There was a phone ringing in the distance. It sounded like it was from a neighbor's house. It kept ringing but nobody picked it up. The sound came nearer after awhile. She stirred from her afternoon nap in the reclining rattan chair. Then she realized it was her own phone in the living room that was ringing. She got up quickly to pick it up. She tried to say 'hello', but her lips refused to part. Quickly she wetted her lips and said 'hello' again. It was a voice of a little girl on the other end. She was crying. She sounded desperate.
'Auntie, please come to the hospital. My mother is very sick. She cannot talk. They said they have to operate…' The voice trailed off and she only heard her uncontrollable sobbing.
She recognized the voice. The girl and her elder brother were siblings she used to baby-sit every now and then when their mother had to go to the hospital for her regular checks. The girl was then about 3 years of age and her brother was 5. Her mother's condition had been getting worse recently, but she single-handedly tried to raise the kids. The husband had been going after another woman who had now openly become his mistress. Too lazy to earn his own money, he preyed on women to fund his existence. 'What a parasite! She must have been blind to have married him. But what's done can't be undone. Poor woman. There wasn't even a relative that she knows of.'
When she got to her in the 3rd class ward, the woman was barely breathing. She wondered why she wasn't put on life support. She spoke to the doctor who was about to send her into the Operation Room. She pleaded with him to put her on oxygen because it seemed to her she wasn't going to last very long. He agreed to do it.
She went back to stay with her beside her bed. The woman grabbed both of her hands and said hoarsely, 'Please promise you will take care of my 2 children. I have no one else to depend on.' Her voice was almost a whisper. Her final effort to get an answer from her almost exhausted her.
Even as she tumbled the question over in her mind, she said yes. It was going to be a heavy burden on her. But how could she ever refuse a friend who's most probably making a last request of her life? She had no time to weigh the consequences of her reply. She said yes even though she was only 26 and had 2 small children of her own to raise while both she and her husband were struggling to make ends meet.
She said to the nurse, 'Please, the doctor said to put her on oxygen. She's very weak.' She'd noticed the distance to the O.R. was quite far and she was having difficulty breathing. She was afraid the woman might not make it.
The nurse said, 'Don't worry. This is our job. We know what we're doing.' She spoke as if the visitor was interfering.
They lifted her from the bed and wheeled her away on a stretcher. But a moment later she saw the doctor himself personally carrying the limp woman and rushing back into the Intensive Care Unit followed by the nurse and other attendants. They tried to revive her.
But she was gone. She held the girl close to her and they cried.
Just to convince herself she did the right thing, she called her mother and told her what she had put myself into. She said, 'How could you make such a promise? You think you can handle such a burden?'
'Mother,' she said defensively, 'what do you expect me to say to a dying friend's last request? She had no one. No family. I'm her only hope. I couldn't just say no.'
Even if she had said no, she would still end up with these children anyway. They had always looked to her for help had no other relatives that they could depend on. At least the mother died knowing her children will be taken care of.
Somehow, she found the will to do as she promised. She partitioned an extra room in her wooden house and raised the kids like they were her own.
They are now both grown up and married. The boy got involved with a Buddhist Charity Organisation and went to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims rebuild their lives. He and his wife are both still there. They are childless.
The girl met a young man who did not pass her approval but she stubbornly stuck with him. He inherited a fortune from his parents but he soon spent all the money. It seemed like she was destined to live her life like her mother did. The husband took no responsibility for the family. The brother sends her RM1000 every month to help put her children through school.
They're on their own now. She had kept her promise.
This is a true story.