29-year-old Singapore cancer patient organises living funeral to cherish time with loved ones

Michelle Ng

19th February 2024 – (Singapore) Michelle Ng, a courageous 29-year-old cancer patient, seized the opportunity to gather her loved ones for a unique event known as a living funeral. In a country where such gatherings are uncommon, Ng’s desire to celebrate life before her time ran out was inspired by her medical social worker, Jayne Leong, from HCA Hospice.

Ng, affectionately known as “Mike” among her friends and family, tragically passed away on January 2, 2024. However, her heartwarming story was shared on February 14, 2024, by HCA Hospice in a Valentine’s Day post, paying tribute to her remarkable gesture.

A living funeral, as explained by Leong, is a celebration of a person’s life while they are still alive. It provides an opportunity for the terminally ill individual to create a lasting legacy and reconnect with their loved ones.

Ng’s battle with cancer began when she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer at the tender age of 27. Despite her young age, Ng embraced an active lifestyle filled with cycling and running. She cherished the sensation of the wind in her hair during her Saturday cycling expeditions, exploring new routes before dawn. In addition to her passion for fitness, Ng was also a business owner, running a successful wearables business.

As her condition worsened in late 2022, Ng sought solace in spending her remaining time at home surrounded by her loved ones. It was during this period that she was referred to HCA Hospice for support. Despite her illness, Ng continued pursuing her passions and even opened a second retail store in 2023, finding pockets of meaning by connecting with others and working towards her goals.

On December 23, 2023, over 30 guests gathered at Ng’s home for her living funeral—a heartfelt and intimate event reminiscent of a birthday celebration. Ng’s inspiration for the event stemmed from her desire to bring the concept of death closer to everyone’s hearts, rather than fear it. With the assistance of HCA Hospice’s multidisciplinary team, Ng meticulously planned and prepared for the occasion. She wanted to share her love, food, music, and books with her loved ones and the dedicated hospice staff. Guests were encouraged to write final letters to Ng and bring a book for a book exchange.

To further her cause and raise awareness about HCA Hospice’s work and the importance of hospice and palliative care, Ng urged her guests to make donations to the hospice in lieu of traditional condolence offerings.

During her speech at the living funeral, Ng expressed her wish for more people to understand and appreciate the invaluable support provided by HCA Hospice and palliative care. Their assistance had illuminated the darkest moments of her journey, and she hoped to shed light on their remarkable work.