'N' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison
Aunty Alice was one of the most important person in my life. She was like my mother who had unceasingly lavished her unconditional love on me. Since my mother had passed away when I was only a toddler, she ensured I was not deprived of love.
Aunty Alice was the most selfless person I had ever seen. She always gave her all to others and would place others before her. In her entire life, she was always listening to others pouring their problems, always helping and always giving but never complaining. She was impartial and would treat everyone who came to her equally important. Being the eldest of my grandmother’s eleven children, she had been the pillar of strength of our family; the head mistress governing over our family and ensuring everyone’s well-being. She did not merely possess a heart of gold but also an indomitable character.
Having been in and out of the prison since my adolescence, my family had resigned to fate that I was a ‘gone-case’ but only Aunty Alice doggedly held on to the hope that I would become a changed person one day. Throughout my incarcerations, she was the only one who visited me rain or shine.
However, something was amiss in her during my current stint. I walked that she had lost weight and aged significantly. Subsequently, she began to miss her regular visits. I wrote to her but to no avail so I wrote to her sister, Aunty Lynn instead.
Aunty Lynn came to visit me when she received my letter. From her look, I could sense that something terrible had happened. She asked me, “You sounded very concerned for Aunty Alice in your letter but I wondered if you really do?” I was angry and protested, “Of course I am!” Against Aunty Alice’s wish, she revealed that Aunty Alice had shuttered a relapse from her cancer and was admitted to a hospice care, as she was already too weak to even take care of herself. Her condition was already at a critical stage. Unwilling to accept the harsh reality, I insisted, “she was fine when she visited me.” Unable to conceal her anger further, Aunty Lynn yelled, “She only acted fine when she visited you but in fact she was already very weak! She did not want you to be worried afraid that it would affect her studies.”
Tears immediately welled up in my eyes. For the first time in my adult life, I cried like a baby. How could I be so cruel to leave someone, who had loved me like her own flesh and blood, to suffer alone? I also began to ponder whether have I really spared any thought for her or considered her advice? Time and again, she had pleaded with me to turn over a new leaf and start afresh. She was getting old and she really wished to see me settle down and start a family of my own. However, her advice had fallen on deaf ears. All the while, I had taken her for granted. I would order her to visit me each time I was incarcerated so that I would not miss an issue of the car magazines, which I am a loyal reader.
Aunty Lynn went on to tell me, Aunty Alice even made her son promise that he would allow me to stay at their place when I was released. She was afraid my dad would not allow me to return home and I might end up being homeless. She also included me in her will so that I would not be penniless when I was released last I resort to crime again. I was dumbstruck and guilt overwhelmed me.
Two months later, I received Aunty Lynn’s letter informing me my beloved Aunty Alice had passed on. My world came crashing down as I read the news of her passing. She was like my mother - the only person who persisted in believing that a failure like me would one day make my mark. While the rest of the world despised and looked down on me, she stood by my side and supported me with her unwavering love. Yet, the moment when she needed me the most, I failed to be by her side to comfort her, to give her moral support and to hold her hands during her last moments.
Aunty Lynn wrote,” Even her last words were reserved for you. She wants to see you do well in your studies during your incarceration and lead a new leash of life when you are released. She promised to be your guardian angel protecting you.”
Aunty Alice’s unconditional love and unstinting devotion was god sent succour and saw me through trials and tribulations. Even up until her dying breath, her kindness was unfailing. Her passing has roused me from my deep slumber and made me re-evaluate my life.
Am I making the right use of my life? The best way I can honour her is to free myself from vice’s grip and forge a better future. As I embark on an unfamiliar path, I am filled with trepidation. However, the thought of Aunty Alice looking over me from above gives me the strength to soldier on despite the daunting difficulties. The memory of Aunty Alice’s ‘unconditional love’ is like an incandescent guiding star.