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Sunday, July 13, 2014


She is known by the residents & nurses & doctors as "A-mah", chinese word for grandmother. That was because she was in  & out of the hospital for 1 year.

When I was young, I saw my grandmother as a very strict grandmother, always scolding me and being a girl in a chinese family, I really felt her favoritism towards my male cousins. She also had the traditional way of thinking, oftentimes I'm not allowed to do this & that.

As I grow older, & entered med school then clerkship, you realize how short life is, & that anytime you  can go in an instant. I've realized that it was my grandmother who paid for my tuition fee all the way from nursery to med school.

One day I saw them, my lola and my lolo, both were alone eating in the dining area.  Then I realized, unlike the families I see in the movies, their grandchildren aren't close to them.  So I started making lame jokes with my lola, & luckily she buys it.  And from then on started our bond.

My grandmother is a very strong woman.  At 84 she still works in the family business, & this is not just any office work, but together with the workers, in hot conditions, standing the whole day, sorting out labels, packing, etc.  She was really a workaholic, will work even on Sundays.

When I was a child she would tell stories of how they were hiding from Japanese during World War II, how she saw her sister die when a biologic bomb was dropped China. During summer, when school was out, all of us cousins would sleep over our grandparent's place and  play magic cards til early morning, watch tv and even watch the chinese telenovela my grandmother watched, I think it was "hwan chu ge ge". On either Fridays or Sundays, my grandmother would ask my mom to order pizza for all of us to eat.

On Sundays, she would always go to the temple to pray, then after praying she would go to Divisoria to walk around and buy stuffs.  On certain Sundays she would buy me those made in Taiwan maong jeans for me to wear.  And since I always joke around with her, I usually joke about getting baon & she would give me baon.

In med school I seldom get to see her, when I get home I either study or sleep.  And I would always hear her say that she now understands why going to see a doctor is so expensive, because of all the hardships a person has to endure just to become a doctor.  She would always ask my mom to cook me food and ask me to bring home-cooked meals because these meals are always better than store-bought meals.

When I started residency, I seldom come home anymore.  And whenever I go home, she would always give me baon for me to buy a pretty dress. And when I joined the Mr & Ms Thomasian Doctor Personality, she was excited to see me try on the different dresses provided for the contest.  And when I got home she asked to see the pictures taken during the program. Come to think of it, whenever I have an event that I'll wear some gown or costume, she will always come by my room to see me and comment how beautiful the dress looked on me.

She was seldom sick, only minor colds & flu and mild hypertension, until last year she finally told us after 2 years of hiding an oral ulcer.  It was a mass of the buccal mucosa which turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma.  She underwent surgery & radiotherapy.  For a time she was well, we thought she was healing well, until the cancer got back at us again.  She had recurrence.  This destroyed her spirit.  She went into depression and eventually her body turned frail.  Our consultants tried their best to convince her to undergo surgery again since all her other organs are functioning well, but she refused another surgery.  She went in and out of hospital mainly because of sepsis & septic shock. With help of medications she will be ok then be discharged only to return to hospital for another sepsis 2 weeks after.

It was 4:30 am of July 12, 2014 when I received a call from my mother saying that a-mah had a fever and according to the doctors when she will have fever, bring her back to the hospital.  But all of the family have decided not to bring her back to the hospital, I just told my mom to give her paracetamol and to TSB & give her oxygen since her o2 saturation was 91%.  We were on our way to Batangas for our Surgery Department Team Building when I received a call from my mother, "achie, wala na si a-mah" I answered back, " Ha? Ano?!" Then she repeated, "wala na si a-mah". All I could say was "sheeet".

As I arrived at the resort, JM helped me tell our chief resident that I would be going back to Manila.  Our consultant told me to have lunch first and let the driver eat before heading back.  As I was eating a small white butterfly flew in front of me, made a small turn in front of me and then went away. JM commented, "nagpaalam na si a-mah." I couldn't stop myself from crying during that time.

I requested not to take her body away yet until I got back.  When I got back, I just wrote down the paper, time of death 11:34 am July 12, 2014.  I couldn't talk that time. According to the nurse, she had no pulse & heartbeat at 10:00 am. She looked peaceful, the asymmetry of her mouth was less pronounced than usual, I think she knew she was going to die.  She prepared herself, she closed her mouth to look  normal, she had the nurse to clean her, she had the nurse put some lotion all over her body.  As what she always wished, she wants to be always beautiful.

I lost count of the times I cried. But I know, she's in a better place, more at peace...
I'll really miss her.

She doesn't like to take pictures, I guess I have to dig deeper into the stash of old photos to get a picture of her.  All I have that's digitally saved is this picture.
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