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The Family Hero
30 June 2020

Fathers are often the first heroes we meet. For HCA Day Hospice patient Lee Yum Long, he plays numerous roles in his daughter Yoke Cheng’s life: supporter, protector and confidante.

By Toh Wei Shi, HCA Community Relations

“When I was about five or six, I would wake up in the morning to find a new toy on my mattress,” Lee Yoke Cheng recalls. “This went on for four days in a row, until I stayed awake to catch my dad in action – poof! That broke the magic!”

For Yoke Cheng, HCA Day Hospice patient Lee Yum Long is her greatest supporter and confidante. “It is how he makes me feel; my dad is wise with his choice of words.” Yoke Cheng shares. “When I was in Primary 3, we saw a heart-warming scene of a father calling his daughter ‘*baobei’ on TV. My dad has called me ‘baobei’ ever since and in turn, I call him my ‘old *baobei’!”

A Love as Old as Time

A successful businessman and self-professed workaholic who only retired two years ago at the age of 80, Yum Long had devoted most of his life to building a vibrant career. “I started an apprenticeship at 17 and began a small trade with some friends at 25,” he shares. “At 30, I started my current business, importing and exporting electronic parts.”

Driven by a simple wish to provide his wife and only daughter with a good life, Yum Long valiantly fought through the challenges of running his own business. “I started out poor and there were a lot of ups and downs over the years,” he says. “I just wanted my daughter to have a good life.”

The happy family posing with Marvel characters at the superhero-themed Family Foto Fair last year.

It is a deep-seated love that began even before Yoke Cheng was born. “When my wife was expecting, we learned of a growth in her womb,” Yum Long explains. “The doctors suggested performing an operation to remove the growth. I felt so much heartache at the prospect of our baby being in harm’s way.”

The couple decided not to go ahead with the operation. Thankfully, both mother and child emerged unscathed.

Unspoken Acts of Love

The greatest acts of love are often unspoken, but deeply felt. A proud holder of a PhD in mathematics and science pedagogy, Yoke Cheng had dedicated numerous years to academic pursuits. Apart from satiating her scientific curiosity, Yoke Cheng was equally motivated to fulfil her father’s childhood wish vicariously. “I didn’t have the opportunity to study much,” Yum Long explains. “My daughter wanted to study on my behalf, to make up for what I didn’t get to do.”

“After four graduations, I think I have studied enough for two lifetimes!” Yoke Cheng laughs.

Yum Long and Yoke Cheng at the HCA Day Hospice.

For the father and daughter pair, there is joy in simple, everyday routines. “We regularly have coffee together at the nearby coffee-shop, or visit the library together,” Yoke Cheng shares.

There is a quiet yet profound understanding between the pair, built on decades of enduring and unconditional love. “My daughter was very sad when she found out about the cancer, but she tried not to show it,” Yum Long says.

“There is definitely sadness in our hearts, but we don’t have to let it overwhelm us,” Yoke Cheng explains. “It is more important to create happiness together, every day.”

*baobei: a term of endearment that loosely translates to ‘darling’.