When Edmund Tan was approached by a friendly face at the nursing home where his wife, Winnie, was serving as a volunteer befriender, to serve as well, he gently protested. “No, no, I can’t do it. I don’t have any experience in healthcare. Besides, I’m quite shy myself,”
It has been 10 years since that fateful encounter. Today, 71-year-old Edmund and 62-year-old Winnie are active befrienders to the chronically ill and elderly sick served by Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) through its nursing homes and home care & home hospice service.
“It was God at work,” Winnie said about Edmund’s change of heart. He had been feeling quite low at one point in time because of health issues. But God sustained him and, in thanksgiving, Edmund decided to take up that invitation to volunteer.
As a nurse clinician, Winnie had thought that serving as a befriender to the elderly sick was a natural thing to do. Yet, she confessed that it was not so much her healthcare professional experience that had given her any advantage. Instead, it was God who multiplied the impact of her gift with people when she simply obeyed His commandment to love her neighbours. She thanks God for enabling the genuine exchange and many deep connections she has made.
The couple, who worships at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, remembers the first person they were assigned to. “An elderly gentleman was fighting late-stage cancer. We found out that his family was embroiled in conflict, and he was a non-believer. During our visits, we would chat and sing with him. Sometimes, all I did was hold his hand and just be there. When he eventually passed, we were thankful to see the peace on his face,” Winnie recalled.
She also shared about a 96-year-old lady who loved to chat and tease her with cheeky Cantonese riddles and rhymes. “The times we spent together were wonderful and filled with laughter. She reminded me of my late mother.”
As professionals in hospice service would attest, what Edmund and Winnie have been doing is an extension of the psychosocial and spiritual support offered in palliative care. For those facing end of life, their need to find meaning in suffering, and to regain peace and mental strength becomes even greater and stronger. Listening to their stories is as critical as managing physical pain and symptoms.
This is the mission of the MWS palliative team—to provide quality of life for patients with life-threatening illnesses, and to support their caregivers—physically, psychosocially and spiritually. Regardless of their stage of life or condition of health, everyone deserves dignity and holistic care to the end.
MWS Assistant Chaplain, Chua Chiew Poh, weighs in: “Some patients may be declining physically but we see improvements in them spiritually and emotionally. Others suffer from incurable degenerative illnesses, yet became more resilient. Through the songs that we play for them, prayer support and recounting the blessings in their lives, patients sometimes discover new meaning. Despite the physical pain and suffering, some of them radiate peace and, in certain cases, joy as well. Spiritual care and love are what complete palliative care.”
As Edmund reflected on his befriending journey, he said, “We had started on this thinking that because we have been so blessed, we should also bless others. Eventually, we found ourselves blessed many times over.” Winnie agreed: “God is love and His love is unconditional. I want to be more like Him. All we need is to surrender and He will use us.”
By the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) Communications Team / Photo courtesy of MWS