg per litre of blood. For hers to be 300mg, it is already nearly 40times the amount. I actually cooped up an excuse, which was a white lie. I told her that the chemotherapy needed time to set in. But I know deep down in my heart, it was a lie because the chemo was already the second strongest in entire Singapore and if it wasn’t working, what else could be working… My mum somehow knew that I was definitely lying but she still gave me a smile and still faced life to the fullest potential.

Through this interaction, I became more tolerant to pain, and more optimistic towards life despite all the adversities I had to go through.
Teo Ying Shen