Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Losing the Love of Her Life

A few nights ago, my daughter, Big R, told me she might be leaving the nest next year. Although I have tried to mentally prepare myself that the bird will fly off one day, I dread the day when the bird actually flies off the nest!

I have taken care of her for almost 17 years, her short breaks away from me give me the 'lonely' feeling as if I have lost a part of myself somewhere. I've built eHomemakers because I want other mothers to have the same opportunity to work near or close to their children or have flexi time to be with their children. In short, she has been my life's aim. I live for her. It feels so right to know she is some where within my reach.

That night, I developed a headache in the midst of my sleep. It was tension headache, the kind one gets when one is afraid of losing someone or something precious, the kind a mother gets from worrying because she loves her child, so much, so much that her own life is secondary to the child's.

The same kind of headache that Pong Seow Chin's mother had consistently developed after hospital visits to her daughter.

When Pong Seow Chin was in a coma more than 25 years ago and the doctor predicted that she wasn't going to live, her mother walked or rode bicycle to the Ipoh General Hospital to see her daily for several months. Refusing to let her daughter die, the devoted mother massaged the pressure points on her toe to wake her up ( the same pressure points to relieve headaches) as she sang songs in Cantonese, and also the Mandarin song "Ma Ma Hou ( Mother is Best). She didn't have much education, so she sang the song in broken Mandarin. Some people in the third class ward threw her dirty looks, some patients scolded her for disturbing their sleep, but she didn't care. She had one major aim in life -- to wake her daughter up to listen to her voice.

When Pong woke up, amidst the muffled noises and blurry images, she heard a strong, clear voice calling her name. "I am beside you, wake up, wake up, my daughter." The voice drew her back from deep blackness, she opened her eyes and saw her mother's face, looking at her longingly, calling and caressing her hand.

Her mother was the pillar in her life since then. She was the one who told her not to give up on life, learn as much as possible (which led to Pong learning to speak English by listening to others), and live life to its fullest. Her mother cleaned Pong and dressed her up when Pong couldn't do so. She was still doing this for Pong till she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Febraury, 2011. The family couldn't afford chemotherapy or other forms of cancer therapy, so Pong's mother just bore with the pains and let her strength sip from her in the last few months. She still grew vegetables for sale, took care of Pong, accompanied Pong for all her hospital visits and sat outside the ward at night when Pong had a surgery in May.  But she couldn't sing any Cantonese songs as to Pong who was under anesthesia as her strength was limited.

I called Pong on Saturday July 2 morning,  the usuallly cheerful Pong was very subdued.   Her voice quivered, "I am not doing well, my mom's eyes are closed, she is waiting to die. Any time."

"Be strong. Stay by your mom, she needs you now. Do update me, Ok?"

Pong agreed but she didn't answer her phone for a few days till today, July 13, I finally got her at 7pm. "My mom passed away that night...... remember, you called me in the morning?"

Pong is very sad. Her mother has given her so much encouragement over the years and was the strong positive force in her life. "I promise you I will be strong. I will make sure my wound will heal from the recent surgery." Pong's voice was slightly cheerful when I told her I will try to make her wish comes true. She loves to see some famous sights in Malaysia, Singapore or even somewhere in the world.

"Your mom's spirit will accompany you when you go to these places, she will be smiling too," I assured her.

There was a slight uplift in her voice when she described her mother's face, "She was calm, peaceful and smiled a bit because all the family members were beside her bed."  It is so Pong to look at the bright side of a dark cloud.

After the call, I felt so unsettled.

I could see in my mind's eyes, Pong laying on her wooden trolley, her elbows holding her upper torso upright, calling out to her mother who was laying on the old bed, "Ma ma, don't leave me!"

Her mother could hear her, yet she couldn't touch her daugthter or carees her hand to assure her not to worry about mother. The bed level was higher than the trolley on the floor that Pong was laying on. So near, yet so unreachable, Pong's disability sat heavily between the mother and daughter like an abyss, making the physical touch they so needed at the last few moments before her mother's spirit went to the Other Side into a dream that they couldn't achieve, but a cruel reality they both knew about for years if this scene ever occured.

Pong once said to me, "I want to go before my mom, I don't want her to have this burden of taking care of me."

But her mom scolded her, "You are talking rubbish. I am old already, you have a young life. Don't ever say things like this again! If anything happens, I will always be with you."

When they came to eHomemakers' Mother's Day Celebration in KL because her mother won one of the top three awards several years ago, it was an eye opening experience for all those who attended the high tea sponsored by Nestle. Every winner was supposed to give a five-minute speech. Pong's mother was too shy to speak in Cantonese, so Pong spoke in English on behalf of her mother, telling us how her mother nursed her back from coma and how she had help Pong to keep on living despite the disabilities. Although her mother didn't understand English, she watched Pong from her seat, smiling slightly and reservedly, not wanting to show too much of her emotions.

When asked what she thought of her daughter who could speak English and do so in public effortlessly, she just nodded, hiding a shy smile when she turned her head.

Pong's mother was a woman of perseverance. Despite the family's poverty, she managed to bring up her children with her farmer husband and nursed Pong on her own when the public hospital service had failed to help Pong.

She never gave up on Pong. That is why Pong will not give up on her mother's dream for her to be more than ''the legless body who lies on the trolley'.

Pong doesn't know what potential she could achieve yet.  It will take her a long time to get use to her life without her mother's support.  Through this project, I hope to gather resources to help her.

Right now, I need to put aside my sadness for Pong and get on with my life just like her. I have difficulty doing so because Pong's mother's  sad, longing face keep floating into my thought.  I feel her sorrow in a very real way because I am a mother myself.  It breaks any mother's heart into pieces when she is unable to caress her daughter's hand, now that the DISTANCE between them is larger than ever, so near yet so far.

by CSC


  1. It breaks my heart everytime I read this. Indeed, a mother is an epitome of love.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about her mom. I got a chance to meet Seow Chin and her mom during the ehomemakers Mother's day celebration and I know how strong she has been for her daughter. Ching Ching, you are doing a great job helping her. I hope she stays strong and positive as that is what her mother would have wanted for her.