Lingering Death

I was sipping my bubble (milk) tea when my Sis’s mobile phone rang.

Within a minute, she hung up, looked at me and said,

Get ready to go out, we’re going to the hospital to see Ah Ma. She’s in the ICU, urgent. Daddy asked us to meet him at his workplace so he can drive us there.

Meanwhile, I admit it didn’t bother me THAT much because I’ve never seen how patients in the Intensive Care Unit(ICU) is like, and I was quarreling, so it was very frustrating.

What puzzled me was, the news came so sudden. 2 days ago I just spoke to her and she was still her character, and then next thing I know she is admitted to the ICU and her heartbeat had stopped in the noon.

My family reached at around 10pm and had to register at the queue to get in. At the point, I started to get worried. Our steps hastened as we walked along the corridor, to join 20 others waiting outside the ward.

I took a quick glance at them and clearly, a dozen of them had red, puffy eyes.

Dad brought us into the ward.

What lay in front of me on the bed doesn’t look like my Ah Ma at all.

How come, just within hours, she looked so haggard? Her face was bloated and white as paper. I almost couldn’t recognise her.

With her dry tongue lolling to the the side of the mouth, I can see brown flaky spots on them. My heart ached.

Her eyes were squinting, yet I was able to see the small little sparkle still glistening.

She had difficulty breathing, gagging for air even with the life support machine and many other scary-looking machines. I was afraid.

All I mumbled was,

Ah Ma… Ah Ma…

Then I started weeping. She was so strong even with diabetes, high blood pressure and eye problems. Why then, because of a fall that led to so many complications?

The doctor told us, at 11am she started to throw up, as there was food stuck in her lungs. Lung infection causing the oxygen not able to reach her other organs. That fall had worsen all her existing problems, and her kidney had failed to function. The maid told me she had not passed motion nor pee for the past two days already.

After the vomit her heartbeat stopped, scaring a lot of people. The doctor managed to save her, but said the condition wasn’t pleasant. Her oxygen level was gradually dropping, and her blood pressure was nowhere near 100(safe level). At 4pm she was admitted to the ICU and at 6pm they gave her the first jab. (There’s three jabs, the first one being the mildest and the last one is the strongest.) At 8pm, the doctor announced Ah Ma was not responding to the medicine. So they need to give her the second jab. I reached at 10pm, just in time the doctor said the second one didn’t work as well.

In his words, if by 12am the situation is not improving, we have to prepare for the worst already. At this point, I panicked. My aunties cried. In goes the final stage of the medication and I waited outside the ward.

One of Ah Ma’s closest sons was in Shanghai for a business trip, yet waiting for his midnight plane to come back to Singapore to see Ah Ma. I crossed my fingers, hoping he can make it back in time.

Slowly, I see Ah Ma’s data on the computer screen increase in tandem. I was relieved. I went home, thinking that she managed to survive.

Before I go, I told my Ah Ma,

Ah Ma, le hak kin ho ki lai, le ai ki lai.
(Ah Ma, hurry get well soon, you must wake up.)

She was unconscious but my sis and I thought we saw her moved her pupils and moved her head, as though she agreed. I continued tearing.

Back home, I called Neng and told him everything I knew, in between sobs. I’ve lived with my grandma for 8.5 years (K1-Sec1) and I’ve never respected/appreciated her. I felt so guilty, I wanted to say I’m sorry and Thank You, but I won’t get a chance to unless she wakes up again.

I saw so many flashbacks last night, those of when she shielded our cane attacks from mom, teaching me how to fold incense paper ingots, smoking, her laughter, her taking photos with us during our birthdays etc.

Giddy I was when I fell asleep, because I cried too hard. I had to work this morning. With my heart heavy, I lulled myself out of bed to prepare for work. All this while, my head filling with thoughts of her. Daddy woke up early as well, telling me that he’s going to the hospital now.

My uncle had reached Singapore and rushed over to Tan Tock Seng Hospital(TTSH) at this point of time.

Daddy told me her condition was same as yesterday when I was on my way to work. I was waiting for daddy to tell me when the need arises for me to rush over.

Then at 8.20am, Daddy sent me an sms:
call me. ma has passed away.

That instant, I halted. I phoned my dad immediately, demanding the details. He said to come over now, and he had to discuss about the funeral with the adults.

On my way there, the journey really seemed much further when there were only 5 stops. I plugged in iTouch, numbed. And seconds later, I was crying on the train. I ran out of the train station later and into TTSH, to the ward.

When I reached, it was almost 9 already. Needless to say, almost everyone present had cried their hearts out. Even daddy (I only saw him cry once in my entire life, this is the second time. The first time was also in TTSH, when he was the patient.).

0805 hrs. Kim xx xxx passed away. My father’s mother. My grandmother. Gone.

They were cleaning her body when I reached, so I can only look from the outside while waiting (until the nurse asked me to go away). I was scared. It’s only about 10am or so I get to go in.

This time, her face was different again. She wasn’t gasping. Still swollen, her tongue now sticks out slightly, her eyes closed (her left eye was a teeny weeny bit open). I looked into them and cried “Ah Ma”. I still saw that sparkle.

Her hair still black and soft, her skin taut.

It was uncontrollable. Tears flowed down like a river.
I wanted to touch her, but I’m afraid.

Her limp, lifeless form just lay there, silent. I tried to find a trace of her body bobbing up and down, but all stayed still.

It’s unbelievable. She left, just like that. So sudden, so fast.
That was her deadline. I believed, she had already tried to persist till the morning.

While the others were out discussing, I sneaked into the room again, wanting to see her.
This time I was alone. I stood by her side and cried out loud, moaning, grieving for her loss. I remembered shouting “Ah Ma” a few times, “wake up!”, “I’m sorry I should have come to visit you more often!”, “Thank you, I didn’t even say that before you go….” .

I felt remorseful, horrible.

Then I looked at her left eye, they seemed even smaller now, almost closing, the sparkle in her eye died.

Daddy and the maid were dealing with the grief in a different manner. They avoided. They just can’t face Ah Ma. The knew it was too much to handle, and so they’d rather watch her from afar.
Before I leave for her house in Ang Mo Kio, I took one long look, I want to remember her forever.

We searched and gathered for her photo to use for the funeral, and all of her favourite things. I lived there before, and so many memories came flooding back.

At 3.3pm her body arrived, and my stupid tears filled to the brim of my eyes. The Taoist ceremony lasted for an hour, and when we walked past her, it was yet another look.

With all the make-up and perservatives in and on her, she looked nothing like the Ah Ma I know. Nothing. She looked peaceful, cold, and detached. I peered through the glass, wanting to hold her but I couldn’t.

After changing down the funeral clothes, I went home.
I am going to see her for the next five days, until they cremate her on Monday.

I regret doing the things I do to you Ah Ma, I miss you.

Can you forgive me?

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