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"Precious Gems 52" - My Beaming Bride
01 September 2020

In late July, my staff excitedly informed me that she had happy news to share – one of our patients was planning to get married to his partner. I was elated upon hearing the good news but after a few minutes, reality dawned on me and I felt a little sad. All of our patients had less than one year’s prognosis, so that would mean that the bride would be widowed quite soon.

Uncle Tom* is all of 86 years and Aunty Marie* is 84. They have known each other for 37 years, when he was a public bus driver and she was the ‘bus conductor’, as she described herself. Uncle Tom was separated from his wife and Aunty Marie was widowed with four children. Aunty Marie in her kindness helped care for Uncle Tom's youngest child. 

Uncle Tom first became our Day Hospice patient late last year. Uncle Tom is diagnosed with cancer of the kidneys and it has spread to the bone. He has a prognosis of a few months. He was cheerful and always looked forward to spending his days with us, until in April this year, when he was warded in hospital for six weeks, as he was vomiting uncontrollably. Upon his discharge, he happily decided to stay home. I only found out later that he stayed home, because Aunty Marie wanted to look after him personally.

While the couple were very happy together, there was something missing - that of officially being man and wife and so they decided to get married. Some of the children decided to help make this happen, although the family nearly gave up the idea. Firstly, the couple needed SingPasses to get married and it was difficult to get them for the old couple, who did not use mobile phones – needed for 2 Factor Authentication. Secondly, they needed to get the solemniser to come to their home because Uncle Tom could not walk. One issue led to another, which tired the family out. This was when our staff came to their rescue. They did not relent in their search for a solution and after some struggle and lots of patience and perseverance, got the wedding sorted. We even found a volunteer wedding planner, who planned the day’s event.

We visited the couple a day before the wedding, bearing traditional wedding gifts of a chinese tea set, a pair of bedside lamps, towels, oranges, chinese wedding cakes, canned pig trotters, a wedding card created and signed by HCA staff and a framed poem composed by our staff, incorporating the couple’s names in it, written by a calligrapher. Aunty Marie was brimming with joy and with her sprightly personality, proudly showed us the wedding dress that she personally sewed and was going to wear the next day. She pulled me aside and told me that she’d waited a long time for this day. She said that she’d ‘warned’ Uncle Tom that he had better stick around for a while longer, as she did not want to be widowed again so quickly.

The next day, I received photos of the handsome and happy couple. The solemniser attended in person at the home. The couple were so well dressed. Aunty Marie had a makeover with flowers in her hair. Uncle Tom was dressed in his long sleeves with a corsage pinned to his shirt pocket. They were both grinning from ear to ear. The house was well decorated and due to safe distancing measures, the couple could only receive a maximum of five guests.

This is just like a fairy tale come true. Uncle Tom and Aunty Marie live and love for the day. They will only look forward to the life they have together. For us at HCA, we are so glad to have helped fulfill a patient’s wish. So glad to have ‘Added Life to Days’ of Uncle Tom and his beaming bride!

*Not their real names