Student orphaned during N-level prelims aces finals
Student who lost his dad earlier, then mum during his N-level prelims, pulls through to ace finals
At the tender age of 10, Joe Lim lost his father to a sudden heart attack.
Having barely recovered from the grief, Joe, now 16, was dealt another blow in the midst of his N-level preliminary examination: His mother died of Stage 4 colon cancer.
Instead of letting grief consume him, the Pasir Ris Secondary School (PRSS) student stayed focused on his revision.
He credits his elder brother, undergrad James, 21, with being a pillar of support and strength when the road ahead seemed dark and dreary.
"I knew I had to do my parents proud," he said.
And he did.
The Normal (Academic) student scored five distinctions in his N levels.
He hopes to get a place in the Polytechnic Foundation Programme, which allows students to skip their O levels and move on to a one-year preparatory course before entering a related diploma course.
James, who accompanied Joe to school to collect his N-level results yesterday, said: "I'm proud of him. I think he deserved it, he put in a lot of hard work."
The brothers' bond and closeness was evident when The New Paper spoke to them in their five-room flat at Tampines.
They live alone and are on financial assistance from the Government.
But both shook their heads violently when asked if they had always been this close.
"Very different!" both Joe and James said in unison, referring to their dynamics in the past.
Joe said: "I used to have an opposite opinion whenever (James) said something."
When asked when his stance towards James softened, the 16-year-old said it was when the fact that the two brothers only have each other sank in.
"To put it harshly, it's just the two of us left. We only have each other," Joe said quietly.
Both Joe and James knew their mother was sickly, but her diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer early this year was a huge shock.
"We thought her condition was looking up. She was putting on weight and her appetite grew," James said.
Towards her final days in the hospital, Joe would take his work to the hospital and do his revision by his mother's bedside. By then, she was on morphine and too weak to talk. In July, she died.
Although Joe knew his mother was slowly slipping away, it was not easy to come to terms with the fact that he lost both dad and mum in a matter of a few years.
He said: "Of course, there are times when we question the situation and ask, 'Why me?'".
James added: "We eventually came to realise that these events are not within our control."
Now the head of the family, James is glad that his brother's independence and maturity gives him one less thing to worry about.
Still, the silence at home may be a little hard to bear, especially during festive seasons.
Joe is reminded of his parents' absence on his birthday.
"I grew to like century porridge because my dad would take me to eat it every year on my birthday.
"Now, he's not around to do it any more," he said.
I'm proud of him. I think he deserved it, he put in a lot of hard work.
- James Lim, 21, the pillar of strength for his brother Joe, 16, who got five distinctions in his N levels