They were a young couple with futures still unwritten, not married but liking each other, like how most love stories start — a girl and a guy who met in cosmopolitan Sydney. The girl had wanted to move back to Melbourne, to where she grew up, but in the midst of this, the guy was hit out of the blue with a diagnosis of cancer that has shown early spread to the rest of his body. The disease was beyond cure, and his cancer will undoubtedly hold claim on his life, sooner or later. In their romanticism (and surely other reasons too) he decided to pack his life and move southwest to Melbourne together to spend the rest of his days, however long, with his girl.

Yet his disease progressed faster than anyone had feared for. Shortly after the move he deteriorated from being a capable young man — whom you wouldn’t know had cancer without him telling you — to a chair-bound, frail man incongruent for his age, chipped away by pain and multiple lines of cancer treatment. His only place to stay in Melbourne outside hospitals was his girlfriend’s place, and she in her young age took up caring for him day after day.

But then, what were her options and their implications? In wheeling him into hospital for specialist appointments after appointments, managing his host of medications several times a day, helping him with personal hygiene and even toileting at home, I wondered, with all respect, how she coped with this emotionally and rationally in her mind. What were the thoughts crossing her mind — how many were questions and how many were answers; how much were focused on the present and how much spilled into the future — when inevitably the guy would no longer be around, and how much ventured with feelings even beyond that? Or what went through the guy’s mind, for that matter? I cannot even imagine. Truly too, I don’t think anyone other than the couple knows.

There are (too) many fictional love stories where the girl or guy develops cancer in a bitter(-sweet) plot device, but this is a story from real life.

The guy passed away a few weeks ago.

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This is my first time shooting a wedding in Malaysia. While there were some minor differences in wedding customs, the excitement and jubilee were just as infectious. Allen is my cousin, and it was my first time meeting his long-time girlfriend Amy. It was a real joy to catch up with extended family after so long too.

It has been a while since I touched my aging camera (proof of how amateurish I am), but it was fun looking at the world through the viewfinder once again. Here is to say congratulations, and all the very best wishes to Allen and Amy in the years to come!

It is always hard to select just a few photos…

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At the corner of our eyes, there we caught but just a glimpse of a girl glimmering in white, amidst the row of dim and dull hospital rooms lining the ward corridor. Isn’t that Jerry’s room?, we asked immediately — indeed it was, and we couldn’t help but to turn our steps around to sneak a peek.

She was Jerry’s granddaughter. She just turned twenty not too long ago and she was getting married soon. She spun around once in the room, her hands in elbow-length white gloves held the hem of her white flowing gown high to show her grandfather, and I caught a glimpse of the ring on her finger. She was partly embarrassed, partly proud, and Jerry watched with part smile, part unbelief. Jerry was the most pleasant elderly man, even with the physical pain we knew he was going through at his terminal stage. A week ago he was still walking about when he saw us in the clinic, but a few days later we paid him a visit in the Emergency Department, and now a nasogastric tube hung from his left nostril, draining material from his bowels. His bowels were no longer working due to a combination of cancer and scarring from previous surgery and radiotherapy.

But for that moment, I thought, there was so much overwhelming joy in that little crowded single room. The two of us stood there as uninvited guests, but thankfully welcomed by Jerry and his son and his daughter-in-law to join in the thrill.

If I could capture those moments in video — the girl with the puffed bouffant skirt of her gown trying to find a comfortable position stooping beside her grandfather on the hospital bed for a photo, her mother trying to work the camera with her presbyopia, her father standing beside in his tradesman work clothes, and the relatives watching and laughing and making comments amongst themselves — I don’t think I would even need to put music to it to bring a tear to those watching it.

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