How much can a person take before she breaks?
Yun Jin made a quick stop at the Human Resource department before heading to Xu Zhi Heng’s office to complete the necessary paperwork. Ever since her hospitalisation four years earlier, she had yet to utilise any public holiday or annual leave so Xu Zhi Heng gave her a generous fifteen day leave readily.
Just as she was about to leave his office, he asked in genuine concern “Yun Jin is everything alright? If you need any help, please feel free to ask.”
Yun Jin laid her hand on the handle and forced a smile “Thank you for approving my leave.”
She took the midnight flight back to her hometown. When Yun Jin alighted, she made a beeline for the provincial hospital. When she neared the ward, she noticed her uncle immediately; he looked as though he had aged overnight.
“Yun Jin, you’re finally back …” he only managed to choke out that much before breaking into heaving sobs.
“What’s the situation like?” She couldn’t even recognize her own voice at this point.
“The doctor said it’s a relapse and that the cancerous cells have metastasized to the other organs. It’s now end-stage cancer; chemotherapy won’t be of any help.”
She should have guessed as much. In the recent years, her mother had been feeling unwell intermittently. Yun Jin often encouraged her to go for a check-up but her mother had steadfastly refused – her reasoning was even if the cancer didn’t kill her, the anxiety would so she would rather remain in oblivion. Her mother said bravely that she was grateful for every new day she was able to live. Perhaps, deep down, her mother had already suspected her condition had worsened.
Yun Jin pushed the door open to enter the ward; her hand was just as cold as the metal handle.
She wanted desperately for someone to tell her that she had entered the wrong room. Who was this cachectic, white-haired woman? How could it be her beautiful mother? Yun Jin sat at her bedside and bit down hard on her quivering lip to stop herself from crying.
“Mom …” she couldn’t help but call out softly although she was afraid of waking up the other sleeping patients.
Her mother opened her eyes slowly. When she saw it was Yun Jin, her bleary eyes flashed with joy before turning into sorrow.
“Yun Jin … You’re here … You’ve come at the right time, I just dreamt of your dad. He was confronting me … He reminded me that I once promised to spend my life only with him … Yun Jin, he was upset with me …”
Yun Jin wanted to hold her mother’s hand in hers but she was thwarted by the many plugs and tubings. Her voice trembled as she replied “Daddy wouldn’t blame you, he won’t … Doctor, Doctor! …” Her mother’s face suddenly contorted in pain so Yun Jin yelled towards the door. Her uncle and the doctor rushed in together but they were soon ushered outside.
Not much time had gone by but to Yun Jin and her uncle who were waiting outside, it had felt like an eternity.
When the doctor emerged, Yun Jin rushed forward “Doctor, how’s my mother?”
“I’m not optimistic about the patient’s condition. You should be mentally prepared.”
“Save her. Please, I beg you. No matter the cost, please save her.” Yun Jin choked out as she pleaded earnestly.
“Be rest assured, we will try our best for every patient.” The doctor was expressionless as he gave his standard, professional reply. Yun Jin watched the doctor depart before suddenly collapsing onto a seat. Indeed, to every patient’s kith and kin, the sick person lying in the ward was a loved one. However, to a doctor, it was just another patient.
“Uncle, you should go home and rest. I’ll be here.” Yun Jin wiped her face with her hand and forced herself to calm down. Uncle was already reduced into a sobbing mess, she couldn’t collapse too. No, she had to hang in there cause only then could she give her mother the best care.
The subsequent days were a nightmare. Her mother was warded in a three-bedded room. There was a shortage of beds so relatives of patients could only sleep on the long benches outside the wards. In the end, Yun Jin gave the doctor a generous tip which led to the nurses erecting a simple foldable bed by her mother’s bedside. In this manner, she and her uncle took alternate turns at spending the night in the hospital.
The other patients in the same ward were also terminally ill. The patient is the nearest bed was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer which had acted up the night before causing him to moan relentlessly throughout the night. Her mother found it difficult to fall asleep and she woke up at the slightest sound. Her rest was disturbed at night due to the sick neighbour and it was no better in the day due to the endless stream of visitors. A good sleep was now a luxury. Her condition was fast going downhill.
That wasn’t even the worst thing. The patient nearest the window, who had been worst off amongst the three, had breathed his last. Her mother had been woken up in the middle of the night by the loud sobbing of the relatives and had witnessed the patient’s body being wheeled out on a gurney under a white sheet. She clutched at Yun Jin fearfully till the tips of her fingers turned white and her nails dug into Yun Jin’s flesh. But by the second day, another terminally ill patient had already taken up the previous spot.
Once again, Yun Jin pleaded desperately with the doctor. She was willing to fork out any sum to get her mother admitted into a single room. She had even tipped the doctor generously many occasions but she always received the same reply that he couldn’t help the current situation. Her mother was deteriorating by the day. Now, she was mostly delirious and would chatter nonsense. She was also unable to keep any food down as she vomited any food ingested. Even the nurses were shaking their heads at her state.
Yun Jin stayed by her mother’s side all day and she hated herself for being so useless. She was about to lose all hope when the consultant suddenly informed her that the hospital had just discharged a patient and so a single room was now vacant and available. Yun Jin was overjoyed. Together with her uncle, they helped to transfer her mother to the other room the very same day.
Although a change in environment did not improve her mother’s condition but it couldn’t be denied that at the very least, it was much cleaner. On the ninth day of Yun Jin’s return, her mother’s mental state suddenly improved in the new room. She was exceptionally alert and no longer jabbered incoherently. Even her eyes were clearer and brighter. She was heartbroken at the sight of her daughter’s fatigued appearance and she struggled to say “Yun Jin, it’s been hard on you …”
At that, Yun Jin’s tears welled up though she forced herself to keep them in as she nodded continuously. Her mother then closed her eyes and spoke almost in a whisper “I’ve thought it through. It’s all good now. I’ve seen your dad, he’s coming to get me … Down there, your father is waiting for me. Up here, your uncle is crying for me. I am content …”
That night, at five in the morning, her mother breathed her last. Yun Jin discovered her mother’s hand was particularly cool before uncle dragged her away. She stood in the corridor as she watched the nurses wheel her mother away covered in the white sheet. She wanted to chase after them but her legs were heavy as lead. She gripped the edges of the benches for support as she slowly squatted. She could hear the noise from the wheels getting further and fainter until it was no more …
She didn’t know how long she had been in that position but morning gradually dawned. Eventually, people came to speak to her but whatever was said, she could neither hear it nor remember it. All she wanted was to curl up in this position alone forever.
Even when a pair of arms rested on her shoulders, she didn’t look up. That person was unlike the others who left after a while. That person also lowered himself and held her foetal-like position in his embrace. She remembered this familiar embrace. She allowed that person to support her full body weight. Eventually she heard him say gently “Yun Jin, let it out.”
In the four years she had never once cried. Even when the doctor had personally told her the child was no more and there would never be another child, she had not cried. While caring for her mother over this period, no matter how tough it was on her physically and emotionally, she had kept her tears in. Why had she been so stoical and independent when all she really wanted was a set of shoulders to cry on?
She turned her head and buried her face in the curve of his neck. Initially she wept silently but eventually she was sobbing loudly “I no longer have a mother. I’ve lost my father and my child. I have nothing left. This is Heaven’s punishment for me. Everyone I love has left me!”
“But I won’t,” Cheng Zheng responded as he patted her back reassuringly “Even though I’m unsure if you still love me.”
Yun Jin didn’t reply as she continued to weep.