Don’t Forget to Cherish Your Loved Ones — Small Actions Count
How my visit to the hospital made me cherish my mum more — a lot more.
Middle of last year, my parents received news that my mum’s older sister was dying. She was just in her early 60s and she had been battling cancer on and off for the past six long years. The doctor warned that she might be losing the fight soon and probably only had a few weeks left. He had advised her direct family to inform all of us as well as her friends and relatives to pay her a last visit.
This wasn’t the first time that a relative of mine was going to leave the world. And every leaving had been a sorrowful one — the closer you were to that person, the greater the pain.
However, I am not close to my late aunt. She only visited us about two times every year and we never have had any proper deep conversations. To me, she was just another of my mum’s sister, an elder in my extended family.
But that last trip to the hospital to pay her a last visit gave me a wake-up call.
My family and I arranged to meet near the hospital so that we can go in together. As her direct family wasn’t around when we arrived at the hospital, we had to find our way in. She was staying in a 6-bedder ward in the cancer department of the hospital.
We exited the lift on the 8th floor. The whole place was utterly solemn and quiet. I didn’t know what to expect. It had almost been a year since I last saw her. I just followed the rest of them while they searched for her ward.
When we found her ward, we peered into the space, trying to find my aunt. We could only exchange whispers as all the patients were resting. It took us at least a few seconds to find her. She used to be slightly plump. She always looked jovial whenever I see her. However, there she was lying on the hospital bed that day, on the right corner of the ward, looking so skinny and frail. She lost so much weight that I couldn’t recognize her at all.
She was sleeping soundly. Like any typical cancer patient, you could see needles and pipes being inserted into her body because she was unable to eat like a normal human being and too weak to support basic human functions.
The minute I saw her, I could feel my heart hurting and my eyes starting to get wet.
She had lost so much weight that she looked like what my mum would probably look like in another 20 years. Although I wasn’t close to my aunt, seeing her felt like I was looking at my mum on her death bed with that remaining few weeks left. It was a strange encounter and trigger but it did get me very affected.
Then came her eldest son. We greeted each other. As he sat down beside her, he stroked her greying hair and looked at her in the eyes. My aunt had woken up. She forced a greeting smile at us and gave a short wave. She seemed glad to see us. She seemed like she wanted to say something but she couldn’t because the infection in her lungs blocked her entire passageway. She was coughing so badly that it sounded like she was trying to cough her lungs out to purge a stubborn phlegm that would never ever come out.
I could see her eldest son’s eyes getting reddish as he looked on. It was a disheartening scenario where you want to cry your heart out but you don’t want to break your mum’s heart. My aunt could recognize us all. She was fully aware of what was going around her but she just couldn’t speak at all. She was no longer that jovial person I knew. You could see the despair in her eyes that her mind was still conscious and doing well but her body was failing her.
I had to bite my tongue to hold my tears. She looked too much like my mum in 20 years. I could ‘visualize’ that entire scenario between her and her eldest son happening on me and my mum many many years later (if I have the fortune of having my mum living to a ripe old age). That thought made me felt extremely terrible inside.
My aunt passed away two weeks later. As much as my cousins, who are all grown men in their 40s, did not bawl their eyes out crying over the loss of their mother, I was sure they felt great pain inside, including my uncle.
I already love my mum a lot but that visit to the hospital and her eventual passing gave me a rude awakening. It prompted me to look at my mum more often — at her face, her wrinkled hands, her cuts and bruises on her fingers from doing housework and her graying hair that was growing out faster and faster by the years.
It reminded me to cherish every moment that she is still here with me. It made me want to show my mum love every single day even just through simple gestures. It made me treasure every single smile she puts on her face, whether it is because of us or a drama she’s enjoying.
To every one of you reading this, who is fortunate enough to have loving parents or a loving wife/husband or just someone who has consistently stayed by your side, I believe that you are aware of what they have done for you and you know the importance of treasuring them.
Although there may never be enough things that you can do to repay them, every single small act of love counts. And do it daily. It makes a difference to ensure you won’t regret later on in life.
You don’t have to show your love and gratitude through big gestures. Things like giving them money or gifts, bringing them to restaurants for meals or accompany them on an overseas trip are just what I call ‘bonus’. It’s great to do it but they don’t happen every day. You don’t wait for the next day, next week or next month to take action.
If you are staying with them, you have no excuses at all. You can:
- Have breakfast together once every week.
- Give them a small massage from time to time.
- Cook a meal for them.
- Help out with the dishes.
- Sit down and enjoy a show together.
If you are not staying with them, you can:
- Give them a call/ video call
- Send them a picture of yourself of what you are doing now and then
- Ask them what they had for lunch
- Ask them when was the last time they went for a medical checkup and what’s the result — best if you can accompany them.
- Ask them if their body is hurting anywhere — they probably will hide from you but just keep asking.
- Ask them what they are doing now…
Those mentioned above are just a few of the myriad ways to show your love for them. Don’t wait until it’s too late then you wonder and regret if you could have done more.
Don’t hold back to show your love to the ones that have stayed by your side.