Article 01

In Loving Memory of

Mrs Vivien Wong née

Vivien Seah Meow Kim


Mrs Vivien Wong, as most know her as, is my mother. She is survived by myself and my older brother Marcus, as well as my wife Yingying and my sister in law Cleo.
I suppose I owe it to most here, to explain and elaborate on the last two months of my mother’s long life of 76 years, albeit just 2 months short of her birthday in May. My mother survived 2 brain aneurysms and 2 major car accidents but succumbed to a simple but deadly chest infection which deteriorated into pneumonia, reducing her by 80% of the feisty woman she once was.
Most of you know my mother to be very active, and it was indeed so as she ballroom danced the nights away with my father, leaving my poor brother and I at home. We were sometimes thankful, at least she wasn’t dragging us around losing us in shopping centres or reducing service staff to tears in front of us.
But in 2021, we suspected something was amiss with her forgetfulness. Even just attempting to get a diagnosis created a ruckus in the family led no doubt by my father.  Turns out my father was the one with severe dementia. This led to a similar diagnosis for my mother in early 2022. My wife and I, our lives since then, were thrown into upheaval.  We spent most of our time preparing the house, cleaning up the house, and restructuring the HR within the house, just to keep the household running in anticipation of what was to come.
Manic days and weekends of marketing, sending food to my grandmother in place of my mother eventually led us to hire a platoon of assistants, keeping my mother active with daycare at dementia centre and hovicare. Amidst our organised chaos, my mother continued her sedentary lifestyle of sweeping the leaves around the house and asking my father to shut up whenever he was acting up again.
She gradually lost the ability to use the very device which caused her brain aneurysms in late 2023. She was still very active, playing mahjong at hovicare just a week before the chest infection which hit her like a sledgehammer which led to her first admission on Christmas Day.  My wife and I had just placed the last piece of the massive jigsaw puzzle in place when we moved my grandmother in with my parents in late Nov, which allowed us to bring the kids back to China for a month, only to return in time to call the ambulance.
My wife is no stranger to ambulance rides, but on Christmas day when the A&E doctors mentioned resuscitation, AMD, ACP it took even her by surprise. The healthiest person in the household was now on the brink. It really shocked us.
Mum’s heart, kidney and liver were beginning to fail, but seemed to recover steadily into New Year’s. I happily sent out a whatsapp informing family, only to eat my words a day later when she took a sudden downturn that week which triggered the phrase “focus on her comfort” and “a few days left”. I was also compelled then to reach out to St James which she mentioned during her upturn before New Year’s Day – thank you Pastor John, Pastor Henry, Pastor Hali and auntie Chong Lian.
My wife and I are cynics and pessimists by nature but were eternal optimists in the ward. We were there every day trying to psycho my mum to recover whenever she woke for 30 seconds. Maybe it was my daily mantra of you’re ok, you lost weight, you need to eat and they don’t let kids in here so see them at home.
After 33 days, my wife and I defied the prognosis of a few days and brought my mother home.
While we had prepared the house for her return, we didn’t realise our victory was shortlived. She was readmitted a week later, and then again on CNY  初一。Recurrence of a chest infection brought on by dysphagia seemed inevitable.
I’m an old dog by now, and my old trick in the first admission didn’t work in the third.
I’d think it’d be easier by now, given the many times my wife and I cried in private.
But it didn’t get any easier. The trinity of daily shifts between my wife, mum’s helper Lubuu and myself didn’t work anymore. It will always weigh on my conscience that I wasn’t aggressive enough in taking a chance on the nasal feeding tube when the doctors decided to halt treatment and just sustain her with oxygen.  My mum defied the old saying “You can’t live on air” and survived for a full 10 days without any intake, far exceeding any medical expectations. The whole experience has caused me to have strong views on the medical system here in Singapore now as a result, but suffice to say hope was lost for my mum.
So my wife and I slept nights in NUH by her bedside in her final days.  And we now absolutely detest walking into wards. The disappointment was too much to bear. My heart used to skip a beat, everytime we approached the wards, hoping to turn and see my mother conscious and being fed crap hospital food that no person in their right mind would want to eat.
As I explained to my kids, and I’m explaining again now to them, we slept over simply because we didn’t want mum to wake up each time she roused, in a strange place with strangers and no one around.  As is the case with patients of dementia. I’m not going to just simply assume she “can’t feel anything” like the doctors said. On that note, thank you uncle Derek for bearing witness to my futile conversations with doctors.
But I think we overdid it towards the end, so much so that mum only recognised Yingying and not me. The shrill voice calling Nai Nai from the very person she disapproved of a decade back, but whose hand she ended up reaching for in her last days is life’s greatest irony.
I can only hope Mum didn’t feel alone at the end. I mean that was why we were slumming it out in the ward. And forgive me Mum, for lying to you about getting out out of the hospital, worked the 1st and 2nd time, thought it was gonna be a hat trick.
I know you loved the kids, at least I got you out the first two times to see and hug them.
From me, Yingying, Kai Kai, Mei Mei and Didi. Bye bye Nai Nai, we love you!.