For the next 20 years, we would visit specialists from all over the country, try every natural remedy and any kind of medication prescribed. We fought a losing battle. Her health deteriorated over the years so much so that she spent the last few months of her life confined to bed. She was practically surviving on fluids and morphine then. Morphine not only helped ease her pain, but it was also her happy pill and made her talk a lot of nonsense. One night though she called my dad over. Her voice was weak but clear and I remember her exact words.
“Honey, I had a dream. There was a bearded man sitting at the edge of my bed and he was gently massaging my foot. I felt so much love.”
She went on a permanent vacation not long after that.
Dad tried his best to move on. He repainted the whole house, immersed himself in work before going on a vacation with friends, and came back with a brand new girlfriend half his age. I was not amused.
We went back to our mundane routines in life and forgot about what mom said about the bearded masseur. I got married to a wonderful man and we bore two kids for my dad to take to the park. All seemed well. But life has a way of showing you who’s boss.
Dad called up in the middle of the night. It was my birthday and I half expected him to jokingly sing me a birthday song over the phone. But all he said was, “I have cancer.” My world came crashing down.
It was stage 4 colon cancer to be exact. We were all shocked. How could this have happened? Dad was practically a vegetarian, he didn’t smoke and exercised regularly. And there were no symptoms at all! But it was not the time to panic. We had him admitted the next morning for surgery to remove the parts of his colon. I remember pacing outside the operation theatre for what felt like an eternity. The doctor said that he would have to live with a stoma and that the colostomy bags would become his fashion statement. I guess the surgery was a failure because the cancer spread like a wildfire shortly after.
It was painful to see him wither away and to see the hope in his eyes fade each time after the tests from the treatments came back with negative results. He turned from a man who loved telling jokes to someone who found no reason to smile. Then one morning while laying on the hospital bed, he asked me, “Who are those people in white standing around his bed?” There was no one else. It was only me. His mood lightened up considerably after that, and he left to join mom that night.
I remember feeling so lost. Sure, I had a family of my own now but with both mom and dad gone, I felt like an orphan. A nobody’s child.
I remember walking along the lonely corridor of the hospital ward that night after dad passed away. The hallway was dimly lit and all was quiet. I had wanted to be alone to clear my thoughts and calm myself from crying like a baby. It’s hard to describe what happened next but suddenly, I felt a presence. There was clearly no one else in the hallway, yet for some reason, I wasn’t scared. The presence gave me a sense of peace in a way nothing else ever has before. I cannot totally comprehend what happened, but I take comfort in the belief that Dad and Mom are no longer in pain and that one day our family will be reunited.
Life has changed a lot after that. I find myself enjoying the simpler things in life now, like how beautiful a rainbow can be, or how amusing the little birds look when they hop along the fences of our house. I tried to explain to my husband what I experienced at the hospital corridor, but as much as he tries to understand, he simply cannot. There is a time and place for each and every soul to find out that truly, there is more to life than we know.
Written by Joy Teo from Kentucky.
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