Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bride dies 2 weeks after this photo was taken

Tue, May 26, 2009
The New Paper
Bride dies 2 weeks after this photo was taken
by Chong Shin Yen

FOR a few precious moments, the pallid spectre of death was replaced by the blush of true love. In a place of pain, there was joy. In the midst of crisis, there was celebration.

She was dying. But on that special day in a hospice, she was alive with love.

Her boyfriend of 15 years, retired businessman Teo Jit Sin, proposed. Two weeks later, on 26 Apr, they got married.

Exactly two weeks later, she died.

Breast cancer had taken away Madam Goh Guat Eng, 54, a former secretary, just as it had killed Mr Teo's first wife.

This time, however, he refused to buckle under the certainty of death.

'I wanted to give her a proper status as my wife,' Mr Teo, 62, told The New Paper on Sunday at his wife's wake in Ang Mo Kio.

'I wanted everyone to know her as Mrs Teo.'

The couple had been going out for 15 years but the idea of marriage never came up.

'To us, a marriage certificate was just a piece of paper. We felt that as long as we were happy together, that was enough.'

But towards the end of Madam Goh's life, Mr Teo changed his mind.

Recalling the day he popped the question, Mr Teo said that it was a 'simple' affair. There was no ring or flowers.

Nods with a smile

'I asked her 'shall we get married?', and she nodded with a smile. That was it.'

The couple held their customary wedding in a hall at the HCA Hospice Care on 26 Apr, a Sunday.

Exactly two weeks later, on 10 May, Madam Goh died in the hospice at about 1.30am, with Mr Teo and other relatives by her bed.

HCA Hospice Care is a voluntary welfare organisation at Jalan Tan Tock Seng.

Madam Goh moved to the hospice in March after her condition deteriorated.

She was unable to breathe on her own.

On her big day, she was a 30kg shrunken shadow of her former, healthy 60kg self. She had to be in a wheelchair throughout the ceremony. A tube attached to her nose helped her breathe.

But in the eyes of her husband, relatives and friends in the room, she was radiant in a red floral top and black skirt.

Said Mr Teo: 'The guests commented that although she was feeble, she was glowing with joy and she looked contented.'

The couple's guests included their friends and relatives, and doctors and nurses at the hospice.

The hall was decorated with pink and red heart-shaped balloons. A violinist played in the background.

Guests cheered and clapped as the couple exchanged wedding rings and cut their two-tier wedding cake.

But there were fears before the festivity.

'She was worried and scared,' he said, 'that she might not live till that day.

'But on our big day, I could tell that she was very happy. It was as though her last wish had been fulfilled.'

As Mr Teo spoke about that day, he flipped through their wedding album, pointing to photos of Madam Goh beaming.

He said the most tender and touching moment was when he picked up the microphone and sang a Mandarin song for his new wife.

'Everything that I wanted to tell her was all in the lyrics of this song,' he said.

The song was titled 'zui ai de ren' (Mandarin for The One I Love Most).

He and the guests fought back tears as he sang, while Madam Goh smiled calmly.

'She was her usual unassuming and cheerful self,' he said.

Madam Goh was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago. She completed the chemotherapy treatment and her cancer went into remission.

'We thought she was all right and we went on a lot of holidays together. We travelled to Dubai, Turkey and even drove to Malaysia and Hatyai,' said Mr Teo.

But at the start of this year, Madam Goh's condition worsened and she lost weight rapidly.

That was when she stopped working.

Said Mr Teo: 'She told me not to be sad. She also asked me not to cook any more expensive food such as bird's nest for her as it would be wasted.

'She said that as long as I'm by her side, it was enough.'

Two months before her death, Madam Goh moved to the hospice on the advice of her doctor.

Mr Teo would visit her twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

'I would cook her favourite dishes like fish and double-boiled soup and bring it to the hospice to eat with her,' he said.

This was Mr Teo's second marriage and Madam Goh's first.

Mr Teo's first wife died of breast cancer in 1992. She was in her 40s and she left behind three children.

Called her 'mother'

The children, who are now in their 30s, grew close to Madam Goh and called her 'mother'.

Mr Teo said he first got to know Madam Goh in the '80s.

Back then, he was a businessman dealing with building materials, while Madam Goh was a secretary for one of his business associates.

Mr Teo recalled: 'I was married when I first met her. We became friends. Whenever I encountered problems, she was there to help me.'

Love blossomed in 1994, two years after Mr Teo's first wife died from cancer. The couple had been together since.

After Madam Goh became ill, Mr Teo moved from his Pasir Ris home to her Ang Mo Kio flat so he could care for her.

'She was someone who put others at ease and would never reject any friend who needed her help,' said Mr Teo.

'All these years, she never asked me for anything. The first and last thing I could give her would be a proper status as my wife.'

He added that although they only went through a customary wedding, to them and their relatives, they are already considered man and wife.

When Madam Goh was cremated on 14 May, 15 years of love and devotion, and two weeks of life as husband and wife, had come to an end.

Truly, sadly, till death did they part.

This article was first published in The New Paper

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