The Day When I Learnt About Kimberley’s Death Through Whatsapp
After driving a friend back home, I received a Whatsapp text message right after he got out of the car. It was a familiar name – Kimberley Germaine Lim. Gazing at the little snippet of message shown on the main screen of my iphone 6, an odd sentence structure and words combination suggested a bad omen.
‘Dear friends- This is Kim’s Sister-Phylicia…’
Argh stop! The processing chip in my brain moved at such lighting nano-seconds that I could predict purpose of the decorous message if my index finger was to tap on it. I paused for a moment and felt my heart sank like an anchor in the sea. My hands were still frozen at the side of my steering wheel, wondering if I should carry on reading, even though I had probably guess the content right.
Kimberley passed away; her sister had to announce her death through individual Whatsapp and I am one of those people.
Here’s the backstory: Kimberley was struck through with stage 3 colorectal cancer at 23 years old. You can learn about her from here. I got to know about her through my fellow colleague end 2016 when we were working on Good Death Project. Subsequently we met later on and the outcome of our meet up is that Kimberley agreed to guest write for the Project.
Fun fact about Kim: she also managed to raise $2,630 for National Cancer Centre Research Fund through giving.sg, so as to celebrate her 25th birthday by participating in Run for Hope and Terry Fox in 2017.
‘I’m going to be celebrating life by running 10km in both races.’
And that’s Kimberley: always looking for every opportunity to celebrate life.
Photo taken from kimberleygermaine.com
About April 2017, Kim shared with me that her cancer had relapsed and progressed. It really sucks to know how relentless her illness had hounded her and I know how difficult it can be for a young person to raise dying discussion and matters to her parents. After all, young people would have different emotional and psychological concerns.
My most profound memory of Kim was when I remembered that we were collaborating with Ngee Ann Polytechnic Film Sound Video crew to film a live interview (basically an assignment piece for their year 1 students) and the lecturer agreed to use content from Good Death Project to aid us in driving death awareness initiatives. I texted Kim on 30 June 2017 and asked if she was interested to be part of a live interview to share about her perspective as a young Singaporean battling cancer.
For greater good rationale, as usual, Kim readily agreed.
The live interview was on 28 July 2017, scheduled at about 4pm. We had invited two guest speaker – Kim and Bernard from Ang Chin Moh Foundation. The plan was to do three filming – one trial run and two official runs. Then we will choose one of the two official clip as our promotional material.
I glanced at my watch; it’s about 4.10pm and Kim was nowhere to be found. I tried calling her and when she picked up my call, she apologised and said that she would be late.
‘It’s ok! Just get yourself here safe!’
At 4.29pm: Kim whatsapp me and I reckoned that she probably needed more time.
With the whole gang of class, lecturer and guest waiting for her alone, I was praying that the cars on the highway could somehow give chance and allow her uber driver to speed through as soon as possible. Deep inside my subconscious, one part of me was wondering if she could have planned her schedule better since she already knew that there was filming to be done today and adherence to studio timing was important.
“Sorry guys! Kimberley will need more time to get here,’ I told the rest as I stepped into the studio, feeling a little embarrassed.
Eventually, Kim arrived at Ngee Ann Polytechnic at about 5pm – one hour later. When she emerged from the lift, she clasped her hands near her chest and apologised profusely on her lack of punctuality.
‘Don’t worry, we will talk later! Just go in first!’
The filming ended about 6ish. Eventually, the students had to do without the trial run and went straight into the official runs. Fortunately, Kim and Bernard were natural speakers; alien cameras and horde of strangers did not make them awkward. Hence, the process of filming was largely a breeze.
We cramped into the post-production studio as the lecturer tried to summarise the students’ learning and gave feedback on their production runs.
I creeped near to Kim and whispered into her.
‘Hey, what happened man? How come so late?’’
Her next reply instantly took my breath away.
‘I came from the hospital; just finished my chemotherapy.’
‘WHUT? You mean you had appointment for chemo today? Oh man! You should have rejected me,’ I exclaimed, almost in disbelief. Seriously, who would care about volunteering when you are already fighting a life-and-death battle that would demand your rest more than anything else in the world? This was totally out-of-the-world kind of giving and I am totally ashamed of myself for even harboring that little tint of annoyance when I learnt that she was going to be late.
‘Don’t worry! I feel fine and I can still do this.’
Group photo taken when all was done
My last text message to her was on 16 April 2018; I copied and pasted my entire blog post into her whatsapp because I was excited about how she had inspired me to write this “Top 4 Shit That Goes Through Your Mind When You Are A Dying Young Person’ and did not want to wait until Friday (typically the time I published my writing) to share with her.
She replied me 2 hours later.
On 18 April 2018, she passed away. Her sister told me that she was on hospice home care because she did not want to go hospital. The doctor already shared that most of her major organs, except her heart and brain, were failing.
Then it dawned upon me that Kim was probably on her bed, reading through my wall of text in midst of all that bad state of health just 2 days before her demise. She hid her state of health pretty well; I guess, it gave her some degree of comforting control over an uncontrolled circumstance. There was dignity in being able to decide how you want to finish your race and she did not want that to be taken away from her.
Ed Sheeran’s concert and a trip to Vietnam shortly before leaving this world; Kim is the epitome of someone who wants to live her life to the fullest. Every moment. She inspired me to carry on writing for our shared cause.
Wherever you are, I know you are in a better place now. 🙂
You can learn more about Kimberley here