At the time, we all had different ways of coping with the fact that my mother was going to die.
My sister, still new to the workforce, drowned herself in work. My grandmother blamed our new puppy, which we got for my mum as a therapy animal (but really, for ourselves), for being the reason she contracted cancer.
My father took it the hardest, and would spend the GDP of a small country every week on berries, as he was hopeful the antioxidants in them would help shrink the tumour. At the same time, he was battling health troubles of his own that manifested in physical limitations.
As a result, he had to stop work and was not fit to drive.
In turn, I adopted a more active approach. With everyone else being hysterical and making knee-jerk decisions at the expense of my mother’s sanity, I took up the mantle of being the voice of rationale, on top of running errands and being the family chauffeur.
Back then, my mother was banned from eating any white rice because someone had read online that cancer cells feed on glucose, which is what carbohydrates turn into when it’s digested in our system.
This drove her insane, and sometimes I would sneak her bread or rice, just to make sure that she didn’t lose her sanity or will to fight. Physical health aside, morale is one of the most important things in any fight against cancer.
Perhaps it was because she felt assured that I was now grown up and responsible enough to take care of myself and the family. Or it could be that I gave her a bite of my Fillet-O-Fish that one time when we were alone in her ward at NUH. Whatever it was, there was no longer the barrier of the impenetrable parent-child dynamic.
Without having to parent me anymore, she had tied up all the loose ends in her life (stuff like her insurance and her will, amongst others).
I remember looking at her at one point and remembering how I used to see her as an authoritative woman, one who was plump and had rosy cheeks. Now, she was reduced to a bag of bones; skin coloured with a sickly yellow due to jaundice, a shadow of her former self.
Still, I found myself liking this version of her more. Not because of how she looked, but because of what she now meant to me.
Had she remained healthy and both of us continued to live our own lives as we both aged, I’m sure that the dynamic would have remained unchanging, the both of us caring for one another, but never moving past the structure of a traditional parent-child relationship.
Our relationship had transformed, and she had become my best friend.
Which made her death, when it finally came, all the more painful to me.
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