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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 29 November 2015 14:19

A Final Lesson on Gratitude, Respect and Love

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

At Xiao-En Memorial Park, students bow respectfully to the four “silent mentors”. Volunteers, family and friends had come to commemorate and send the deceased off. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

This was not a textbook lesson, but the students followed through with utmost gratitude. The “teachers” taught without a word, but with their bodies and life stories. Their wishes were fulfilled in this final lesson, and their selfless act had evoked conscience and compassion in the students.


 
From November 24 to 28, 2015, 30 students from the University of Malaya (UM) and Taylor’s University attended the 14th Silent Mentor Workshop organized by the Silent Mentor Centre (SMC) Malaysia.
 
All four “silent mentors” (body donors) - Lim Gek Kim, Goh Chin Choo, Yip Ah Eng and Chow Wai Fong, lost their battles with cancer. During the gratitude ceremony on November 29, students presented the song “Gratitude, Respect and Love” in sign language to express their heartfelt gratitude to the “teachers” and their family members.
 
Learn to be a humane doctor
 
The Silent Mentor Workshop has had far-reaching impacts on the students.
 
“I was heartbroken to see ‘teacher’ lying on the bed, with traces of cuts, stitches and needle punctures on her body. I don’t know whether the ‘teacher’ would still feel the pain, but I am sure it was heart-wrenching for her family. I am thankful to the ‘teacher’ for this opportunity to learn not only medical skills, but also to be a good doctor.”
 
Lim Jun Ni, a fifth year medical student from UM, had the opportunity to touch human organs, practise intubation and stitching on the “silent mentor” over the five-day workshop. She was deeply moved by the unreserved giving.
 
Through the sign language “…gratitude is water and respect a river; they fill the world with love…,” Jun Ni joined other medical students of different race and religion to pay their respect and gratitude to the “silent mentors” and their families. But deep inside, she felt no words could express her appreciation for them.
 
She recalled those days in medical school when she drifted aimlessly through the first and second years. Then in the third year, she started to be aware that she is becoming a doctor, but it was not until she participated in the Silent Mentor Programme that she saw a doctor’s role in a new light.
 
She said, “The other day when we followed our professor to visit the family of ‘silent mentor’, Goh Chin Choo, her husband appeared sad. The children said that their father was against the donation initially, but gave in after they convinced him to fulfil their mother’s final wish.”
 
After the visit, Jun Ni wondered if she could do the same if the deceased was her own family. Furthermore, Chin Choo had battled three cancers and endured much pain. Therefore, for her to undergo further surgical procedures after her demise was a torment for the family.
 
Jun Ni was moved by the noble act of the “silent mentors” and their family members for giving consent to this pledge for a greater cause. Therefore, she had dissected the cadaver with utmost respect. While learning intubation, she only succeeded on the second attempt. She realized this mistake might cost a life if it happened on a living patient.
 
She felt indebted to the “silent mentors” for offering their bodies for surgical practice. She has learnt not only medical techniques, but also the best reason to be a doctor and that is, to treat patients like own family and alleviate their suffering. She promised herself not to lose a patient to negligence, as she cannot bear to see a child losing his/her parent or a family losing their dearest one.
 
Jun Ni kept the body donors’ love close to her heart as a reminder for her to always put herself in the patients’ shoes and practise gratitude – be grateful for the patients’ trust and for every opportunity to treat them, and for being able to pass on the love of the “silent mentors” to the patients.
 
One who gave selflessly all her life
 
“My mum had given selflessly in her entire life. She was such a strong and great lady, who would avoid troubling others. She always taught and offered guidance to others. Even after her demise, her body was donated for teaching purposes…,” shared Wong Chun Soong, youngest son of Chin Choo. Despite his composure, there was a trace of sadness on his face.
 
He remembered his late mother was always ready to help. On one occasion, despite being sick and coughing non-stop, she immediately went to visit a family when she heard about their trouble. As a nurse, she never hesitated to offer medical advice to those in need.
 
She had battled thyroid and breast cancer respectively before she was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2014. Each time, she chose to face her illness and undergo treatments, not allowing the tormenting diseases to get the better of her.
 
She withstood the pain of illness and shared her cancer experience with others in similar situation, encouraging them to embrace it bravely. As a member of Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia (BCWA) and Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), she also often went around to share medical knowledge and motivate other cancer patients to persevere.
 
Chun Soong recalled that his late mother signed up as a body donor after learning about the Silent Mentor Programme from Tzu Chi. His father hesitated initially, but chose to respect her decision after much persuasion by the children.
 
Chun Soong’s ambition was to be a doctor, which he considers a noble profession. However, due to financial constraints, he chose to pursue an engineering course instead. He hoped that his late mother’s sacrifice could help the students to develop better medical skills and eventually find a cure for cancer.
 
Final use of the body for a greater cause
 
“Our body has no use after we passed away, so why not use it for medical research to save more lives? My uncle advised me that in my hometown, it is uncommon to give away body after death…but I don’t mind, we just need to do what is right. They (medical students) can make numerous incisions on my body, but don’t ever make a wrong cut on the patients. They can practise as much as possible on me. Don’t worry, just practise until they get it…”
 
On the screen, Lim Gek Kim was seen expressing her wish for the medical students. Her selfless giving deeply moved all present, including family members, volunteers, doctors and students.
 
