by Htay Win
My mom was hospitalized on 22, December 2017.
She shivered with cold that December as it was unduly cold in Bangkok. The temperature was under 17 degrees Celsius. She could not stand the adverse effects of cold weather. She said, “it is not normal”. Then she had a high fever. So, we decided to take her to the hospital.
She was 88 years old. Her health hadn’t been very good the past few years. She had been suffering from backache for 30 years. Her kidneys had failed because she had been on lots of painkillers for a long time. So, she had to go to have her kidneys cleaned twice a week. It was extremely expensive, but the Thai government had paid for her cost of treatment because she was a former lecturer at Surin Agricultural College and Thonburi Commercial College.
When she was in hospital, I accompanied her. Mom didn’t sleep on the first night at hospital. She had difficulty in breathing. Her blood pressure was not regular. Her blood Oxygen was also very low. The nurses came to check on her every hour. I didn’t know how to help my exhausted mom. While I was looking at her, I mused about motherhood. I thought that she would be sad because she had looked after us like a hen took care of her chickens while we were children, but when she was ill, her children could not be nearby. We have four siblings, an elder brother, younger brother, younger sister, and I, Chatsuda Sukplang. My parents were born in Bangkok, Thailand. My father served as a principal of Surin Agricultural College in Surin province near Thai-Cambodia border. My mom also served as a lecturer, she taught Biology and Chemistry in the same college. Now, its name has changed to Rajamangalar University of Technology Isan Surin Campus.
Over sixty years ago, this town was a very small and not prosperous region. Most people from that region were under educated. There were a lot of paddy fields. They raised cattle. However, they did not know how to milk cows. After my dad arrived there, he gave a talk to the local residents about the usefulness of milk and how it benefited the people. Besides, he taught them how to make dairy products with modern technology and he advised them that this could be a good business. There were livestocks in his college too.
There were dense forests back of the campus. The college owned several acres of paddy fields. Because my father taught them the modern agricultural system and methods, the people from Surin all knew about Guru Chalerm Sukplang. He had many students and mentees there. They loved and admired him so much. In the same way, my mom also was a famous teacher, the mentor Benjamas Sukplang.
All of our siblings were born in Surin. As we were all very close in age, it was no wonder my mom was very tired. I imagined that she could not sleep well at night, for someone urinated, someone cried for milk, someone defecated, and someone had a stomach-ache. She had to go to teach during the day. And also, she was responsible for doing housework. Meanwhile, she brought us up to be educated people. For example, when a child was not well, she had to take care of that child and then she would have to look after the another three children at the same time. However, at the moment, I was the only one standing near my mom as the doctors and nurses came and gave medical treatment.
Fortunately, the hospital where mom was admitted was one of the best hospitals in Thailand, Ramathibodi Hospital. Luckily, we got a special room for my mom. I understood that the doctors and the authorities from the hospital were passionate and attentive to my mother. They tried to save lives and they helped the people. The next day, the doctor told me that my mom had been suffering from pneumonia the next day. After she took antibiotics, my mom recovered from pneumonia. She followed the doctor’s instructions.
My younger sister visited mom the next day and she brought a lot of food and snacks. My mother told me that she didn’t want to have the food provided by the hospital and she told me to have it, and she would have the snacks. I complied with mom’s desire. I noticed that the hospital food was soft and contained low salt and diet. I thought of adding fish sauce, but I put nothing into it. When I ate it, I was able to savor the delicious taste of natural ingredients.
Tonight, mom could sleep well, and she was also getting better, but she was still weak. The Oxygen was still low. The doctor said that my mom had to stay at hospital for three or four more days. Mom called her friends who lived in Bangkok. Unfortunately, as they all were old women, they could not go out. Because of that they could not come to visit her. My mom said that it was not a problem they could not come to see her. She wanted them to know that she was still alive as well as she also knew that they were still alive.
When Christmas arrived, because they hadn’t yet discharged mom from the hospital, we had to celebrate Christmas there. They decorated the whole hospital in white color and my mom’s room number 74 was also pure white.
On the nineth day of mom’s hospital stay, the doctor said if her oxygen rate was over 93, she could be discharged from the hospital. But because her oxygen rate was around about 90 or 91, she had to stay at the hospital for a few days more. The nurses teased her that she did not have to celebrate happy new year together with them because she should go home to celebrate with her family.
When the nurses asked her how she was doing, she replied “I am fine.” However, the nurses knew that she was not very well. She well remembered the English name of medicines that she was taking daily and as she could pronounce them fluently, they were amazed. They referred to her as grandma and asked her how she knew them. She proudly replied right away that I was a lecturer of Biology at the university, so she’d been teaching all about them before the nurses were born.
They decorated the ward with balloons, ribbons, and Christmas trees. On the 31st of December, my mom got better. She did not need oxygen anymore. So, I took her on a wheelchair to visit the garden and shops. She was pleased to go shopping. She bought snacks from a 7-Eleven store. She didn’t want to have food from the hospital. And she donated some money to the Ramathibodi foundation that gives charity for the poor people.
On the New Year’s Eve, the hospital that would usually be noisy and bustling with crowds was quiet and the lobby deserted. Shops and restaurants were all closed. So, I went out to buy some food. It was OK for mom because her offspring and relatives brought snacks. On the new year day, the doctor gave us good news that she could be discharged from the hospital on the next day. Thus, mom had to stay twelve days at the hospital.
Before we were discharged from the hospital, we collected our stuffs. We presented the doctors, nurses and staff who helped my mom with gifts. And then we said that we were grateful for medical treatment. A senior nurse teased mom that she didn’t want to see mom come back to hospital again so soon.
When we arrived home, mom said that she was fit. That was her talking style. She didn’t look like she had been admitted at hospital for twelve days. After that she was healthier than before.
A distinctive characteristic of my mom was that she was not a person who succumbed to worrying. Most people didn’t want to hear about the word “Death.” She was a different person who prepared to die. She herself had already written her will. She told us that she had written in the will what we had to do after she passed away and her brief biography too. We had to print it out and share it with the people who came to her funeral. Also, she said that it was an advantage in life that she still was alive until 88 now.
My friends said that it was very lucky for me to have an opportunity to look after my parents. They didn’t have a chance to look after their parents even though they wanted to take care of and look after them because their parents had already passed away. I had decided to take care of my mom. I was proud that I could repay my mom for her love and care.
She lived her life trying not to be a burden to others or having them do chores for her. Till now, she washed her clothes, dried them in the sun, ironed them, warmed food, and swept, etc. as much as she could. “Mom don’t do the chores. You don’t need to do them,” I’d tell her. Despite my telling her that, she continued doing it because she wanted to show that she could do, and she was still useful.
In our Buddhism, life is divided into three stages. In the First stage one must acquire knowledge; in the second, one must find ways and means to earn money; and the third stage one must meditate. Thus far, my mom had studied hard and got a good education when she was young, she built her family when she was in the second stage, and then she lived as an old mature woman in her third stage. Although she didn’t often recite the verse of Buddhist doctrines or regularly meditated in the shrine, she was careful in her interactions with others and tried not to let her actions offend them.
If I used a poetic metaphor word here, I’d say mom was in the “twilight of her life” currently. Twilight or sunset is a very beautiful and lovely word. It is the time when the sun is about to set to the west. After the sun has shone brightly on the world, even when it is about to set, it emits vibrant colors painting the sky a variety of colors.