We’ve always got this comment, “Aren’t you depressed, working here in Palliative Care Unit?”
“I don’t know how you could stand working here, it’s so depressing.”
Someone came into the lift when the three of us were laughing about in there. She said, “oh, you must be the paediatric team! How cheerful!” with a smile. Then we said, “No, we’re the palliative team.” She frowned and said, “owh.”
Hmm….expected. People’s perception on palliative care. And no, we’re not depressed. In fact, quite far from being depressed. At least not because of our job. Why is that so? I think people always think that being a doctor meaning that you could save lives. So that there’ll be less mortality in this world. Less death. Less ill fates.
But really? Is that our job? I thought death is something that’s certain? It’s meant for every being. Why are we too scared of it? And I thought saving lives is only something that God could do? Do doctors save lives then? Makes you wonder, don’t you? Many people are seaching for causes of cancer. Why? How? What are the precipitating factors? Risk factors? How do we avoid getting cancer? Are we really closer to finding the answers? Fact is, no, not really. Yes, smoking could cause nose cancer and terrible throat cancer. Yes, hepatitis B will lead to cirrhosis and later liver cancer. But guess what? The young, the old, the breastfeeding, those taking birth control pills, smokers, non smokers, virgins or w****s, family history, no family history….all may get breast cancer. Colon cancer. Eat with plastic tupperwares, ceramic bowl or even gold plates? All could get cancer.
One thing about palliative care. The patients are all going to the end of their lives. Yes, if you think about the dependance, the sickness, the loss of function, the multiple medications they have to take, you will be depressed. But think about this – they have gone through their lives. Different ways each. Some more fulfilled than others. Yes, they are leaving, they are dependant on everyone around them. Each have their stories. Good or not, up to you, but they all have something to share.
Like this pakcik. I stood with his wife one fine Sunday afternoon, learning what a good leader he was when he was younger. The teachings, advices, he has given to his wife and children. And in return, this beautiful 60+ year-old lady loyally looked after him, when he can’t talk, can’t move, can’t eat. Day in and day out. I stood there as she reminisce of her younger days, when her children were in school, when her husband was an active, hardworking man. He died in peace.
Or this old lady. She’s been married three times. Her third husband loved her to bits, never leaving her side unless really necessary.
Or this uncle. Three wives. The eldest as old and weak as he was. His third wife, young and pretty (about 50 years younger!), took care of him day and night. Bathed him, cleaned him, fed him whatever food he could swallow. His second wife, a bit older, would come at night to help out the third look after him.
Or this other uncle. A bit too demanding for us. His wife too. Spread rumours to other patients and tell lies to our boss. But as a couple, wife comes to and fro everyday. Woke up at 5 everyday, cook for him, feed him his meals and meds. Pushed his wheelchair. Cut his hair. Alone, everyday. He’d cry if she didn’t appear by 10am.
Or this pak cik. Travelled the world when he was well. A businessman in a foreign country. But fell ill from a cancer, left paraplegic. Dear wife is committed. Did everything for him. Day in, day out. Devoted. They’d at times fight. He’s so frustrated that he’s lost all of his independance. She’s just exhausted. They’d fight, she’d run out of the room. He’d cry to us saying that she’s a bad wife. He’d cry that she’s going to leave him because he’s a bad man. I looked at her in awe, she’s an amazing lady.
Or all those soft spoken mak ciks and pak ciks. With children all around them, taking turns to look after the parent they love so much. Unwavering, each day would pass with a smile. Lying quietly, accepting the fate given from God. Waiting for the day. That day.
Or that uncle who had a loyal wife. With him through all those terrible chemo. But when he got well he went for a cruise. With his mistress. After a few years came back only able to move his neck. His neck. Wife would only come during lunch time.
Or that 92 year-old soft-spoken uncle who whispered to us that we’re his ‘white angels’.
Or that uncle who says thanks everytime we attend to him. About anything at all.
Or that pak cik who’s not too well, and his wife was in ICU, fighting for her life too. He cried during rounds. Such love.
And many others.
Displays of love and care. Of how much one could do for another. Or how much one could hate the other.
