Debbie Chan

A full month has flown by. A month and a week ago, you sent me a 4:37min WhatsApp voice message. You had finally allowed me to visit you in the hospital! I was overjoyed, and shifted plans around to see you the following day.

I walked into your hospital room. It was different from the first one I visited you at a few months ago. I went to the back, and took a glance at all the other beds. Everyone was older and there was only one person sitting upright talking to the nurses. Her back was to me. I continued walking, one foot ahead of the other, and I finally saw the person’s side profile. I wasn’t sure. Did I walk into the right room? I took another step to get a closer look. I wasn’t sure still. I took a quick peek at the name at the top of the bed. I saw your name, big and clear. I looked at you. And my heart burst. It took me everything to not break down in front of you that day. By that time, you had already noticed me. You beckoned me over and smiled at me. Hello, Sunshine.

You told me that the doctors were giving you three months. I wanted to believe them. But at the same time, I found it hard to. The signs were there, and I wanted to ignore them so, so badly. My darling girl, you were so brave. You apologised for making me cry, but I didn’t want to hear any of that. Those moments when I held you in my arms as we rocked back and forth in tears, I would not exchange that for anything else. Those were precious moments that connected the both of us on such deep, profound levels that I can’t articulate them into words. I can only tuck those memories in my heart, and let it stay there till the day I pass.

We were not the best of friends during our diploma days, but that didn’t keep us from being group mates in multiple projects from year one to year three. There were so many funny memories that we reminisced together when we sat on your hospital bed. We laughed and teased each other, and laughed some more. Even through to the last day, when you could barely speak, you were making fun of my childish ways.

Earlier this year, during one of your darkest times prior to the doctors’ prognosis, I sent you this passage from a book that I was reading at that time.

Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression. In that deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed. My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul.

This passage spoke true words to the both of us. At the same time, we connected to each other as well. We opened our hearts and allowed for the raw, intimate stories to pass from one soul to the other. We understood the sacredness of this mutual connection, and provided and sought for the love and support to/from each other.

Debbie, you have taught me so much. You gave me the courage to buy art supplies to use colour and paint as a way to express myself. You celebrated my success in the first drawing I did, and showered me with compliments and how proud and happy you were for me. You listened to my rants and gave me space to be myself without questioning my intentions. You listened and was frank in your speech. You allowed me to witness vulnerability, and even though you fought against it for awhile because we are all strong-willed individuals, you allowed me to hold you in my arms. You allowed me to be in your private space, and to hold your hand all the way to your very last peaceful breath.

Debbie, it has been a month. It has been a full month since I last held your hand, and kissed your temples for the very last time and whispered into your ear that I love you very much. I don’t have your physical hand to hold anymore, or your physical presence to externally express my love to you. I can believe that you are up there in the clouds, with unicorns dancing around and maybe catching up with some games or craftwork. Or maybe reading some new manga.

Death is truly a journey that we have walk into alone. Sure, there will be family and friends beside us, but to be peaceful in your last few moments may not be possible for everyone. Debbie’s last few words to me before she was sedated were, “I am peaceful”. As I sat vigil by her bed that night, and as I watched her slip slowly away from our physical world, I witness the true beauty of what it means to pass on peacefully. As mentioned in the eulogy I did for her, Debbie’s passing from our world was graceful, akin to the most beautiful music that touches both your heart and soul. Debbie’s last breath was like the last note played in that exquisite piece of music, that seeps into your soul and stays there for a very, very long time.

Dearest Debbie, I’m truly honoured to have been able to call you my darling friend. Thank you for every single memory, and thank you for always being you.

I love you.

Sunflowers Debbie