liveful

Jelyn Wong, lost her mother and brother when she was 19 

My first experience with death was with my brother. It was on 5 August 2009. He had met with a traffic accident and when I arrived at the A&E, the doctor said he had already passed away. I couldn’t feel anything at that moment. 

As I was looking at his still body, I thought about how my parents would react. How I could cushion the impact for my mum —she was already dealing with a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer.  I was the first person to receive the news of my brother’s death; for a start, I phoned every insurance company to find out if, by any chance, he had signed a policy with them. We could at least take the financial aspect of it out of the equation. 

When that was done, everything felt empty. I felt alone and at a loss during that whole time, even though my relatives came down to be with me.

Mum didn’t respond well to the news. After my brother’s passing, her condition deteriorated rapidly. I had to take a one-year break from school to be a full-time caretaker for her and my surviving younger brother. 

On 2 Dec 2009, I came home and saw my mum hyperventilating. She had to be hospitalised. Within 24 hours, she slipped into a coma. I stayed with her and cleansed her, ensuring she was OK. I remember playing Michael Jackson’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ — I didn’t want her feeling abandoned. The most difficult part to watch was when the nurses inserted tubes into her, and I knew that she was struggling when her natural bodily reflexes kicked in. 

In the still of the night on 4 Dec 2009, I woke up to a sudden beeping of the heart rate monitor. I called for the doctor and nurse, who then informed me that I had to be mentally prepared. Mum might not live through this. I was left alone and at a loss again, as though it was deja vu. 

When all of these happened, I was only 19. I was at a complete loss, both emotionally and logistically. I still wouldn’t have known what to do if my relatives hadn’t stepped in to take care of the after-death arrangements. Even then, I felt very disconnected from them. They didn’t truly know what I was going through. I remember when I first phoned my relatives about my mum’s death and how we should handle the funeral, their remark of ‘you see how’ really angered me. I was also angry at my Dad for indulging himself at work overseas, and not coming back to see Mum off for one last time. 

“It’s been 14 years since I last heard my mother’s voice. I don’t remember what she sounds like anymore.”

— Jelyn

I grieved for a long time. Back then, I can’t say I had friends to count on for emotional support. I had studied in Macau for a few years and disconnected from friends in Singapore. I tried a few ways to cope during the grieving period. I reconnected with my brother’s friends as they reminded me of him, and hung out with them. It was a way of distracting myself and keeping memories of him alive. Otherwise, they would’ve been quickly eroded. Facebook had deactivated his account, and I kept his pictures so I could look at them whenever I needed to. But I still found it hard to get closure, especially during occasions like Chinese New Year, my brother and mother’s birthdays, Mother’s Day, and what have you’s. I feel sad whenever I see complete families out together. 

In my healing process, perhaps I would’ve found greater comfort if I had a community to talk to. In the absence of one, I once went to great lengths to find a medium to ‘speak’ to my brother and mother. Perhaps I would’ve found a measure of assurance if I had a privacy-centered channel like liveful to store memories of them, like their voice recordings, brother’s archive of Facebook pictures, or Mum’s recipes. I miss her cooking terribly. 

I tried very hard to look for answers and closure. Until a certain point, there were no more answers to find, and I chose to accept that. 

One day, I stood at a corridor, looked outside, and a thought came through my mind: the world doesn’t stop just because of my loss. The world is still going on. That’s when I realised I have to, in short, move on. 

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