I learnt that life is too short for grudges. In the end, it all doesn’t matter anymore. The childhood squabbles. The propery up there in Cameron Highlands. The sibling rivalry. The other woman, or the other man. It’s too minor, too insignificant, as compared to the moments at the end of life. As one looks back on his life, on his parent’s life, he might think, did all that matter?
Why did it all appear so important before? That house in Rawang? That car in the garage? That other woman? Not death is imminent and all you want is love.
Parking in Auckland City could be really really expensive, up to $6 per hour! So I decided to take a ferry from Half Moon Bay (near Cik Mah’s house) to Auckland City. Plus, Queen’s street is just right off the harbor. Cik Jamal sent me off at 2.20pm, drove for 5 minutes and there we were, Half Moon Bay! But….we’ve just missed the ferry by 10 minutes, and the next ferry was to be at 4.15pm!
So I decided to drive into town. I needed to buy those special chocolates, T-shirts and bracelets. I knew where to park now – at the Quay. When I arrived there, I saw that the car park was not the usual 90/180 minutes car park – it’s owned by Wilsons! I did wonder how much it would cost me. Hmm…minimum $4….for 40 minutes!!! Well, I was already there, and it shouldn’t take long to shop because I (thought I) knew where the shops are. So I put in my precious $4 coins into the machine. I had 40 minutes from then – til 1543hrs.
In my rush I managed to snap a few photos. The Queen Street roadsign that I didn’t manage to capture well two days ago. The quay, again.
I walked and walked, looking for the chocolate shop. But it never showed itself. Hmm…I jogged a bit, especially when crossing the roads. Wow, this is far. The chocolate shop was AT THE OTHER END OF QUEEN STREET!! Thanks for my squasy games and the sand dunes and the snow fights I was not panting too much. Chose my chocolates (one for Faridatul, one for Astrid, one for Liza, and one for ourselves…) and paid for it. Managed to talk about the packaging with the store keeper – apparently this small Christchurch chocolate company has won world’s best chocolate packaging award in New York! And more are coming tomorrow! Ah, well, what I had were good enough. With a laugh I left the shop. Hurriedly.
Next stop – T-shirt shop. I almost ran. Actually I did run across the street. Ok, what is it called again….backstreet…oh, there it is! Ricochet is the shop next to it. Hmm….choose, choose….oops! I saw the price tag properly this time. It’s not $40 for 2 t-shirts, it said T-shirts for $40, choose 2 for $70. Awh….I guess it’s not worth the price. They are funny, yes, but I could find similar in The Curve with much cheaper price. I know, the cotton is so soft, the colours nice, but…nah. Not worth it.
Ok, quick, the bracelet shop! Two special bracelets are all I need. 1530hrs!! Oh, no! Tried to run but….it’s going to be about the same, anyway. So I walked. And I prayed. I need those bracelets and please God let there be no one checking the car parks right now. These girls are so sweet I want to buy something special for them.
There you are. Inspiration. Went straight to the shelves, grabbed the two bracelets, paid for them. “Are they gifts? Do you want me to gift-wrap them?” I don’t have time for this. “No, thanks. I just need a nice box. Do you have a nice box?” My parking ticket is running out of time. Plus you’ll charge for wrapping service, right? “I’ll just put these in these bags, and put the bags in boxes.” What? “Would you choose which ribbons to go on top of the boxes?” Ahh….might as well….
Ribbons chosen, thanked the girl in the shop, and I rushed off to my car. 1545hrs. I saw the shadow of a paper…pray not a ticket…ok…ok….
Watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince today. Had a nice time. Funny. Sweet. A bit of romance. Scary. Sad, in the end, as everyone (I hope) knows.
Somehow it brought back some emotions. Emotions that I felt years ago. When I was…hmm…second year…21. Funny that actually I felt like I was sharing my emotions with Harry Potter. It’s like empathy. I could feel his need for a parent, a mother and father figure in his life. His need for his friends. How lonely he was when he first came. And yes, he had friends but he’s the only one who could kill Voldemort.
Especially now when he starts noticing girls. Ron and Hermione are his pillars of strength but Ginny gives support in a different kind of way. Like when he had to throw away the potions book he loved so much. Or when Dumbledore dies and Ginny was his shoulder to cry on. It’s a sweet moment but it gave butterflies in my stomach too.
