This post is for my dearest cousin – who in 6 months would have turned 25.
On Sunday morning, she passed away in her own bed. She had been in critical condition since Friday, but she insisted on leaving the gloomy hospital. Her lungs were no longer working and she could not move on her own.
When I went to visit her, she was attached to two clumsy oxygen concentrators and a morphine drip. The oxygen mask over her face was too big for her and it made her nose itch. She was literally gasping for every breath and the morphine made her hallucinate. The first time she was on morphine, she told us she saw Freddy Krueger in her ward. This time, it just made her very agitated. Partly because of her failing lungs, she could not even talk properly anymore and could only utter a few words at a time.
The doctor gave her 2 days. He even doubted if she could make it out of the ambulance.
That night, I sat down next to her and held her hand. My sister took her other hand and we just watched her as we sobbed quietly. She would fall asleep for a bit, and then startle herself awake. She would then turn her head to look at my sister, and then turn to me, before falling back to sleep. It was as if she was checking to make sure we were still there with her. It was as if she knew it was about time for her to leave us, but she was so afraid to go on her own she would rather hang on to our clammy hands. It pains me to think about how scary it must have been for her.
She was first diagnosed with leukaemia 5 years ago. Since then, she has had a slew of relapses, chemotherapy sessions, injections, medications and a few bone marrow transplants. She would get better for a while, fall sick again, go back to hospital and restart treatment. But the cancer would always find some way to one-up her the next time.
2 months ago – was her last relapse. It was probably the most serious one. There was a risk that she might not be able to make it through even with chemotherapy. If she did survive, she would still have to endure maintenance. So that was when she told her mother: no more. She had enough. It was time to live the life that she wanted. To do only the things that she wanted. Naturally, hospital beds and drips were banned from her bucket list.
She would return once every week to get a blood transfusion should her blood counts drop. She became susceptible to all sorts of infections, and something as insignificant as the common cold could kill her. But it gave her freedom to make the best of her remaining days. Not surprisingly, only a few of us supported her decision. Some challenged her faith. Some hounded her about why she could not just get chemo again. But then again, if she could just stay free of infections, there was a possibility that she could continue to live long and prosper.
Of course, that didn’t happen.
While we sat there watching her gasp for air, we asked her if she wanted us to read to her our eulogies. She had a very interesting perspective about that. Fuck the case that eulogies are usually read only at a person’s funeral. The person who died would not even be able to hear it, innit. So she wanted us to write our eulogies before her passing, so that she could hear our last words for her. Adorable request, but very morbid. I personally found it difficult to write something like that when all I wanted was for her to live long and prosper.
Anyway, it was all too late by then. She was drugged out and the room was spinning and she couldn’t concentrate. We couldn’t tell if she even understood us anymore. But at one point, she started to nod slowly, so my sister asked me to go first. I bawled like a baby throughout as I read, so I could hardly see her face. My sister told us later though that she saw her smile during my last paragraph.