For 20 years Yong Nie dodged Australian authorities by lying low, staying out of trouble, earning cash in hand through odd jobs, sleeping rough and keeping to himself, The Australian reports.
But when he developed an aggressive cancer, the game was up. Gaunt, jaundiced, his once dark hair streaked grey, the 68-year-old illegal immigrant turned up at the emergency department of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital doubled in pain and fearing deportation. But instead of being thrown out, locked up and shipped off, he was welcomed by palliative care staff who took him in as one of our own.
The good death at the heart of this story confirms the generosity of ordinary people performing exceptional acts of compassion without triumphalism or reward because this is what they do every day.
Yong Nie had not spoken to his wife or daughter since leaving the sprawling Chinese port city of Tianjin two decades ago bound for Australia, possibly on a business visa. It was a mission that went awry, humiliation eventually driving him to a flimsy existence with no fixed address, floating on the margins of a society he failed to join.
“There was nowhere else for him to go,” says Professor Richard Chye, director of the Sacred Heart palliative care unit at St Vincent’s. “We could not put him on the street. His cancer had spread to his liver; it was too late for treatment.”
Before coming to hospital he had approached the Red Cross for help in contacting his wife and daughter but the search had drawn a blank. Wong says Nie was “too scared” to approach any other agency. But the longing to make amends troubled him deeply. “He realised he was coming to the end of his life and his final wish was to contact his family,” says McKinnon.
“He was too ill to travel and he had no passport so everyone went out of their way to achieve the goal of a man who was going to die. A reaffirmation of family began and there was this wonderful confluence of palliative care principles and Buddhist acceptance.”
Yong Nie had no papers, no contact with family – and one last wish. (The Australian)
Large image: The Australia