Relationships are critical to our existence, especially during end-of-life. Many patients’ wishes are linked to reunions and reconciliations with their loved ones. Assisi Hospice’s Psychosocial Support team shares two stories about fulfilling such wishes.
Her last wish
Madam Chan (name has been changed) was admitted to Assisi Hospice in April 2020 with breast and ovarian cancer. She was 71 years old and her wish was to reunite with her son whom she had not seen in 20 years.
After journeying with Madam Chan for a few months, Assisi’s medical social worker realised that she often talked about her past and her regrets, especially about the son whom she was unable to care for. However, she only remembered her son’s full name, and that he had been sent to an institution more than 20 years ago. Hence, she did not request to meet her son as she felt that it would be impossible to track him down.
Nonetheless, Assisi’s Psychosocial Support (PSS) team decided to take on this ‘mission impossible’. After speaking further to Madam Chan and her sister, the medical social worker found out that her son could be staying in a welfare home in Hougang. The entire PSS team was activated and reached out to the Destitute Persons Service. After three weeks, the PSS team managed to locate Madam Chan’s son in a nursing home.
Madam Chan was surprised that the team managed to locate her son and teared up when she heard the news. The team then arranged for a video call between mother and son. Seeing that they were so moved to see each other, the PSS team made plans for the son to have a face-to-face visit with Madam Chan.
The face-to-face reunion happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Special arrangements were made for Madam Chan’s son to visit her in Assisi Hospice. Before the reunion, Madam Chan was very excited and requested that the team help her prepare chicken rice for her son. However, as her son had dietary restrictions, the PSS team helped to prepare gifts for him instead. Although not many words were exchanged during the visit, Madam Chan and her son cried and hugged each other. Madam Chan shared with her son that her time was short but reminded him that she would always want him to be well taken care of, and to listen to his carers in the nursing home. The visit was short, and the PSS team helped to take photos for them as keepsakes.
After the reunion, Madam Chan placed the photo of herself and her son by her bedside, reminiscing about the day they reunited till she passed on. To Madam Chan, the reunion was important as she had a chance to see her son and hug him again.
Helping him to pen a letter
Fifty-one-year-old Mr P (name has been changed) was in a destitute home before he was diagnosed with mouth cancer and admitted to Assisi Hospice. His parents and one of his siblings have passed on. He had lost touch with his sole surviving brother about 10 years ago. One of his wishes was to be reunited with his brother.
Mr P had a tracheostomy tube, and it was difficult for him to talk. He shared that he could not write. He was not able to remember his brother’s identification number and the spelling of his brother’s name. He was also unsure about his brother’s previous contact details.
Our medical social worker spoke to the destitute home who looked after him previously to explore if they had any details of his brother. She also tried searching on the internet and social media. However, she was unable to trace his brother.
Our medical social worker asked him what he would say to his brother if he managed to see him, and helped to pen his words in a letter. He just wanted to wish his brother “good luck, and a good life”. Even though he didn’t manage to meet his brother, penning the letter helped him to feel more settled.
He also felt unsettled spiritually. As he was a Hindu, Assisi Hospice’s Pastoral Care staff arranged for a Hindu priest to visit and pray for him. Assisi’s social worker also helped him to reconnect with a case manager from his previous destitute home, who gave assurance that he would help to perform prayers for him in a Hindu temple a year after he passed on, according to his faith. Mr P thus gained peace of mind before passing on.