Friday, July 31, 2009


I stopped blogging about my involvement with Hospice for a while now. I realized that one should make hay while the sun shines. We forget that we may not wake up to see the Sun. As much as I attended to 'Out Hospice', I do spent reasonable time with the patients 'In Hospice' too. All these sadly beautiful people taught me in their own way about Love, Life, Living and Appreciation. They also taught me how to look at human weaknesses and forgive them. This time I am sharing with you stories of people who are no longer around but they touched my life.

Uncle Wee

Attended to him with Steve. We saw him at least three times a week. After we made our rounds to all the other patients, we will sit with him. He has been sick for some time now. He knew it was terminal but 'when' is the question? He was interested to see Steve and me as an item. We never denied nor did we admit we were. It was good to give him something to talk about. He always encouraged us in our relationship. He told me never to hold a quarrel for more than 15 minutes. He said never to bring a quarrel to bed. Of course Steve and me did not make it to bed. Uncle Wee was one of the longest surviving patient we had. He has children but we never saw them visiting him. We never asked and he never commented. When he passed on, we felt we lost a 'relative'. Grieving is inevitable.


I walked in and always say "Granny, how are you today. I am here to bathe you". I pushed her to the shower room. In my course with Hospice and the trust of the nurses, I have learnt how to bathe a patient. After that I will dry her long grey hair, comb her lock and powdered her body and face. "Humm.... you smell nice, Granny!". I gave her warm water, rest her properly on the pillow and saw her smile and relaxed. Nothing is like feeling clean and smelling good. These patients lie in bed most of the time.


She had a bed next to Granny. I never paid her attention as I always walked straight to Granny. When Granny passed on, I walked in one day and Nancy said "Your Granny passed away last night in her sleep". She made an attempt to tell me. I smiled at her and thanked her and asked her what is her name? "My name is Nancy. I saw you always walked in and go straight to Granny. I saw you bathe her, comb her hair, feed her and hold her hands. You never talk to me". What an idiot I was. How can I be so insensitive. I apologized.

I breezed in and breezed out the Wards, indifferent to other patients except the one I am taking care of. I need to be careful. After that day, Nancy became my friend. She spoke good English, she read and she comprehended what was said and she was very observant. She, being a Christian was curious about Steve and me who are Buddhists. She wanted to know what our religion taught us. At time she asked whether I can read her the Daily Bread, I did. However deep in me there is this tussle going on. Why am I reading another religion's teaching? I overcame this. I should act with kindness and understanding. My most important task is to make the patient comfortable. I am not there to teach nor to convert. I am wondering will a Christian read a Buddhist scripture? They probably will say it is 'Words of the Devil'. I have people saying this to my face.

Nancy said " Lian, you are sincere. There are others who are here like a routine. She explained that she saw me walking around, talking to patients, attending to them, sit with them, rubbed them, feed them, bathe them and my actions were consistent. GOSH! I realized I am being scrutinized. There were days when she was in pain and the morphine made her drowsy. There were days she was alert and talked a lot. She asked everything about 'ME'. From family to education, to friends, to boy friends, to hobbies, to religion and my thoughts about other religion and "Will you marry Steve?". So she gets personal at time. I understand that her time is limited. I understand she has gone through all the stages of denial, rejection and finally accepting and now waiting for the final moment. She had made peace with herself. She cannot be sad all the time. It is a choice. Nancy decided that as long as she breaths, she is going to take an interest in life.

Nancy was an intellectual person. She was clever and had wisdom. She told me one day 'Lian, do you realized that for terminally ill patient like us, we do not have many people visiting. This is because we over lived the period we are suppose to die. All the anticipation by family and friends dwindled. When they realized that we are not going to die so soon, their visits get lesser and lesser'. GOSH! This lady, she was scary. So much reality in her words. There is something else she said that brought tears to my eyes... She said " Lian, you are my last friend on Earth." This is the impact! Even when I am typing this now... tears rolled in my eyes. HOW true! Did all the volunteers realized that their presence are so precious to these patients? I did not until Nancy told me so.

Nancy went into coma and not before she built a strong bonding with me. She is a friend, she still is. Her family knew that her time was near. Everyone came and bid farewell. She refused to leave. Being experienced, Matron called us "Lian, you better come down with Steve. Nancy went into coma since yesterday. The family is stressed out but Nancy is not leaving. I think she is waiting for you both". We rushed down after work.

Her family and relatives looked at the two of us. I realized they knew we were coming. We walked up to Nancy, I held her hand and said "Nancy, this is Lian and Steve is with me. We are here. There is nothing to fear. Cross over peacefully. I will hold your hand". Steve prayed silently. I held her hand and prayed silently. Suddenly we heard a very loud breaking sound. Nancy took her last breath. There were blood oozing from her eyes and ears. The family saw it all but we cautioned them not to cry loudly. Nurses came and cleaned her up. I think you have never seen someone who passed away with a radiant and pink look over her face. She smiled. Because she was frail and she always wore a white lace night dress. Today with this dressed up, she looked like an angel.

I whispered in her ear "Thank you Nancy, for the wonderful time and the friendship. Go on and take a better rebirth and come back with a healthy body". I said a prayer for her.

All these are ordinary beings. Life goes on until they expired BUT they are great teachers. There are lessons to be learnt. How you want to live is a CHOICE.

Friends asked me "Lian, are you not afraid of spirits or ghosts? These places where people die sure got plenty of souls around". Yes, I take Lift alone...the same Lift that bodies 'rolled-out' when they were sent to mortuary. They maybe around but I have nothing to fear. I always have the feelings that these souls will protect me from all harm. I am their friend when they are alive. Therefore keeping a pure loving heart is important.

I never forget to thank my Dad. It was him that I am able to do such wonderful and meaningful service for all these precious beings.

May all beings be well and happy!


  1. Hospice is a wonderful place for dharma practice.

    when we help someone, the person who benefited most from such assistance is.... OURSELVES.