Lately, the newspapers and media has been talking a lot about Mercy killing or Euthanasia. Suddenly, I thought I heard my late father in law again. Crying out to me , saying this, 'Gina, wa aye teng lai' in teochew or "Gina, I want to go home". He was a chronic diabetic and was in and out of the hospital for months. Until his death some 13 ++ years ago, he spend most of his last days in the hospital.
I used to visit him at the hospital. If I had time, I would go home and cook some soup for him. Simple and delicious. Just pork bones with bittergourd. Though he was not allow to drink it, often enough, I would give him a sip or two.
2 weeks before he passed away, he cried out to me again saying he wants to go home. In short, he knew his days are numbered and he doesn't want to die in the hospital. But bringing him home would mean that we need to hire a private nurse and have someone to care for him day in day out when the nurse has gone home for the day.
Then I spoke to the family and ask my sister in law to sign the papers for him to go home. And I took it upon myself to care for him in his last days.
And I am glad I did. I took 14 days of no-pay leave, pack my older daughter and moved in to stay with him. Then the family had hired a live-in maid to care of him. I would spent my days with him, cooking his favourite meals of just bittergourd soup with red dates although it was not allowed for his diet. I would sit by his bed and he would ramble on about things and half the time I couldn't make sense of what he said to me. And to be make sure he thinks I knew what he said, I just nodded at each 2 to 3 minutes interval.
My eldest daughter, Natasha, was barely 5 years old at that time. She learnt from this experience what it means to have filial piety and to have respect for the elderly. Years later, she mimick my every gesture and behaved likewise with my mother in law and also with my mom.
After his death, my mother in law had his ashes in an urn and kept it in a Buddhist temple at Sengkang. That's almost 5 minutes drive from my place to reach there. A close friend gave me a Wind chime as a gift and told me to hang it at the window where I could get wind blowing in most of the times. So I hung it at the kitchen window. Out from this window, you can see the river which flows out to the sea up north. Passing by the Buddhist temple which my late father-in-law had rested.
And each time when I cook bittergourd soup with pork bones, for some unknown reason, the wind chimes will 'sing' a beautiful tune as if telling me that he is in peace and in comfort.
That old chime was made of cardboard, and a string and a bell and has long gone from the kitchen window now. But I still get the sense of well-being whenever I make bittergourd soup with red dates and pork bones. I know, even till today, I have made the right decision to bring him home to die in dignity.