Love and Loss
If you had lost something or someone you loved, would you have the strength to carry on smiling?
62-year-old Mr Lim certainly has the fortitude of spirit to do so. When the Habitat team met him, he had just lost his wife to stage 4 cancer. A stroke in 2016 gave him no choice but to leave his beloved job as a hotel head chef. The strain of caretaker responsibilities alongside health complications from the stroke left him unable to upkeep his home too. Clutter piled up and a bedbug infestation left the home worse for wear. But despite the challenges, Mr Lim could still afford to smile as he shared with the Habitat team about his life.
A self-taught cook, Mr Lim started cooking since the young age of 10. Initially, he did it out of necessity but slowly realised he possessed a flair and soon became passionate about it. He fondly told us of how he pursued a career as a chef — starting out as chef sergeant in the army to eventually becoming a head chef in a hotel. Unfortunately, his career aspirations were cut short in 2016 when he suffered from a stroke.
In 2021, Mr Lim faced yet another massive loss: the passing of his wife. As the Habitat team sorted through items, we uncovered countless packets of medicine, blankets, and comfortable shoes for hospital stays, all belonging to Mr Lim’s wife. It gave us a glimpse of how dedicated he was in taking care of her during her last moments. It is sometimes difficult to sort through things when we experience the passing of a loved one. Reminders might still be raw. But Mr Lim faced it with courage and determination to improve the condition of his home.
Mr Lim shared that he continues to buy a packet of food for his wife every meal because he missed her. Carefully laid out on his wife’s side of the bed too were items she regularly used. When showing us photos of his wife, he couldn’t remember who the other people in the photo were, only his wife mattered to him. Mr Lim’s grief was obviously still fresh, but he couldn’t help but let his tender smiles slip when talking about his wife.
It was his wife’s kind heart that won him over, Mr Lim said. A kindness so big which saw her hide her worsening cancer from her husband just so she would not worry him. Mr Lim only learnt about the truth when his wife passed out at home when he was not around, and the police had to be called in. One can only imagine the devastation Mr Lim must have felt at that time, but we were also awed at the devotion the couple had for each other. This was a love that really stood the test of time and setbacks.
The pair had actually met when Mr Lim was working as an ah-long (illegal loan shark) bookie and she used to frequent the hawker centre where he used to hang around. The burning question in our minds was, how did he never get caught?! Well, turned out that Mr Lim’s older brother was part of the police force who helped him at every turn.
Over 2 Project HomeWorks sessions, the Habitat team worked with Mr Lim to get rid of pests, declutter and clean the home. We hope that the refreshed home will give Mr Lim renewed strength to face the days ahead after such a dear loss. If anything, the grace which Mr Lim showed even in grief assures us that he will be okay in the days ahead.
Today, 13 Nov 2021, marks World Kindness Day, where we promote the importance of being compassionate to one another, especially to those in need. Come join us in championing kindness by donating to support homeowners like Mr Lim!