I don’t know. There’s another funny feeling in my heart that I can’t explain, just indescribable.
Maybe it’s the fact that he’s an orphan and he needed to face all this at a young age.
Maybe I read too much of emotionally charged Harry Potter-based stories written by his fans when I was in med school.
Maybe I got too absorbed with his mood, because I spent so much of my time engrossed in the books, his fans’ stories.
How we all used to hope that Sirius will always be his Godfather and how wonderful it would have been if, after Voldemort has died, they could live together happily like father and son.
How we all wished that Dumbledore would say something like, ‘I’m your grandfather’ or ‘I’ll teach you advanced magic that even Voldemort wouldn’t know” for example something more than expelliarmus. All this, and the cold weather, really brought back all the memories, all the feelings that I had seven years ago. Yes, I went with my 12 year-old cousin, but I was alone, I was so immersed with my emotions, this weird-pleasant-lonely-desperate-sweet feelings. And it still lingers til now.
I’ve got to watch this movie again.
It was a bright day. Sun shining, giving the bright New Zealand blue sky that I’ve missed so much. I was up for a mission – to drive alone to Auckland City Centre and tour it as much as I can, while Cik Mah is working and Cik Jamal fishing with the kids.
So after all the hassle (waiting for the kids to get ready, although they’re not going with me) and planning (by sitting quietly in Hanisah’s room, alone, staring at the map), there I was, driving to Auckland City Centre. Quite a long trip, actually, about 40 minutes. That’s about the same duration I take to KL from home on a Sunday morning!!
As I entered Auckland City Centre, my apprehension increased. Tension mounted. Where am I? What am I doing here? Where do I park? Shall I just park here and walk? Is it too far from where I wanted to go – which I don’t know? Hmm… OK, don’t panic. I took a deep breath and thought, “Hey, this is what you really call ‘out of my comfort zone’!” Wait a minute, I could survive in Dublin, in London and all, why not Auckland city?
So I drove on. Along Victoria, Wellesly, Albert, and many other streets that I could drive into. Found the harbour. Wondered whether I should cross to the north shore. Maybe not.
I drove on. And on. Suddenly, with a pang of regret, I noticed that the gas mark was touching ‘E’, and the warning light was blinking!!! Gosh, I need to park now and walk the city! Well, I did find a parking spot, in a hurry, that is. So I happily walked out the building and found that I was in a shopping area! Hmm…left or right? Should I start with the shops first?
Actually the place I was looking for was the area we shopped in 2005, near the place we stayed, which was so nice and pretty. But I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel, and the street too! I did see Starbucks on my way to the parking area, so I knew I was near there.
The first thing I did was turn into an uphill street, which was not too bad as I have been climbing a few hills already recently (Yeah rite! Like it was that challenging!). But I noticed that I was walking away from the crowd. The area became a bit less occupied and the buildings are further apart from each other. I knew by then I was in the wrong direction. So I followed a few other people who are walking around, and finally found it. On my way I saw Aotea Centre. Huge building but I didn’t go in because I was hurrying to a crowded place. Supposed to be like Life Centre back then in KL.
Queen Street it’s called. The place I was looking for. In and out I went, to the shops. Souvenirs, Quicksilver, Oakley, Cotton, souvenirs again, Kikki…most shops are on sale, by the way. Winter sale. Woohoo!!
There’s a shop that sells natural soap. Made out of some natural stuff like flowers or lemon or milk or even yoghurt, coconut milk…they sell it in blocks and you’ll have to cut the large block (like cheese) and weigh them! Interesting but expensive! One 100g block is at least $8!! Wanted to buy those nice thingies as a gift for someone, but I’m not that close to this particular someone, so I don’t know what her favourite smell is. I’m close to her husband though. Hmm…
Anyway, I ended up smiling and saying ‘thank you’ to the friendly shopkeepers, and wishing that I have hundreds in my pocket so that I could buy some gifts for my friends. Ah, well…
All Blacks stuff are expensive too. And so are Quicksilver ones.
Kikki is a shop that sells (pricey) stationaries. Note books, pens, desk organiser, even a book that says “Tax Deductable Receipts”. It contains envelops with labels on top, ring-binded with a nice cover. Hey, I could do that for all my receipts too! Maybe I could categorise them as Groceries, Clothes, Books etc, put a pretty cover and send for binding. More organising projects. Must tell Nadia. Must clean up my room, and hers first! Notebooks reminded me on how much I wanted to write there and then..