Nai Seow Hong, Gek Kim’s youngest daughter, was overcome with emotions as she watched the footage. During the initiation ceremony on November 25, the sight of her late mother had stirred up an overwhelming sense of loss. She burst into tears seeing the images of her beloved mother again five months after her demise.
 
Seow Hong was very close to her late mother, whom she regarded as a friend and a mentor. She said it was a blessing to be her daughter, and she summarized her late mother’s character in four words – kind-hearted, compassionate, strong and wise.
 
Seow Hong was glad that her late mother had discarded superstitious belief since joining Tzu Chi. She used to seek for talismanic water from the temple whenever a family member fell ill. After joining Tzu Chi, she had stopped burning joss paper, and instead, saved the money in the bamboo bank to help the needy.
 
Her less-educated mother had also grown more confident thanks to her participation in Tzu Chi. She had also been an untiring advocate of recycling. When they were out together, her late mother would always pick up recyclables off the road. Seow Hong would often say to her jokingly, “Mum, my car is turning into a garbage truck,” to which her mother replied, “These are gold, not garbage!”
 
Her mother often reiterated that to encounter Tzu Chi and become a volunteer was the greatest blessing she could ask for in this lifetime. She felt proud to be able to contribute towards the Silent Mentor Programme advocated by Master Cheng Yen.
 
Seow Hong always accompanied her late mother on her visits to the hospital. Having spent much time waiting for her turn to see a doctor, her late mother once said that she hoped future doctors could be more loving and avoid using medical terminologies that are difficult for the patients to comprehend. Furthermore, instead of treating their medical practice as merely a job, they could express more concern and empathy to the patients, even if they could not cure them completely.
 
Her late mother had contributed her body to give the medical students a precious lesson. Seow Hong shared her late mother’s wish with the students, hoping that at the end of the workshop, they could gain more knowledge and carry out their duties with a humanistic approach, and not taking their profession solely as a means to make money.
 
Seow Hong admitted that the images of the medical students operating on her late mother were extremely painful for the family, but it was her late mother’s wish to “recycle” her body for a greater cause. Thus, she chose to offer her support and blessings.
 
Family members of Yip Ah Eng and Chow Wai Fong also went on stage to commemorate the deceased. Not only is their selfless spirit exemplary to everyone, but it has also infused warmth and hope to this world, especially for those suffering from illnesses.
 
• 
 
Volunteers, family members and friends sent off the four “silent mentors” for cremation at Xiao-En Memorial Park. On the last few miles of their life’s journeys, they had given the final lesson for the students, and now they would be cremated; but their words, faces and selfless love will forever be imprinted in everyone’s heart.
  
  
On November 25, 2015, family and friends attended the initiation ceremony of the 14th Silent Mentor Workshop organized by UM. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]   On the last day of the workshop, Tzu Chi volunteers and TIMA members chanted the Buddha’s name for Goh Chin Choo, who was a TIMA member. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

On November 25, 2015, family and friends attended the initiation ceremony of the 14th Silent Mentor Workshop organized by UM. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]
 
On the last day of the workshop, Tzu Chi volunteers and TIMA members chanted the Buddha’s name for Goh Chin Choo, who was a TIMA member. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
During the gratitude ceremony, students presented the song “Gratitude, Respect and Love” in sign language to express their heartfelt appreciation to the “silent mentors” and their family members. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]   Lim Jun Ni, a UM medical student, was deeply moved by the selfless giving of the “silent mentors” and redeemed her purpose for medical pursuit. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

During the gratitude ceremony, students presented the song “Gratitude, Respect and Love” in sign language to express their heartfelt appreciation to the “silent mentors” and their family members. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
 
Lim Jun Ni, a UM medical student, was deeply moved by the selfless giving of the “silent mentors” and redeemed her purpose for medical pursuit. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
As Goh Chin Choo lost her battle to cancer, her son, Wong Chun Soong, hoped that the long-awaited cure for cancer can be discovered. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]   Lim Gek Kim’s youngest daughter, Nai Seow Hong, was overwhelmed with emotions as she watched her late mother expressing her wish for the medical students in a footage. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]

As Goh Chin Choo lost her battle to cancer, her son, Wong Chun Soong, hoped that the long-awaited cure for cancer can be discovered. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
 
Lim Gek Kim’s youngest daughter, Nai Seow Hong, was overwhelmed with emotions as she watched her late mother expressing her wish for the medical students in a footage. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]
 
Family, friends and students bid their final farewell to the “silent mentors”. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]   Nai Seow Hong (2nd from right) and her late mother, Lim Gek Kim, had pledged to donate their bodies together. Now that her mother’s wish was fulfilled, the family members gathered around to offer their blessings. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

Family, friends and students bid their final farewell to the “silent mentors”. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
 
Nai Seow Hong (2nd from right) and her late mother, Lim Gek Kim, had pledged to donate their bodies together. Now that her mother’s wish was fulfilled, the family members gathered around to offer their blessings. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]