My first Magazine - Page 21

When did you receive the calling to serve in St. Joseph’s Home? I started in 1987. At first, I took charge of catering because I love to cook. However, the people around were worried that cooking was not enough for me and I would be bored. At that point, I didn’t have experience with nursing homes yet. But slowly, I got into bedside counselling and helped out in physiotherapy. When I finished my sabbatical in Africa, I was transferred to hospice care. I remember I was called from the kitchen to come to a dying man that I (had) cared for. He was heavily tattooed. In his restlessness, he asked me in Malay “Siapa itu 1 ?” However, there was no one around. Later, I remembered that my mother used to tell me that a dying person can see dead people. He died a few days later. Day by day, I was more and more involved with the dying. I had many young patients as well. There was this mother of 2 kids who was dying. She wanted to see her baby, so the husband had to arrange to pick up their baby from the babysitter. When the baby touched the mother’s face, the mother passed away but nobody knew. Her 4 year-old daughter was still holding her hand and calling out “Mummy, mummy”. Later, the husband was so sad that he cried in the toilet. So I told him, “Just cry. Later, you won’t be allowed to cry. It’s ok to cry. It takes strength to cry. We must be very sensitive when doing hospice care. We have to befriend the patient’s family and also help the patients to finish their unfinished business. 1 In Bahasa Melayu. “Who is this?” People often like to ask me, “Sister, how can you manage being with the dying? Death is so depressing.” But I say, “No lah!...It is my privilege to be with the patients till their last breath.” I realised this when I was taking care of a dying man who needed assurance of forgiveness. I noticed that this dying man’s wife also seem very aloof. Then one day, I heard the wife said, “You can go. I forgive you. You have permission.” From then, I realised that there was hurt between the couple because there was a third party involved. So you believe that the dying can choose when they want to die? To an extent, yes. There was this incident when a man who was always pretending to be asleep when I come to see him. So I would deliberately say out loud that I would visit him another time. One day, I caught him awake and he had no choice but to talk to me. After a few days, he said that he had a favour to ask of me. He said that he didn’t want his family to be around when he dies because he didn’t want them to feel upset. I promised him that I would carry out this favour. But when his family gathered to see him on his dying moment, I did not have the heart to tell them to leave. His family was very close. His sister came all the way down from Malaysia. Even his daughter- in-law, who was pregnant, came to visit him. So I let his family stay. However, I saw him sigh. So I knew that I must carry out the promise and tell them to go home. I told them that he didn’t want them to see him die and feel sad. I also told them that he would die soon after they leave. True enough, the man died about 20 minutes after they left. I called to inform them. By then, they had not even reached home yet. When the man died, his face was purplish. He must have been holding it in for 2 days until his family went home. Sometimes, the patients feel angry. They believe that they have done many good things and don’t deserve to suffer. So I tell them that suffering is a good thing that you and I can’t understand. There is a value to it. If not, why would Jesus come down to suffer so much? St Joseph’s Home | 19