Bought some keychains and pens (lame, I know) for people back home. And T-shirts for my dear little angel, and myself too.
Walked and walked. My plans to see ‘Auckland City culture and people’ became a hunt for souvenirs. Not right. Not right. I spent a lot of time there.
Then I walked up a small street which led me to a small underground shop selling rare books and magazines and maps. Wow, they really sell rare, old books – some of them almost 200 years old!!! On the way down to the shop there were old New Zealand maps, posters. Then I got caught with some old postcards, sold at $1 each, and 12 for $10. I must get some! The cards were produced in early 20th century. Some were actually sent from UK to New Zealand in 1905. I found a few which has photos of University College Cork, Queen’s University of Belfast, O’Connell’s statue in Dublin and a port in Yokohama. Bought them to frame them up.
Other than that I found a poster promoting Rotorua to British – dated in the early 20th century. It really has the contact numbers for New Zealand Travel and Transport Dept in the UK. It said there that Rotorua is the world’s natural beauty center, something like ‘the world’s natural spa’. There are books on how explorers found Rotorua, other places in New Zealand too, a picture book about highlands in New Zealand (Mt Ruapehu, Mt Cook and Queenstown) with photos of men in suits skiing on those mountains. Also on travelling to India, Ceylon, Japan and China (they’re locked in a cupboard so I can’t have a peep on it). I was tempted to buy a book titled “The Life of a Diplomat’s Wife in Japan” dated in the end of the 19th century. It was $25.
There were loads of old Shakespear’s books, many copies for each title. By this time I was already quite late. So I proceeded to the counter to pay for my special postcards. Apparently the owner of that shop has owned a bookstore for over 30 years, and has travelled the world looking for these precious books! I told the lady at the counter that the only thing I collect is cards from all over the world.. (actually only from Amsterdam and London, obtained in 2002 – cute little cards which I have yet to frame!).
I found that in that small alley there are lots of interesting gift shops! I’ve almost ran out of cash (now I regret not having a credit card – must have a credit card when you travel!!). I wanted to buy something unique for my family as many of them has come here. Funny T-shirts for my brothers, for instance. There’s a shop that sells handcrafted items from all over the world, esp poor countries. Again, unique stuff but some are quite pricey.
I rushed back to my parking area but I was hungry. I thought of going back to the Indian shop I found earlier on, but I saw a sign for a Chinese vegetarian shop. Noodles! Yay!
Woooow…laarge portion! Simple fried noodles with ‘chicken’ but laaaarge portion. With one large bowl of a drink (can’t remember the name right now). Can’t finish. I hope I didn’t offend the shop owner. I did tell the cashier that the portion was too big for me, but the food was good, thanks. By the way, I was the only customer in that restaurant.
I quickly walked to the building I parked my car in. Still, on the way I managed to stop at a chocolate shop (the story about which I may write later), ogle at the unique chocolates, took photos of a few roadsigns (so that I won’t forget them in the future, in case I wanted to come back!) and considered buying a Starbucks’ hot chocolate. But I needed to fetch Cik Mah from work!
I rushed home. And I’m rushing now. It’s very late at night, I need to sleep. There’s a story about the parking space that I need to write about too. But that can wait. I’m already hungry again, and yes, I need to sleep.
I am still testing this blog site, actually. All this while I’ve been writing and just writing. Apparently there’s more than that. There are so many more things that we can do in a blog. Like flickr. Or categorising. Yes, I had never categorised my blogs before!
With my eyes to the computer, also to the TV (it’s showing Ocean’s 12 now – which I haven’t watched!), I can’t do this properly. Couldn’t really get to set the categories.
So here I am. In Auckland. Far from home. Wide awake. Far and wide.
Hmm…the thing about putting in Part 1 in my blog is, usually I won’t manage to make it to Part 2. Like my Happy Teacher’s Day blog. Or Abang Rafli’s Wedding Album Teaser. It went on being a teaser without the proper album. Not yet, at least.
I will, talk about being out of my comfort zone. But not right now. Not this hour. Not at least while this movie is going on.