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A legacy of gratitude

​Sixty-one year-old Lim Geok Lian smiled as she looked through her mobile phone. Her finger was fast scrolling through the dozens of photos in her albums. She stopped when she found what she was looking for. Beside her was elder sister, Lim Keok. They were back at Bright Vision Hospital (BVH) a year after their brother passed away.

Geok Seng and his sister Geok Lian

My Brother, Geok Seng

"This is Geok Seng," said Geok Lian as she showed us her family photo. "He is the 5th child among my nine siblings." As a sole breadwinner, Geok Seng worked hard as a fishmonger to support his family. It was not easy for him. His wife suffered from mental illness while his son was born with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

Geok Seng would wake up at 10pm daily to travel to Jurong to collect the fish. By 3am, he would be back at the market to set up his stall. Once work was over, he would make his way home to help with the household chores.

"His business was the best among the other fishmongers. He always ended work early," praised Geok Lian. It was obvious that he was well liked by his customers.

Things took a turn for Geok Seng in October 2016. He began to experience pain in his leg and made the painful decision to stop working when it became unbearable. A medical check-up at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) diagnosed him with end-stage liver cancer. He had to go for surgery immediately, but by then the cancer cells had already spread to other parts of his body.

Although life is on the downside, Geok Seng still counted his blessings – his siblings eased his financial burden by providing him with the necessities for his family, and his church friends visited him, prepared his meals and even celebrated his birthday. When his condition deteriorated in June 2017, Geok Seng was admitted to the palliative care programme at BVH.

A tough man with a soft heart

Geok Lian remembers her brother as one tough cookie. Despite his condition, he was still able to smile and put up a brave front. Never once did he complain about his illness. He was nice to everyone at BVH especially the nurses and other patients. They made him feel at home and would invite him to karaoke and movie sessions.

"He said that he was comfortable here. We knew he was prepared to go," shared Geok Lian.

Before he passed away, Geok Seng made a handwritten thank you card to each of his family member. As he did not receive a formal education, Geok Seng requested help from BVH staff to assist him in preparing cards. It was his way to show gratitude to them. That was how Geok Seng as a person: always thanking everyone and counting his blessings.

Geok Seng's legacy to his family - thank you cards

Geok Seng's Legacy

Receiving the thank you card was the saddest moment for Geok Lian. She was touched by his gesture. It was the most beautiful card she has ever received.

"He is actually a gifted man. From young, he can play the guitar. He just has to listen once to recognise the keys," said Geok Lian.

His family missed him very much. The weekly gatherings were not the same without him. "We used to meet each other weekly, on Saturday or Sunday, to eat," said Geok Lian. They would gather at Lim Keok's place at Pasir Ris when Geok Seng was still healthy. She still remembers his favourite food, which was pork curry.

The card and his photographs in her mobile phone would be his legacy. It will bring back fond memories of Geok Seng.

As the saying goes, the ones who leave behind great remembrances will live on in our hearts.