Cords of life, death, sisterhood, friendship, faith

July is cord blood awareness month. Cord blood is nutrient-rich blood which flows from a pregnant mother’s placenta to her baby via the umbilical cord[1]. The umbilical cord is the lifeline between mother and child.

Ironically, this July my mother had another close shave with death. Early one morning, my mother complained that she wasn’t feeling well. So, my eldest sister and I took her to Hospital A.

After a series of tests and a chest x-ray, she was declared well and sent home. Two hours later, BAM! my mother started vomiting and had difficulty breathing. So, we called the ambulance.

As my mother struggled to breathe, all we could do was pray. Pray we did. A friend (RA) rushed over and together we beseeched God. The words of the Psalmist in Psalm 116:3-6 are apt:

“The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
‘O Lord, save me!’

“The Lord is gracious and righteous,
Our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simplehearted;
When I was in great need, he saved me.”

The ambulance arrived. The attendants gave my mother the much-needed oxygen. They rushed her to Hospital B (despite our requests that she be sent to Hospital A as she is a peritoneal dialysis patient there). In Hospital B my mother was immediately pushed into the Emergency Room and given full oxygen.

We were then informed that Hospital B doesn’t have a peritoneal dialysis unit. They did not have the solutions for it. The nurses weren’t trained to do dialysis transfers.

My two sisters[2] and I were left with no choice but to step-in, step-up and become de-facto nurses for the peritoneal dialysis treatment[3].

My mother was pushed into an isolation ward. We brought in equipment, solutions, and medicines from home. We started a relay team between the three of us. Each sister took turns to do the dialysis exchanges. To stay the night. To clean, feed, and care for our mother around the clock.

A number of doctors, a specialist nephrologist, and hospital nurses also attended to my mother. She was warded for 6 nights. Slowly, she recovered.

Ecclesiastes 4: 12 (New Living Translation)
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated,
but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.
Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord[4] is not easily broken.

Why is the author so specific? What’s the difference between cord and braided cord? I turned to the internet to find out.

I learned that rope (“cord”) is made by twisting “strands” together. And “triple-braided cord” is made by twisting three cords together in a braiding motion. Braided cord is more flexible. A braided cord made of 3 cords of 10 strands each is more flexible than a single cord made of 30 strands.[5]

During that harrowing experience, I felt that my sisters and I were like three cords twisted by external forces. The three of us were pressed down, compressed, and twisted together. Paradoxically, with each painful twist, the cord of each self became stronger. Each of us became more flexible as the strands of our beings came into closer contact with each other.

We also became tighter together. I sensed that though each of us was different, yet our differences complemented each other. One person’s weakness was supported by the strength of another. Our triple-braided cord could withstand the weight of the challenge that lay before us. When one was tired, the other took over automatically, without quibbling.

My eldest sister, the tai ka che, the natural born leader, took charge of the schedule for each day and dealt with the doctors.

My youngest sister, the gentle and calm one, dealt lovingly with mum and executed her tasks methodically and carefully.

I, with an eye for detail, dealt with checklists and medication – although most times I felt I was running around like a headless chook.

Challenges buffeted us, stressed us. But we faced them together – as a triple-braided cord perfectly suited to grapple with the challenges.

When we were in our mother’s womb, she gave us life through her umbilical cord, a lifeline for us. We three sisters are inextricably linked to our mother and therefore to one another. In return when my mother’s life lay in the balance, we tried our level best to be a lifeline for her.

But this is not only a story of a triple-braided cord of three sisters. More braids joined in to share the load.

RA came over immediately, accompanied us in the hospital, and prayed. CH secured the purchase of an electric blanket. IK tested the blanket to make sure it worked. TL, My brother-in-law, flew in from Singapore to offer help and support. Relatives came to visit my mother in the hospital. A cousin in Australia gave medical advice.  An uncle gave financially. A cousin who happened to be in Thailand at that time sourced for a medical cream that was not available in Malaysia.

Some friends came over with food, Manuka honey, ice cream and fruit to encourage us. Many prayed. All the family, relatives, friends, church members, became braids in the cord which held us all together. This triple-braided cord morphed into a many-braided cord with immense strength We thank everyone for their help and prayers. We thank God for friends, family, faith.

Do you feel you’re at the end of your rope, your cord? Who do you think is holding on to you at the other end of your cord? May God bring many people into your life to enfold you and strengthen you. May you also become a braid in a cord which gives life and strength to someone else.  

[1] July is Cord Blood Awareness month: Help spread the word the- word. Cells4 Life

[2] My youngest sister from Singapore flew in immediately to help.

[3] Peritoneal dialysis is dialysis normally done at home and all 3 sisters have received training from Hospital A to do the dialysis exchanges and other ancillary medical treatment for home care. We are not nurses.

[4] Click the link for renditions in other translations:

[5] Click this link to get a better understanding of the difference between strand, cord and braid:  

3 thoughts on “Cords of life, death, sisterhood, friendship, faith”

  1. Excellent, moving article. Like many others who have (or had) elderly parents, I can certainly relate to this. Great job, Tammy.

  2. What a beautiful example of strength resulting in a braided cord of 3 sisters. Reminds me of the power of love, faith and hope.

  3. Foong Yoke Haye

    Wow! What a beautiful picture of love, co-operation between loved ones and help from above! I had a similar experience caring for my mom in law. Although she had Alzheimer’s and was getting forgetful, she had a beautiful spirit. She could only remember 3 hyms, “Jesus loves me”, What a friend we have in Jesus” “Amazing grace” Each time she sang those songs she got filled with the joy of God. She”ll laugh n clap her hands n shout haleluyah! That time before she passed on, she sang for each visitor that came. Instead of saying grace, she clapped and sang together with her children and grand children!! Instead of sadness, there was such joy and peace. God’s prescence was so evident. Praise God for His intervention

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