Auntie was 78 years old. Uncle is older than that. Auntie was down with cancer. So we took care of them both.
They have gone through so much in their lives together. They had two children – a daughter and a son. Sadly the girl passed away when she was very young. They adopted a daughter, which they brought up the way they would have a real daughter.
They grew older. Auntie had diabetes and hypertension. One fine day she had to have her left leg amputated because of the diabetes. That was twenty years ago. Uncle looked after her in every sense.
Then when she was 76 she had cancer. But she’s too old and unwell to have surgery, or chemotherapy. So she had to take hormone pills.
Her left hand and arm became swollen. It slowly became bigger and bigger. Uncle was worried. We gave the usual advice.
She had more and more pain. She’s in and out of the hospital. When they’re in, uncle would walk to us and say hello, before we even start our rounds.
All the while, uncle was there with her. He’d walk with his stoop, get the lazy chair in the store, and lay it out beside her bed. He’d sleep there throughout the night. If she couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t sleep either. He’s so concerned about her, that we think that he may often overestimated the level of his wife’s pain.
We’d give some cream for muscle aches to his wife. He’d ask for one tube for himself, because his muscles ached too.
We’d give eye drops for her glaucoma. He needed some for himself too.
In the morning he’d carry her on to the wheelchair, and push her to the bathroom for her bath. He’d feed her if she’s too tired to eat.
Lately she’s been quite ill. She was getting weaker. After two years the cancer has finally taken away almost all of her energy.
She can’t sit up. She sleeps through the day and night. Uncle would feed her porridge in the morning. Then her medications. One by one. Slowly.
Days go by. Auntie was just too weak to even wake up. He’d force her to eat. To drink. To take her medications.
One morning I approached her bed during rounds. He was putting a syringe of methadone on her lips, with a trembling and frustrated voice, a worried face, he told her to open her mouth, “take your drugs. Or else you’ll be in pain.”
I just couldn’t go near. I went off to see another person first.
When I finally get to her, she was drowsy. Uncle said hello to me. Then he woke her up. Again, with a trembling and frustrated voice, with a worried face. She fluttered her eyes open for a few seconds, then shut them back. She’s just too tired. I said, “It’s ok uncle. It’s ok.”
He looked at her sadly.
With teary eyes he turned to me.
“She just wouldn’t eat. She did not eat a single thing yesterday. I’ve just made her some coffee, and she took only a few drops.”
I just looked into his eyes. Such love.
I let him talk about her pain. Her difficulty to swallow. Her sleep. Her breathing. I didn’t talk. I couldn’t talk.
Day in. Day out.
And a few days ago she passed away. With him sleeping by her side.
* * *
Boss said he’s a devoted husband.
We’d say it’s true love.
* * *
Di mana ‘kan ku cari ganti
Tak sanggup ku berpisah
Dan berhati patah
Alangkah sedih rasa hati
Selama kau pergi
Tinggal ku sendirian
Dunia terang menjadi gelita
Cahaya indah tiada berguna
Keluhan hatiku menambah derita
Kini kau pula tak kunjung jelma
Di mana kan ku cari ganti
Mungkinkah di syurga?
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