A PATIENT once told me: "You know what, doctor, when I was told that I have cancer, suddenly all my shares, my properties and my brand-new car have no more meaning."
Yet, the attachment that some Singaporeans have to their cars never fails to amaze me.
When they notice scratches on their vehicles after shooing off a cat resting on them, for example, they would complain to their condominium management or the town council.
These motorists get so angry with the destruction of their "happiness" that they will not rest their case until the cats in the carparks are removed.
In the Housing & Development Board carpark where I park my car, there is a cat which would occasionally rest on car bonnets, including mine.
I have found its paw marks on my windscreen several times, but there are no scratches on my car, just a few small dents that are definitely not caused by a cat.
Whenever I see the cat resting on other cars, I would shoo it off and brush its hair off the vehicles so that the motorists would not complain about the cat's presence.
To me, what is important about a car is that it is functioning well enough to be safe on the road.
So what if it has scratches or dents? Cars are bound to get such marks.
The car does not feel the scratches. Rather, it is our attachment to the car that makes us feel the pain.
The patient who spoke to me became depressed after he was diagnosed with cancer, but his condition improved after he took stock of what was truly important in his life.
When he was near his life's end, I asked him if he was afraid. He said no.
He had done no harm to others, he said, and he remembered the good things that he had done. He also relished the happiness he had brought to others.
He died peacefully.
Dr Tan Chek Wee
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